CV vs. Resume: What’s the Difference?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Resumes and CVs are similar but also have important differences in how they're used, formatted, and what they contain. Use this guide from Coursera to explore your options when choosing a CV versus a resume.

[Featured image] A woman sits on her sofa in her living room working on her resume on her laptop computer.

A curriculum vitae (CV) is an itemized list of your education, experience, publications, certificates, awards, and publications.  A resume, meanwhile, is a one to two-page summary of your work experience and skills that are relevant to the job to which you’re applying.

While both are used for job applications, a CV and a resume serve different purposes. In this article you'll learn when to use each one, their unique features, and the kinds of content they should contain.

When to use a CV

CVs are often used in educational settings, usually if you’re applying for grants, fellowships, research positions, postdoctoral positions, and similar applications. When applying to graduate-level programs, some may ask you for a CV as well. Interviewers and recruiters will use your CV to verify your skills, experience, and educational qualifications.

Features of a CV

If you work in academia, your CV will likely be the first shot you have at setting yourself apart to your future employer. Though this will be a detailed document, the main features should include your contact information, professional objective, educational background, work experience, skills, and any certifications and licenses that you may hold. Detailing all of these categories can mean a pretty lengthy document. Thankfully, CVs have no length limit.

CV content 

CVs are credential-based. Organizations asking for a CV want to see your information in the following order: 

  1. Contact details

  2. Education

  3. Research experience

  4. Publications

  5. Presentations

  6. Awards and honors

  7. Details on any professional training

  8. Professional affiliations

Two important things to remember when creating your CV: make sure all information is accurate and honest, and be ready to explain any gaps in your work history.

CV format 

CVs are typically at least two pages long. They have uniform sections and consistent text formatting. You’ll want your text size to be somewhere between 10 and 12, with the exception of section headings. This text should be bolded and slightly larger. Utilize bulleted lists when appropriate and ensure that each section is formatted similarly to make your CV easier to read. 

CVs do not need to be extravagantly designed. Employers are looking for plenty of white space, an uncluttered document, consistent formatting, and content that is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Incorporating all of these qualities will result in a pleasant, polished document.

Read more: CV Templates: How to Use Them

When to use a resume 

A resume serves three important purposes: introducing yourself to a potential employer, presenting them your qualifications, and landing an interview. While CVs are mostly used for academic purposes, resumes are typically used to apply for positions within a business or an organization.

Features of a resume 

Resumes are created to feature all of your best qualities and accomplishments. They should be concise, tailored to the job to which you're applying, and easily scanned by a recruiter. While a CV will list your educational information first, a resume will usually feature your work experience first.

Resume content

First, you’ll want to make sure that your contact information is obviously displayed so you can easily be contacted for an interview. Then, you should focus on your job history. This portion of your resume will explain your work experience and show that you’re a good fit for the role.

It’s also important to provide an educational background that emphasizes what you studied and any academic achievements. After listing your educational accomplishments, you should include any information about state-required licenses and professional certifications that you may have. The last section will focus on your skills that may help demonstrate your special talents and abilities. 

At a glance, then, your resume should include your:

  • Contact information and job title

  • Professional objective

  • Past work experience

  • Educational background

  • Relevant certifications and licenses

  • Relevant technical and human skills

Resume format

The biggest difference between CV and resume formatting is that CVs will be multiple pages long and resumes will be one page unless you have 10 or more years of relevant work experience. 

Effective resumes are designed to grab the attention of employers. Take some time to explore and create different templates. Choose one that will help your resume visually stand out. It's okay to pick a template that uses color; however, it’s better to steer clear of multicolored, overly decorated ones—one accent color is more than enough.

Those reviewing your resume will typically prefer a well-organized resume with sufficient white space, text that’s no smaller than 11 font size, and consistent margins of no less than 0.5 inches.

Read more: Resume Sections: How to Organize Your Resume

CV vs. resume: Which should I choose? 

If you’re applying for a position in education, science, or research, submitting a CV will likely be required. Otherwise, unless an employer specifically asks you for a CV, it’s best to submit a one to two-page resume, depending on your work experience. Read more: How Many Pages Should a Resume Be? Guide + Tips


Next steps

Enhance your resume with tips and tricks from the State University of New York with the project-centered How to Write a Resume course, available on Coursera. All you need is a word processor.

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