Effective CV's and Resumes for Psychology Graduates

Unlike other career fields that offer various educational paths, psychology has just one. If you want to practice psychology, or find a job in academia, you have to have a graduate degree in psychology. If you're a graduate student considering career options both inside and outside of academia, you'll likely need both a resume and a Curriculum Vitae (CV). The curriculum Vitae (CV) is for academic career opportunities and the resume is for jobs outside of academia.

While a CV and resume differ in structure and format, they're both marketing documents with the end goal of opening doors and creating opportunity. Both should be designed to grab a prospective employers attention, generate interest in you, and persuade them to invite you in for an interview. The CV will be designed to target academic and research related positions in higher education, the resume positions in private industry. But again, both documents must be customized to the specific position you're applying to. In the case of academia, you'll probably want to have a least 3 different CV's, one for applying to community colleges, another for liberal arts colleges, and yet another for major research universities. If you're applying to administrative positions at any of these institutions, you'll want to submit a resume instead of a CV.

So what is the key to an effective psychology CV's or resume? (1) Making your most important skills and strengths relevant to the position you're seeking and (2) making sure they're effectively communicated on your CV or resume.

The Difference Between CV's and Resumes
CVs and resumes are both designed to pique the reader's (hiring manager, prospective employer, etc.) interest, but they target different audiences in different ways. A CV is designed for jobs in academia, specifically academic positions, fellowships, research, and the like. A CV is typically for recent PhD graduates and is 3-5 pages in length. A resume for the same individuals will be no longer than one page and is used to apply for jobs in private and public sector fields of psychology. CVs are designed for a very specific academic audience. Resumes geared to a more general audience and help the job seeker create a professional identity.

So when do you use a CV and when do you use a resume? The answer it, it depends. Typically, if you're pursuing a teaching or research position in academia you'll use a CV, but if you're applying for an administrative, accounting or business related function at an academic institution, you'll use a resume. A CV is also used when applying for doctorate level positions that require a substantial amount of academic training, even if it's not in academia--but it really depends on the position. Several career positions (laywer, financier, etc.) that require doctorate level training require resumes, not CVs. You'll want to check with the prospective employer or hiring manager to see which they prefer.

Developing Your CV and Resume
Effective CV's and resumes share a few characteristics--they're relevant to the employer, they're clear, concise, and most importantly the information that is most relevant to the desired position is the easiest to find. Burying important information in the middle, or at the bottom, of your resume is the quickest way of burying your chances of getting an interview. Important information should hit he person reviewing your resume or CV right between the eyes. Your number one goal is to help prospective emloyers quickly and easily connect your skills and abilities to the position for which you're applying.

Both CV's and resumes should present education information and work experience in reverse chronological order. For recent psychology graduates, it's acceptable to present education information before professional work experience, especially in a CV. For graduates with substantial work experience, who are pursuing non-academic positions, it's typically better to present work history before education.

When presenting information in either a CV or resume, use what is referred to as "gapping language". Rather than using complete sentences, use sentence fragments that start with an action/active verb and are followed by a description. The following is an example:

Complete Sentence
During 2010, I completed an intership where I analyzed the behavioral effects of violent video games on the social and mental development of pre-teens.

Gapping Language
Researched relationship between violence and pre-teen social and mental development; interviewed subjects, collected data, and analyzed data using statistical software.

As with any resume, you also want to avoid using the personal pronowns "I" or "me" in order to focus attention on the employers needs, not your own.

Below we'll explore the different sections and formats for developing an effective CV and resume.

The heading includes your name, address, phone number, and email--nothing more. It is exactly the same for either a resume or CV.

Education is the first information presented (below the heading) on a CV or on a resume for most recent graduates. However, if you've completed several years of relevent work experience since you completed your degree, or if your education is not relevant to the desired position, then it's preferrable to move your education section to the bottom of your resume. If you're a seasoned professional seeking non-academic career opportunities, presenting a concise summary statement directly under the heading section, but before either the professional experience or education sections, is recommended. In almost all cases, formal education will always be listed first on a CV.

When presenting education information, include the name of the education institution where you received your degree, the degree you received, your major, and the date you graduated--in that order. This stands for both the CV and resume. If you haven't finished your degree, write "Degree expected" followed by the date you'll be completing your degree.


  • Include your dissertation title and the name of your advisor. Depending on your field, you may even want to add the names of your committee members.

  • If you've received professional training outside of your degree (i.e., certification, software training, teaching workshops, etc.), include this information in a separate section called "Professional Training". Professional training will rarely carry as much weight as your formal education so it typically shouldn't be included in your Education section. However, if your professional training is directly related to the position you're seeking, it can be included in your Education section--but toward the bottom of the section.


  • Don't include any information about your advisor (or committee) if you had one. This is only relevant to the CV.

  • If you completed a dissertation that is directly relevant to the position you're seeking, it can be included in your Education section--but this isn't typical. If you do include information about your dissertation, keep it simple, relevant, and easy to understand.

  • If you're pursuing career opportunities in industry, then any professional training you may have received--if relevant--should be included in your Education section. Since professional training is often more recent than formal education, you'll have to determine based on the value of training where to include it within your Education section, assuming you're employing the reverse chronological resume format (which you should be).


  • How you present your Experience section will be determined by the nature and duties of the position you're seeking. The first section will typically be either "Research" or "Teaching".

  • When developing your Research section, make sure to mention any funding you received. Provide an explanation of the research performed and your role. Identify the research methodology employed and any findings. In the CV, feel free to share as much detail as necessary. In a resume, keep it brief and to the point.

  • When developing your Teaching section, include any courses you taught by name (i.e., "Introducton to Psychology" not "Psych 101"). If you didn't teach a course directly, explain your involvement and contribution. Share anything of import that you accomplished (i.e., develop new teaching procedure, redesigned curriculum, teaching assistant, etc.)

  • In the Experience section of your CV include only academic-related information. If there are other important elements of your education experience you'd like to share, such as your involvement in other projects, create a separate section.


The Experience section of your resume is one of the most important elements of your resume, especially if it's been several years since you completed your degree.

  • Begin this section with the most relevant work experience you have. If you're not seeking a position in academia, then it's best to not start by listing your academic experience, unless it's you're only experience.

  • If you're relying on academic experience, try to share those aspects that are most relevant to the position you're seeking. Show what skills you've developed that make you the best candidate for the job.

  • You can also share experience you've gained through internships, volunteering, or leadership positions. Again, just make sure what you share, and how you share, it is directly relevant to the employer and the desired position.

This section includes other activities such as publications, volunteer service, presentations and research you were involved in.


  • On your CV include any and all scholarly experiences you've been involved in that are relevant to the position you're seeking. Develop a separate section for each activity worth mentioning (publications, research, etc.)

  • As in the Education and Experience sections, list information in reverse chronological order.

  • If you've published articles that are relevant to the position, list them. Again, illustrate how the articles qualify you for the position you're seeking.
  • If you have not yet published any articles, but will do so shortly, describe the nature of the article and list it as "Work in Progress" or "Forthcoming".

  • For any presentations, include the title, the focus of the presentation, the group you presented to, the date, and location of the presentation.


  • Only include professional or scholary experiences that are directly relevant to the position your seeking--experiences that illustrate specific skills that will be of interest to a prospective employer.

  • Include any professional or trade articles that you've published, or publications where you've been referrenced professionally.

Sample Psychology Resume and CV
Below is a sample psychology resume and CV that employ the principles and techniques discussed above. The first resume, directly below, is for a psychology graduate a few years out of school seeking career opportunities in private practice. Since the job seeker has a few years of experience, the Experience section is listed before the Eduction section and a summary statement, along with a "Highlights of Qualifications" section, is also included.

James Carter

4311 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48227   •   (313) 245-3422   •   [email protected]

Clinical Psychologist
Registered clinical psychologist with experience working in a range of psychology and therapy environments. Effective communicator with strong ACT, CBT and DCT skills. Ability to work positively with clientele in both therapeutic and clinical capacities.


  • ABCP Board Certified Clinical Psychologist
  • Expert in patient assessment, interventions, counselling and behaviour modification
  • 3 years experience working with adolescents and adults from different age groups and backgrounds
  • Member of the American Association of Behavioral Therapists (AABT)
  • Member of the American Psychological Association (APA)


MAYO CLINIC, 200 First St., RochesterMN, 2011 - Present
Clinical Psychologist
Conducted intake assessments and clinical consultations for adolescents and adults individually and in group settings.
  • Developed new intake assessment protocols for mental health clinics in Minnesota, Florida and Arizona
  • Achieved positive outcomes for patients struggling with various behavioural disorders including addictions, anxiety, trauma, depression, phobias, grief and loss, and relationship issues
  • Acted as liaise with other Mayo Clinic health professionals, departments and outside organization
  • Performed group and family mediation on a regular basis
  • Achieved measurable improvement in client outcomes


Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, University of Michigan 2010
Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science, Arizona State University, 2009

Below is an annotated example Curriculum Vitae (CV) produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln psychology department.

The information and samples presented above are intended primarily for psychology graduates. However, the same principles for developing both CV's and resumes apply to other fields that require these documents. The above information is not intended as a complete reference for developing a resume. For more general information on developing an effective resume, please read the following articles:

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