How to write an academic CV for a Masters application

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By Sarah Blunt

If you are applying for a Masters programme, it’s likely you will be asked to submit a CV as part of your application. Many universities request an academic CV, so in this blog post we will look at what exactly an academic CV is and how to write an academic CV for a Masters application.

What is an academic CV?

An academic or postgraduate CV highlights your academic qualifications, experience and skills. If you search online for an ‘Academic CV’ you will see that the example CVs list academic publications, conferences and research experience. The large majority of applicants applying for a Masters won’t have this kind of experience and so admission tutors aren’t expecting to see this on an academic CV submitted as part of a Masters application. Strictly speaking, they shouldn’t use the term ‘Academic CV’ as this relates to the kind of CV you submit when you are applying for an academic job! Instead, they want to see your qualifications and academic achievements, as well as any relevant skills and experience you might have.

What does an academic CV look like?

An academic CV for a Masters application is likely to look fairly similar to a regular CV. It should still include your name, contact details, employment and work experience, just like a non-academic CV. However, the key difference will be how much emphasis you give to your academic and academic-related experience. Ideally, you will use headings that draw attention to these aspects of your background, and this might be quite different from how you would present your CV to an employer. In terms of length, this is again similar to a regular CV, so you should be looking at either one or two pages in length. It’s always best to make these ‘full’ pages, so only use two pages if you think you have enough content to fill the second page.

What to include in an academic CV for a Masters application

When putting together a strong academic CV for a Masters application, your priority is to evidence the skills and experience the admissions tutor will be looking for from applicants. This is going to be anything that shows you have a good academic background, and have the required skills to be successful on the course. Focus on highlighting the following:

  • Your academic qualifications – list these in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent qualification, going back to secondary school. Include the name of the institution, the qualification awarded, and the date you obtained it. Be sure to mention any qualifications you are currently studying too.
  • Your grades – at a minimum, state the overall grade for each qualification obtained and if you want to highlight relevant modules studied, include the grades for each one in brackets. If your undergraduate degree classification is (or is likely to be) particularly impressive (e.g. first class honours), then make sure you highlight this too.
  • Academic awards – if you’ve received an academic award such as a scholarship or academic prize, make sure to include details of this in your education section. Include the name of the award, the organisation that awarded it, and the date.
  • Relevant modules/projects – list any relevant modules or projects that you have completed. If you’re studying or have studied a course which has significant project work you could include a ‘Course-related projects’ section, which could sit underneath your ‘Education’ section.
  • Dissertation/research project – if you have completed or are in the process of completing a large research project such as a dissertation, make sure you showcase this on your CV. Include the project title, outline what the project involved and state key achievements.
  • Research experience – if you have any research experience it will be particularly relevant for your academic CV. This could include working as a research assistant or completing a research internship. Add any roles like these to a ‘Research Experience’ heading on your CV. Include details of the role, for example the title of the project, the name of your supervisor, and a description of your key achievements and duties.
  • Any relevant experience–  if you’ve had experience which can evidence your interest and/or knowledge of the subject you are applying to study, make sure you include this on your postgraduate CV. This could include workshops, talks or conferences you’ve attended. Relevant roles will depend on the nature of the course you’re applying to. For example, if you were applying to an MA Heritage Management course and you volunteer in a museum, it would be important to highlight this experience under a heading such as a ‘Heritage Experience’.
  • Relevant skills – remember to highlight any relevant academic and technical skills you have acquired, developed or mastered, whether through your education or past work/employment experience.  What these skills are will depend on the course you are applying to, but could include things like computer programming languages, statistical analysis software or laboratory techniques.
  • Publications – very few applicants will have academic publications to their name, but if you do, make sure to list them under a ‘Publications’ heading. Perhaps you have written a book review, or been included on a publication after doing some research assistant work. Provide the full citation of each publication, including the title, authors, journal or book name, and date of publication.

What about non-academic experience?

When writing an academic CV for a Masters application, your focus will obviously be on detailing your academic and educational experience. This means your ‘Education’ section should be on your CV’s first page and ideally appear at the top, under your name and contact details. Remember also that the CV you submit as part of your Masters application should include details of your employment, work experience and volunteering (if applicable).  Remember to include this experience, even if you consider it to be less relevant, as admissions tutors will be interested in all aspects of your professional background. This experience is also likely to evidence your transferable skills such as time management, multi-tasking, and organisation skills, as well as an ability to work to tight deadlines, all of which are important for being a successful postgraduate student!

In summary, writing an academic CV for a Masters application requires careful consideration of what the admissions tutor for the programme will be looking for and making sure this is conveyed on the CV you submit. Follow the tips in this post to create a well-crafted academic CV that highlights your academic skills and sets you apart from other applicants. Remember to proofread your CV carefully and if you would like feedback before submitting look into my personal statement review service. Good luck with your Masters application!