How to Create The Best CV for a PhD Application (+ Example CV)

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During the process of applying for a PhD, there are many documents that are required, and an academic CV for your PhD application is one of them.

It’s important to write an impressive academic CV during a PhD application, so that you can present an overview of your educational background and display your ability to pursue a PhD. 

In this article, Cake will guide you through a step-by-step process on how to create an academic CV for your PhD application, along with a sample academic CV for a PhD application at the end of this article.

How to Write a Good CV for a PhD Application

Step 1: Research on the desired school and program.

First of all, you should begin by narrowing down your choices. What is your desired school? What program do you want to attend?

It’s important to keep your mind set on a certain goal before starting on the process of writing your CV to apply for a PhD, so that you can create a customized academic CV that best fits the PhD program you are applying for.

Make sure to do a thorough background research on the school and program you want to attend.

Step 2: Choose the right CV format for your PhD application. 

Most applicants prefer using the reverse chronological CV format for their PhD CVs.

It’s a suitable CV format for prospective PhD students, because you can list your qualifications and publications from the most recent to the oldest, which helps the admission board understand your current educational background, while providing information on your research interest and past achievements. 

Step 3: Look up PhD CV templates & examples online for reference.

After picking a suitable resume format for your PhD application, the next step is to find some inspiration.

If it’s your first time writing a CV for a PhD application, it’s completely okay to rely on online resources, as long as you do not plagiarize any content. 

If you want to find the best CV template for your PhD application, consider searching the keywords “PhD student CV template” or “academic CV for PhD application template” online to find a suitable CV template for your PhD application. 

After you’ve chosen a resume template for your PhD application, it’s time to look for some actual resume examples.

Typing the keywords “CV for PhD application sample” or “PhD candidate CV example” into the search engine may help you find some good CV examples for a PhD application. 

Step 4: Tailor your PhD CV to the school and research topic. 

Now that you’ve got the basics down, the next step is to tailor your PhD CV to your desired school and program.

It’s important to create an academic CV that fits your research topic, so the school will know that you are goal-driven and clear on what you want to study during your PhD. 

Step 5: Proofread.

There’s one last important step to writing a CV for a PhD application. Make sure to double check and proofread your CV before submitting your PhD application.

An academic CV for a PhD admission should be free of mistakes, so the school will see how dedicated and detail-oriented you are.

What to Include in an Academic CV for a PhD Application

1. CV Header

A CV header should include personal details  and is crucial in a CV for a PhD admission. This section is usually located at the top of your academic CV and includes basic information, such as your full name and contact details, location, along with a brief phrase that states your educational background and interest in specific research topics. 

2. Research Interests

Since you are writing an academic CV, describing your research interests in a clear and concise way is important so that you can demonstrate your dedication and passion for your chosen field of study and the PhD program.

This is similar to a career objective for your PhD application. If you’re having trouble thinking of what to write, consider searching the keywords “sample career objective for PhD application” online for references.

3. Education/Academic History

Your academic history should be listed in reverse chronological order, from the most recent to the oldest. If you’re still pursuing a degree, state it clearly in your PhD CV.

This part of your PhD candidate CV is important, because it helps the institute see that you are qualified to study for a PhD with the hard skills you currently possess. 

If there are a few courses where you performed exceptionally well academically, consider including them in your PhD application resume. 

4. Work, Research, or Teaching Experience

Next is the “work experience” segment of your CV for a PhD admission. In this part, list your relevant work, research or teaching experience.

Since most candidates applying for the same PhD as you may have a similar level of education, including the details on your past work experience may help you stand out from other applicants. 

Keep in mind that you should try to include research experience that is relevant to the PhD program you are applying for in your CV. This shows your dedication and in-depth knowledge in this particular field of study. 

5. Skills

Now, let’s start working on the “skills” section of your PhD application resume. In this section, you should include any hard or soft skills that could help prove that you are capable of becoming a successful researcher. 

You can consider including:

  • Technical knowledge and experience (e.g. computer softwares that are commonly used in your field of research)
  • Skills you’ve developed in previous courses or assignments (e.g. academic writing, presentation skills, laboratory skills, etc.)
  • Your level of proficiency in foreign languages

6. Publications

Most undergraduate or postgraduate students do not have publications under their names, but if you do, remember to include them on your PhD student CV.

If you have publications to list, for example any journal articles, books or chapters, published reports and patents, list them in this section of your PhD CV in reverse chronological order. Pay close attention to details, such as the format style (choose either MLA or APA style) when you are referencing your works.

Further reading:  How to List Publications on Resume (+ Format & Examples)

7. Awards, Honors or Funding

We’re almost finished with creating your CV to apply for a PhD! In this part of your PhD CV, you can include any relevant awards, grants, scholarships and funding you’ve received in the past.

Including your awards and funding can show your competency as a researcher and add some bonus points to your PhD application resume. 

8. Additional Information

Last but not least, here’s a list of additional information you can consider including in your CV for a PhD application. 

  • Academic association membership: this can show your commitment to a research topic.
  • Previous conferences or seminars you’ve attended or spoken at.

Tips for Writing the Best PhD Application CV 

✅ Tip 1: Customize your PhD CV for the school.

As we mentioned previously, it’s important to have knowledge on the institute and research program you are applying for. It’s even better to do research on your instructors and have a clear understanding of their research topics. It’s important to customize your PhD CV, so they can see that you are goal-oriented and clear on what type of research you want to focus on.

✅ Tip 2: Highlight what makes you unique.

Since most applicants probably have outstanding educational qualifications, it’s crucial to highlight what makes you unique. This is why you should list your relevant research experience, skills, publications and honors in your CV for PhD applications. 

✅ Tip 3: Quantify results on your PhD student CV.

Just like any other CV you would create to apply for a job, you should quantify results on an academic CV for a PhD. Having quantifiable results can prove your competency in a research field. 

✅ Tip 4: Adopt CV action words.

CV action words are verbs that you can use to provide a clearer overview of  your ability when you're listing your qualifications in a CV for a PhD application. 

Instead of stating that you “did” some research as a student, using action verbs like “identified” or “investigated” specifies your role and makes you look much more professional. If you’re having trouble figuring out what action words to use to describe your experience, consider looking online for PhD application CV examples. 

✅ Tip 5: Write a PhD CV for a specific field of study.

The process of applying for a PhD differs depending on your field of study. If you’re aiming for a PhD in Language Studies, your publications could be the key information that can help you stand out from other candidates.

However, if you are writing a CV for the following fields of study, it’s important to include your experience in laboratory research, such as:

  • CV for PhD application in physics
  • CV for PhD application in biology
  • CV for PhD application in chemistry

How to Pick the Best Academic CV Template for a PhD Application

🖋 Q1. How long should a PhD application CV be?

Keep your academic CV for a PhD application short and simple. It should only be around 2-4 pages, depending on the amount of relevant experience you have.

If you are planning to write a PhD CV that is 4 pages long, be sure to include the most vital information in the first two pages. 

🖋 Q2. What is the best font to use in a CV for a PhD admission?

It’s important to choose fonts that are both formal and easy to read. Consider going along with a font that you use most often when you’re writing research papers: Times New Roman.

List of fonts for your CV/resume:

  • Century Gothic
  • Lucida Sans
  • Calibri
  • Georgia
  • Garamond
  • Helvetica 
  • Tahoma
  • Verdana

💁‍♀️ Reminder:

Adjust your font size and margins according to the layout of your PhD CV, ideally 14-16pt for the headers and 10-12 for the body text. 

🖋 Q3. What format should a CV for PhD applications be in, Word or PDF?

You should definitely send your PhD CV in PDF format, so formatting of your CV does not change when it is viewed on different devices. You should only submit your academic CV in Word format if the institute specifically requests you to do so. 

CV for PhD Application Sample

Lily Miller

Outstanding Alumni of Stanford University

[email protected]
Los Angeles, California (USA)

Research interests

Social psychology (social cognition, stereotypes and prejudice)


Stanford University
M.A. in Psychology
2014 - 2016

Stanford University
B.A. in Psychology


Research Assistant
Department of Psychology, Stanford University
Sept 2016 - May 2017

  • Assisted Dr. Gerstenberg in research on 10+ topics related to Social psychology.
  • Managed and documented all findings related to the research topics.

Teaching Assistant
Introduction to Social Psychology, 2015
Sept 2015 - May 2016

  • Instructed lessons on stereotypes with the guidance of Dr. Gerstenberg.
  • Graded assignments and exams of more than 100+ students. 


Hard Skills

  • An in-depth understanding of the social determinants of behavior
  • Psychological research methods
  •  Research skills
  • Specific knowledge in neuroscience, social and  forensic psychology
  • Psychology major theories and history 

Soft Skills

  • Problem solving 
  • Time management 
  • Research ethics
  • Academic writing
  • Presentation skills


  • Miller, Lily. “Why Do We Care So Much about the Opinions of Others?” The Current Social Behavior of Humans, 20 May 2016. 
  • Miller, Lily. “The Main Problem behind Panic Buying and How to Avoid It.” The Current Social Behavior of Humans, 13 Apr. 2015. 

Awards & honors 

  • Teaching Assistant Award, Stanford University, 2015 
  • Social Psychology Research Grant, Stanford University, 2016 
  • Member of  American Psychological Association (APA) since 2016

With Cake, the best resume builder online you can easily create your CV for PhD application online and download your CV in PDF format for free. Try now!

--- Originally written by Celine Chien ---

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