I’ve seen quite a few students in the last few months applying for master’s courses, where a CV was a required or optional part of the application process. Yet a quick Google search throws up very little in terms of specific advice on what makes a good CV for a master’s level course. You’ll find lots of advice about writing a CV for employment, and if you look a little harder, you may come across advice on writing an ‘Academic CV’. A good CV for a master’s will use aspects of both formats. This blog post aims to help you find that middle ground and support you writing or improving your CV for a master’s course.
I can’t tell you exactly how to structure your CV or what section headings to use, because each CV should be tailored specifically to the course you are applying for. Each CV should be crafted in such a way to showcases your unique achievements, transferable skills and knowledge in the best possible light. Therefore, every CV will be different. What I can tell you though, is that you should bear in mind that your master’s CV should focus on your academic achievements over professional ones. Consider this at every stage of the process.
The most important section of this CV will be the section on your education history. It will almost certainly be true that your most relevant experience for your master’s application will be your degree. So, make it shine by highlighting all relevant component parts.
Start with the title of your degree and predicted or actual award. If your classification is (or is likely to be) impressive, then visually highlight it! Use bold or spacing to make high grades stand out.
If you have received any awards, received the highest grade for something, then shout about it here!
Underneath the headlines include 3 or 4 bullet points, or short paragraphs to demonstrate what you achieved during your degree:
- Include details about the modules most relevant to the masters. Include high grades in brackets, i.e. Modules include Mathematical Theory (88%), Statistics (72%). Don’t list all modules or give module codes.
- Highlight relevant techniques, knowledge, academic and technical skills you have acquired, developed or mastered.
- Write about a significant project, piece of coursework or dissertation to showcase your academic credibility. If you have a significant amount, consider having a separate section for it (see below).
Relevant experience section(s)
CV headings can be your best friends when you make them work for you. You can choose the titles and order so use them to bring relevant experience to the front page of your CV.
If you’re on a course which consists of considerable amounts of project work – Engineers and Scientists in particular - you could have a ‘Course-related projects’ section, sitting underneath your Education section. Use this section to draw the most out of this significant experience.
If you have any research, teaching experience or publications to your name, then include details for these under prominent headings, such as ‘Research experience’ and/or ‘Publications’. Don’t panic though if you don’t. It’s the exception, rather than the norm to see these for master’s applications.
However, you may have attended additional workshops, conferences or Summer Schools relevant to the course you’re applying for. Or you may have done something in your own time, like completing an online course or personal project. Perhaps you’ve written a blog/magazine article related to your area of interest? Or you might have student membership to a relevant organisation. This kind of information demonstrates your commitment to your chosen area of study, so consider grouping this within a ‘Relevant experience’ section, in a prominent position on your CV.
Work and other experience section(s)
Employment, voluntary work, positions of responsibility and less-relevant experience should still be included. But give this less prominence than academic experience, by putting it lower down the page, or on the second page of your CV. Think about visually weighting the sections in your CV with the space devoted to it. If you have lots of similar, but not so relevant experience, consider ‘grouping’ similar experiences. Think about using any part-time work or voluntary work to highlight transferable skills you have developed, which you will use in your masters.
Hobbies and interests could comprise a very short section of its own, space permitting. But think about what these say about you. If you have been competing, training, learning an instrument for many years, this could be an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to persevere at something.
This is an optional section, which goes at the top of the CV, above Education, if included. There are pros and cons to including one. Read our blog, CV Tips: To profile or not to profile? To help weigh this up. If you do decide to include one, then consider highlighting your motivation and picking up on your main areas of academic interest.
Always check the requirements and specific application instructions and follow these. If there is none, then it is good practice to include names and details of two academic referees on your CV, if you have the space. Alternatively, you could include one academic referee and one employment referee, but only if an employer can comment on your suitability for a masters or is from a relevant sector to the field of study.
It will depend on how much relevant experience you can concisely include and whether you choose to include the more optional elements such as a profile and interests and hobbies. If you have some professional and or voluntary work and do your degree justice, then a two page CV would be about right. If you don’t have any work experience and stick to the bare essentials, a one page CV might be enough. It’s unusual to see anything longer than 2 pages, as these are usually only seen in full-on academic CVs.
Get in touch with the Careers Service, via careers@bath if you need any support or would like feedback on a CV.