The road to a PhD can be a long and difficult, but exciting, journey. The ability to call yourself a doctor at the end of it and being considered an expert in your field is a great achievement, one that you should be proud of. However, there is life after a PhD, and you will need to transition from being a student to either a post-doctoral academic role or to a job in industry.
At STEM Graduates, we’ve helped to place scores of PhD graduates into fulfilling roles. Over the years, we’ve seen thousands of CVs and know what employers are looking for. Whatever route you decide to take, read our blog on how to make the most of your PhD graduate CV.
General CV top tips for PhD graduates
Whether you want to stay in academia or are looking for a career in industry, here are some general top tips that will help all PhD graduates write a job-winning CV:
- Write about your PhD research, but keep it concise
- List the discipline your PhD is under; for example, computer science, pharmaceutical sciences etc.
- Mention any publications, poster presentations or conference details you have been published in or have attended. This applies more to an academic CV than an industry CV.
- List the stage you are currently at with your PhD, such as thesis submitted, VIVA pending, or completed
- Ensure you detail all of your academic qualifications, including any A-Level, BTEC or professional qualifications you have
- List any techniques or technologies you have used within your PhD that are relevant to the role you are applying for. For example, gel electrophoresis, DNA separation, Linux, JAVA and C# etc
- Ensure you list your academic qualifications in reverse chronological order. Your PhD should be at the top of the list.
If you are looking for a postdoc role in academia, the structure your CV will be different from that of a conventional CV. However, there are some similarities, such as:
- Name and contact details – always make sure that your name, and a contact number, email or LinkedIn profile link is at the top of your CV
- Education – when talking about your PhD, ensure you list the title, aim, methodologies and outcomes
- Work experience – include all work experience, including part-time work and any relevant volunteering you may have done
- Skills – for example, lab techniques, languages or other specialist skills you may have acquired during your PhD or through other work
- Interests and achievements – this section should be for your extra-curricular activities, not your academic achievements. We will go into more detail about that later
- References - you can either list two references or you can opt to write 'references available on request'.
The above is pretty standard for any CV. However, if you are writing an academic CV you will need to add the following sections as applicable:
- Scholarships and awards – add any awards or scholarships you may have had during your academic career. For example, if you won the Fulbright Scholarship or a prestigious award that is unique to your university
- Publications you have been published in
- Conferences attended/presented at
- Commercialisation of Research/Patents (if applicable).
One of the main differences between a CV for industry and a CV for academia, is an academic CV can be longer than the standard two pages. Depending on your experience, a CV for a PhD graduate should be somewhere between 2-4 pages long. The length of your academic CV will depend on how many publications you have been published in and the number of conference presentations you have completed.
As your PhD is your most recent qualification, it is important to ensure it takes pride of place. However, keep it concise and don’t go into too much detail. If possible, sum up your research in a paragraph or in bullet points and include any relevant subject knowledge, specialist techniques you may have used in your research and ensure you make space for any impressive achievements and outcomes.
Keep your list of publications and conference appearances for a different section. If you have appeared in a number of conferences and publications, you may want to dedicate a whole section of your CV to this. If the number is limited, you may be better off adding it under a section called 'academic achievements.' This section can include any scholarships or awards that you may have won.
Working towards a PhD can mean that you learn and develop a wide variety of skills. Depending on your experience and the job you are applying for, you may wish to structure your CV in a way that groups related job roles or skills together. For example:
- Research experience
- Lab experience
- Teaching experience
- Administration experience.
You can also list your roles in reverse chronological order and use more of a conventional CV format, such as listing your job title, organisation, how long you worked there and your roles. Under your work experience, add any relevant skills and qualifications that have not yet been touched upon in your CV. This can include, for example, any IT skills, first aid and other skills.
How you decided to structure your CV depends on your experience and the role you are applying for. Looking for a postdoc position in academia? Take a look at our jobs board today.
PhD CV for industry
If you are hunting for a role outside of academia, you will need to create a more conventional CV. Unlike an academic CV, you need to keep an industry CV short and to the point. Keep your CV to a maximum of two pages, always using reverse chronological order for work experience and education. A CV for industry should include the following:
- Name and contact details – you would be surprised how many people forget to put them in. If the employer or recruiter cannot get hold of you, they cannot offer you an interview
- Education – give your PhD at least a short paragraph explaining what your PhD was on and highlight any specialist techniques used and any transferrable skills that may be beneficial for the role you are applying for. For example, analytical skills or programming languages you may know. Ensure you also include all your previous qualifications, including your masters, bachelors degree and A-levels
- Work experience – when detailing your work experience, you can opt to use the reverse chronological order method or you can group your experience into themes, such as technical/scientific experience, leadership experience and industry experience. How you decided to structure this will, of course, depend on how much experience you have. You can include your PhD under these headlines – for example, if part of your PhD included teaching; you can add this under the leadership skills heading
- Skills – this can include all the relevant skills you have gained through your working life and not only in your academic career. Ensure that you add skills such as languages, lab skills, driving licence, first aid certifications, programming languages etc.
- Achievements – this can include both your academic achievements and any extracurricular
- Interests – this should focus on your extra-curricular activities
- References - you can either list two references or opt to write ‘references on request’.
If you have been published in academic publications and taken part in conference presentations, feel free to add this in; however, for the sake of brevity, especially if you have appeared in a number of the above, either state that you have appeared in X number of publications or add an appendix to your CV. If you have been published in a publication that will be of interest to the employer, ensure to state the name of the publication in your achievements or when writing about your PhD, under the education section.
If you have or are doing a PhD with a STEM background, and are looking for your next career move, then sign up to our STEM Women events and meet prospective employers and recruiters across a wide range of industries.
For more CV advice, take a look at our STEM graduates content hub.