CV samples were provided by both current and former VMS students. Please use these to help to guide you as you prepare your own.

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CV Guidelines

The curriculum vitae (literally “course of life”) represents a succinct summary of your academic achievements over the course of your lifetime.  This important document should be completed as early in your career as possible, with additions made over time to represent the continuity and temporal accuracy of your current (and past) accomplishments.

While there are no exact rules for style for CV outline and completion, it is important to pay attention to some “musts” and to some additional suggestions to have a perfect, easy to read, and most importantly, error-free professional document.  Below are some examples of what you should, and should not have, in your CV, some of the most common errors, and some of the variations to consider when creating your CV.

There are several excellent on-line resources for viewing CV examples, including this website, the AAMC Careers in Medicine website, and Harvard University’s website.  Most importantly, have multiple people proofread your document to ensure accuracy and a mistake-free document.

Examples of former Vanderbilt medical students’ CVs can be found above. The CVs displayed represent various styles that may be employed when constructing your CV.  While they may serve as models for how to consider structuring your document, do note that they vary in style and form and are only displayed as potential examples for you to view and consider.  Most importantly, there is not just one, “perfect” CV.  For example, though we mention limiting bold, underlining, and italics, several of the documents shown have utilized this formatting style.  It is ultimately your choice in the final construct of your document.

Happy writing!


1.   Font: - Font type should be one of the more common, easy-to-read types (Cambria, Times New Roman), avoiding fancy and often difficult-to-read fonts.  This is not the place to show creativity, but rather, make the document easy for your reader.  Type size should be approximately 11 or 12 point, though your name at the top of the document may be increased to 14pt. if desired.


2.  Bold / Underlining:  While some use of bold face type may enhance your document, do understand that it will pull your reader to those areas and should be used carefully, tastefully, and sparingly.  The same applies for underlining. 


3.  Italics:  Italics should be reserved for “musts” (i.e., summa cum laude, magna cum laude, cum laude) and may be used for other items in the CV (names in references, journal titles, etc.) but their use must be consistent.


4.  Personal information: There is some controversy as to the amount and type of personal information that should be included.  If the document is for internal use only, it is fine to list mailing and/or personal addresses, email address, and home and/or cell phone numbers.  Do NOT list licensure numbers (MD, DEA) but rather “active license, number available on request”.  However, if the CV will be posted on a website or other external location, exclude personal information.


5.  Outline: Following your name and/or personal information, the following order is recommended, although some may alter later categories to fit their particular needs.



               Research Experience

               Service /Volunteer Activities (may include Leadership within these or list as separate category)


               Submissions (for articles submitted but not yet published.  Do not include articles in progress, as this work is covered under Research)

               Presentations (can divide into Oral and Poster)

               Professional Organizations

               Other Interests

If something is significant for employment (as will occur after residency or perhaps you ran a company or did some other significant work before medical school), it can be listed in a separate “Work or Employment” category and placed somewhere in the middle of the CV (i.e., before Research, after Service, etc.)

Specific informational content and organization for each of these categories is listed below.


6.  Chronology: Your information can be either in chronological (oldest to newest) or reverse chronological (newest to oldest) order, but MUST be consistent from the start of the CV through the entire document and until its end.  Many like to use reverse order as it shows “where you are now” first.

For chronological order, note that the FIRST date of a series determines its location, not the second.  Examples for reverse chronological order:

               2015 – present

               2012 – 2013

               2011 – 2014

               2010 – present

If discontinuous dates, can use the following examples for reverse chronological order:

               2012, 2015

               2011 – 2012, 2014 – present

Do not list items in random order because you think one thing is “more important” than the other – this is not acceptable (and instead looks like you have been sloppy in your editing).


7.   General format:  It is strongly suggested to put dates in the far left column, though this is not a practice agreed upon by all.  The logic for choosing left justified dates is that the reader can easily see your timeline, checking for lapses in education, without reading through the entire document.  Right-justified dates are more commonly reserved for résumés rather than CVs.   It is appropriate to list the year only excluding the month, though it may be appropriate to list month and year for some shorter-term entries. 


8.  Capitalization:  Capitalization should be reserved for the first word in a sentence or for proper nouns.  Therefore, in “Vanderbilt University Department of Medicine”, “Medicine” is capitalized, whereas, in “research in biology and medicine”, “medicine” is not capitalized.  The same applies to titles, such as “John K. Smith, MD, professor of medicine”.


9.  Specifics:

               Education: Each entry should include years attended, highest degree achieved, school name, and location (City, State).   For current medical school, list year started – present, and then “Doctor of Medicine (or MD), expected May 20xx).  Do not include dates in the future in the timeline! If an award is listed in the Education section (i.e., summa cum laude), it cannot be listed under Honors/Awards as well.  Also, some choose to list GPA and USMLE scores here, although this author does not prefer listing these in the CV as they are contained in the transcript. 

               Honors/Awards: All awards and honors received should be listed without a lengthy description of the award unless that information is absolutely relevant to the listing.  It is expected that any additional information will be requested by your facility/interviewer at a later time if needed.  Awards that reflect graduating with honors should be listed in small case and italicized (summa cum laude, magna cum laude, etc.). All organizations (i.e., AOA, etc.) should be spelled out as your reader may not be familiar with all organizations.

               Research Experience:  All research projects should be listed here, and should include all medical school and undergraduate research.  You should list the dates of the research, the name of your project (or lab), the mentor’s full name and academic degree (eliminating the need for “Professor” or “Dr.”, but rather “ John Smith, MD, PhD, etc.), and if warranted, a BRIEF description of the project.  Again, some prefer simply to list only the title of the research here, as discussion of the project is often saved for the interview.  Do NOT list any publications or submitted works here, but rather, save those for the Publications and Submissions sections.

               Service /Volunteer Activities:  Here is where you list your “stuff” – Shade Tree or other clinic volunteering, directorships, class president, etc.  Same formatting follows as before – date(s) of service, name of program/activity, mentor (if any or needed), school affiliation, location.  Again, some choose to write a brief explanation, but be careful if you do this NOT to write too much, or write about a common activity.  For example, if you volunteered at Shade Tree, it suffices to say “Shade Tree Free Clinic – volunteer) without describing in detail what the clinic is, etc.  All schools have these, so a brief description if needed will suffice.   If you have had leadership roles for any or all of your time in an organization, this is a great place to list it as well. 

For example:

2010 – present             Shade Tree Clinic

                                             Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN

                                             Co-director (2015-present)

                                             Director of Pharmacy (2014-2015)

                                             Volunteer (2010-2015)

Alternately, you can list participation in an organization that you had multiple, progressive roles, by separating each with its own date:

2014 – present             Shade Tree Clinic, co-director

                                             Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN


2012 – 2014                   Shade Tree Clinic, director of pharmacy

                                             Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN


2011 – 2012                   Shade Tree Clinic, volunteer

                                             Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN

                Publications: No dates needed in left hand column for these.  Simply number in chronological or reverse-chronological order (1., etc.) and list in complete PubMed formatting as you would for journal citations.  Some suggest boldfacing or underlining your name to see position in the author list, while others do not.  Do not include submissions that have not been accepted for publication, but if a paper has definitively been accepted, it is okay to write “Accepted for publication”), but include the journal name in the body of the citation following the title of the paper.

An example:

Quiñones GA, Douglas PS, Foster E, et al. ACC/AHA clinical competence statement on echocardiography: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association/American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine Task Force on Clinical Competence. Developed in collaboration with the American Society of Echocardiography, the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists, and the Society of Pediatric Echocardiography. J Am Coll Cardiol 2003;41:687–708.

Other examples of reference formatting and directions can be found at: on the American Medical Association ‘s website.

               Submissions: (for articles submitted but not yet published) Do not include articles in progress, as this work is covered under Research Experience.  Format as above. 

               Presentations:  Any scholarly presentation, including presentations of research or published works, should be included here.  These should be numbered as well. For each presentation, list the authors, title, the name of the meeting where the work was presented, the location (city, state), and date (month, year).  You can underline or bold your name if you presented.  If you have both oral and poster presentations, you may want to separate these in to two different categories, with “Oral Presentations” preceding “Poster Presentations”.

For example:  Grimes, J, Paulina, C, and Smith, RW:  Analysis of tracking behavior in baby Sprague-Dawley rats.  The American Association of Rodent Enthusiasts 14th Annual Meeting.  Miami, FL.  Nov. 2014.      

               Professional Organizations:  List any membership in significant professional organizations.  If a leadership role (and not listed previously under “Service/ Volunteer Activities”) then list as well. 

               Other Interests:  Include anything and everything else here of significance.  It is unnecessary (and not recommended) to list the name of every place you have traveled, the name of every pet you have trained, etc. – Less is best, these are just for topics for discussion during your interview or for a 360 degree view of you. Do NOT list something that you do sporadically of minimally (i.e., “cooking” if you can barely cook and that involves making scrambled eggs, etc.).  Remember – anything you put here is fair game for discussion.  Therefore, if you say “spending time with my spouse and children” then do not be put off when your interviewer asks you about your spouse or children!


10.  “Do Nots”:

These represent some of the most common errors in CV preparation, with the exception of misspelling or incorrect grammar:

a) Résumé – it is not.  Do not put a statement such as “desire a position as a fast-paced EM resident” or ANY mission statement or statement of intent in your document.

b) “Dr. Dr.” – it is never “Dr. John Smith, MD”, but should read “John Smith, MD”.  Also, name followed by academic degree(s) should supersede leading with “Dr.” or “Professor” alone.

c) Periods:  The only place for periods is at the end of a complete sentence or following an annotated reference.  Do not use at the end of items in a list.

d) Too much info:  Other than listing information, it is okay to give brief descriptions of things.  However, full paragraphs are never needed (nor read) in CVs.  You will have more room for descriptions in your ERAS application.

e) Typos:  Not much to say here again, except don’t have any.  You have a long time to prepare this document.  It should be perfect.  Really. This is an absolute must.

f) Letting go of the past:  At some point, you must lose things from your past that do not belong in a CV.  Awards from high school, summer jobs, etc, probably need to go away.  However, Eagle Scout, Peace Corps, mission work, etc., always have a place in the CV.