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Should I modify my CV to emphasize certain traits before including it in my application for a master's degree or just include my usual professional CV?

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An academic CV typically contains items you wouldn't want to list in a professional resume, such as a complete publishing history. Your resume may list as a bullet point that you are published, but they don't want 20 pages listing each publication, for instance. So, yes, your academic CV should be different.

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    Of course, a master's candidate isn't likely to have 20 pages of publications. . . . – aeismail May 3 '14 at 17:57
  • @aeismail certainly, but it illustrates the point. – Jonathan Landrum May 6 '14 at 17:45
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Yes, it's a good idea.

It's a good idea to tailor your CV and/or resume to each position you apply for. Keep two copies of your CV:

  • comprehensive (academic) version that has everything you've accomplished in academia and your profession, and
  • short version that only contains pertinent information.

Some applications require you to submit a short (2 page or less CV). You might consider submitting both a long and short CV to your program.

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A CV is very different from a professional resume. Your CV should emphasize those elements that pertain to the Master's program that you are applying to. For example, if you've been working in a biotech lab and are applying to a bio MS, then filter that up to the top.

Academic publications should also rank very highly -- but deprecate most non-academic publications such as novels, unless you are applying to an arts or literature related MA>

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You should always modify your CV to emphasize certain traits. If a decision maker is sorting CVs, you want yours to be noticed. Citing specific and credible experience directly related to the program (or company for a general CV) to which you are applying, gives you a much better chance of getting noticed.

I personally re-work my CV for each opportunity I ever applying for. It takes 15 minutes, and can make a huge difference between where you will spend the next few years of your life.

Take the 15 minutes to rework your CV and make it specific to the desired opportunity.

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