Physician Assistant CV vs Resume: What’s the difference?

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A common question among physician assistant students and other health professional graduates is whether they should create a curriculum vitae (CV) or a resume. There’s confusion about the difference between the two, and when is one preferred over the other. 

What is a CV?

A CV is a comprehensive outline of professional milestones and statistics, including education, certifications, skills, experience, publications, and awards. Consider it a continuous log of professional accomplishments. As the individual accumulates more professional achievements and accolades, the CV grows. A CV is not meant to be abbreviated and polished; it should include everything that is relevant.

How is a resume different than a CV?

A resume is an abbreviated version of a CV, highlighting primarily education, qualifications, and work experience. It is tailored to the job posting to highlight qualifications desired for that position. Job searchers will often update and modify their resume when applying for a new position, whereas a CV tends to be more static and focused on the individual, not a job position. CVs are customary in academia and research-based fields, which is why they are commonplace in medicine.

One reason for confusion is for a new graduate with little experience and few professional accomplishments, their resume and CV will look very similar. And for most entry level positions, it likely doesn’t matter which one you submit. With experience, they will start to look different. Future jobs may ask for a CV or specifically for a resume. If it’s unclear, you can always ask for clarification and have both available. 

Resumes tend to be 1-2 pages in length even for seasoned applicants. CVs tend to be much longer depending on experience, accomplishments and accumulated accolades. The following table highlights some differences between the two. 

Often many pages in lengthGenerally 1-2 pages
May include objective
Static- generally is not customized for a job descriptionMay be edited and tailored for individual job postings
Very detailedAbbreviated facts regarding work history and sill related to the job
Generally includes:

-Certifications and licensure
-Professional memberships
-Published works
Generally includes:

Header with contact information
-Professional statement or objective
-Work history

It’s important to remember there are no hard, fast rules. While hiring managers are accustomed to standard practices and formats on CVs and resumes, customizing your application is always an option. 

For example, a new graduate physician assistant with limited experience is not going to have a substantial CV. Attempts to create one may lead to a bloated document that actually makes it harder to hold the attention of the reader. Following a resume format where employers can quickly view pertinent facts and information may be the better option. However, it may still include presentations, published works, honors and awards that set you apart from your peers. 

I also recommend new graduate PAs tailor their resume for the job description. If you’re applying for an orthopedic position, include information about your orthopedic clinical and skills towards the top of your resume, and customize your objective statement to reflect your desire to work in that specialty. 

As you develop professionally, maintain an updated CV so it’s readily available not only for job applications but other opportunities such as speaking engagements or professional events. A resume can always be created from an updated CV.

Templates and Resources

AAPA offers a free, but basic template for student members available on their website.

My Perfect Resume is a resume building tool with hundreds of industry-specific templates as well as expert advice to help you develop a custom resume, CV and cover letter. You can test the resume builder for free, however you can’t download or print any templates without purchasing a subscription. For most resume building tools, prices are not published or easily identified unless you create a resume, and My Perfect Resume is no different. At the time of this writing, a 2-week full access trial is available for $2.95. After 14 days it will automatically renew at $23.95 every four weeks, and you can cancel at any time. An annual subscription is $71.40 up front and will auto-renew after 12 months if not cancelled.

While you certainly don’t need a paid service or template to create a resume, I have reviewed My Perfects’s Resume‘s templates and process and do feel the services has a lot of value. I was very impressed with the variety of templates they have and how professional but unique they all look. You don’t have to worry about formatting or aesthetics, it does the work for you. Out of multiple resume building sites, this is the one I liked the most.

It’s difficult for PA students to include all pertinent information unique to PA school while still looking clean and organized, and for some this may be a services worth purchasing. You can always do the 2-week trial, just make sure to cancel your subscription before it auto-renews. But you may consider investing in the year-long subscription. Most students start preparing their CV/resumes and cover letters during the clinical year and make many modification over the next 6-12 months while applying for jobs. The tools in this service make that process much less painful.

Other resume building resource are listed below. Some have some limited free functions. Most of the paid plans are similar to My Perfect Resume, which is simply my personal preference after reviewing others.

Resume Genius
Indeed Resume Builder

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