How to Prepare a Resume for a Master’s Program

The rules for writing a resume or curriculum vitae (CV) for graduate school are a little different than they are for the ordinary job hunt, but the end goal is still the same: you want to make it is clear that your particular qualifications make you a good fit for this opportunity. These five tips will help you prepare the perfect resume for applying to a master’s program:

1. Resume Versus Curriculum Vitae

Depending on what type of master’s program you’re applying to, you may be asked to prepare either a resume or a CV. For instance, Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or Master of Education (ME) programs can ask for either a resume or a CV, while MBA programs will ask for a resume. Both documents present a short history of your accomplishments, but a resume emphasizes professional accomplishments, while a CV emphasizes academic accomplishments. The two documents also tend to be formatted differently (for instance, a resume is usually one page while a CV is two pages), although neither document has a single standard format.

2. Emphasize Education

Because you’re applying for admission to an academic program, your resume or CV should emphasize academic accomplishments over professional accomplishments. You should also go into greater detail about your education than you would on your average professional resume. In addition to identifying your alma mater, degree earned and year of graduation, detail some of the more relevant classes you took and any academic honors you earned.

3. Include Volunteer Work and Internships

If you’re applying to graduate school straight out of undergrad, you may not have a lot of professional experience, but internships or volunteer work can tell admissions officers about your interests while demonstrating that you’re willing to work hard for reasons other than immediate material rewards. If you’re a professional looking to change fields, volunteer work or internships can also help to bridge the gap between your current profession and your desired field. Extracurricular activities are another way you can let admissions officers know about your personal passions and even your leadership experience.

4. Use Language that Makes an Impact

A resume is no place to waste words. Think about the language you use, and choose words carefully to convey as much as you can about your accomplishments in the minimal amount of space a resume provides. The Internet is full of clichés about writing resumes, and you should be careful about which tips you use as you update your resume. For example, writing in the active voice is good because it is efficient and conveys a sense of energy, but buzzwords like “dynamic” and “detail-oriented” will only tip off admissions officers to the fact that you read an article about how to write a resume.

5. Edit, Edit, Proofread

Regardless of what your specific accomplishments are, your resume should present them in a careful and polished manner. This document is a summary of your major accomplishments over the course of several years, and you should take pride in it. That means customizing it for each application, editing it carefully to make sure it presents your accomplishments in the best possible light for each particular program, and proofreading rigorously. A degree from “Harvfard” isn’t going to impress anyone. If you are not secure in your proofreading skills, ask a friend or colleague to read it through. It never hurts to have another reader take a look at your work and make sure it’s written in a clean, clear voice.

Perhaps more than anything else, a resume conveys how you understand your own achievements. Which aspects of your educational and professional life you choose to emphasize and the language you use to describe the work you’ve done can tell admissions officers a lot about your attitude toward your own accomplishments. For that reason, it’s a good idea to take time to reflect on and celebrate what you’ve done before, during and after the resume-writing process. After all, you have to believe in your application before anyone else will.

Interested in an online graduate program in the field of education?

The USC Rossier School of Education strives to prepare educators who achieve positive learning outcomes across a range of settings. To better serve our students, we offer a number of our graduate programs in an online format. These innovative programs are designed and taught by the same renowned USC faculty members who teach on campus, and take advantage of a state-of-the-art online learning platform to blend live, face-to-face online classes with dynamic self-paced coursework and field-based experiences.

Learn more about our online degree programs by selecting a program below:

Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
Master of Arts in Teaching — Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Doctor of Education (EdD) in Organizational Change and Leadership

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