3 Ways an Undergraduate Resume is Different from a Graduate Resume + Key Tips

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Students at every level often face fears or concerns regarding resumes. For undergraduate students, it is often how amazed they are at the time it takes to compose a resume. For graduate students, it is worrying about having their resumes extend beyond one page. 

As a trained career peer with the Career & Co-op Center, regardless of whether I meet with an undergraduate or graduate student, there are a few things that apply to both groups. First, that all students should set aside one day each year to review and update their resume for the rest of their professional lives. Second, I stress how important it is to start with a strong foundation for your resume. Starting with a strong resume set them up for future success and make it easier to add, update, or change materials as they advance in their education or career.  

That being said, there are other ways that graduate and undergraduate resumes (or CVs) can be different. This is a result of circumstances, work experiences, and other factors that commonly exist between these two groups. We say commonly because each resume should be constructed based on the lived experience of that individual, so there are no “hard and fast” rules to this type of document. What we can say is that there are suggested structural, detail, or organizational considerations between undergrads and graduate students that are highlighted below. 

Differences Between Graduate and Undergraduate Resumes 

The Length of a Resume 

The length of your resume should be connected to your experience. Many undergraduate students are still early in their careers when they enter higher education, so a one-page resume is common. However, for non-traditional students who may have entered the workforce before coming to college, it may be more likely that you would have a two-page resume as a student. As a graduate student, you may have more experience, could be working in different roles while going back to school, etc., it is more common to see a two page resume among this group. 
Unless otherwise specified by an employer or selection committee, two pages (or more, depending on how long you have been working) are expected so that you can fully describe your background and list your related experience.  

Key Tip: Highlight and include skills about the job you are applying for (especially ones posted in a job listing that are relevant). 

How to Organize Your Resume 

Where you list information in a resume or CV is driven by many factors. For a curriculum vitae (CV), you may want to have your education towards the top of the document, especially if you are looking to apply for academic roles. If you are still in school or newly graduated, it is good to keep your education towards the top of the document as well.  If it has been more than five years since you graduated with an undergraduate degree, it is fine to not list your education on the first page.  

For some fields and undergraduate roles, an “Objective” section is not necessarily included. This statement is more common with graduate resumes applying for roles in academia. If you are seeking a professional job outside of academia, whether you have an undergraduate or graduate degree, it is more typical to have a “Qualifications Summary”— or an “in-a-nutshell” articulation of your relevant skills, at the top of your resume. You can think of this section as a “mini-cover letter” summarizing everything you have to offer to an employer. 

Key Tip: Make sure to look up the proper title of your institution when including it on a resume or CV. This can be found on the “branding guides” of most institutional websites.  

What Details to Include on Your Resume 

For both graduate student and undergraduate resumes, you are expected to expand on work-related experience. List the specifics of your work and interpret how it was useful to your employer.  If you are applying to roles in research-oriented fields, do not shy away from jargon or specialized detail. Your goal is to portray yourself as an insider to those with a technical, specialized understanding matching or surpassing yours. This is particularly true for graduate students applying for academic roles.  

Key Tip: Students who recently graduated with an undergraduate degree or current graduate students should prioritize internships, education and training, and transferrable skills in their resumes/CVs. Undergraduate students should prioritize academic projects, education and their GPA (if 3.0 or above), and technical skills that pertain to their major. 

No matter where you are in your academic or professional career, it is always important to start from the basics when writing or editing a resume or a CV. Include the relevant information about the job you are applying to. If you are ever worries about page limit, structure, or what details I recommend creating a resume with all your relevant information in a Word Document, stop by the Career & Co-op Center, and one of the Career Peers will support you in editing, discussing, and revising your materials. 

Key Tip: Students can come for 15-minute drop-ins (no appointment needed) to meet with a career peer and get advice for their resume on the spot. Available in UCC 450, O’Leary 105, and virtually.  

By Sonma Agundu
Sonma Agundu Student Staff - Career Peer