Developing and Updating Your CV: A Guide for Foreign Medical Students


The words “curriculum vitae” are Latin for “course of life,” and that translation certainly rings true for medical students. Over the course of your medical career, you will need to constantly update your CV as your professional career evolves. That way, you will always have it ready to go when you need it.

The Basics of the Curriculum Vitae (CV)

When you enter your first year of medical school, your CV will replace your undergraduate resume. You should start compiling it right away, since it can be helpful as you apply for grants and special programs while you are a medical student. The first version of your CV will contain a lot of the same elements as your undergraduate resume, but on the CV, you have the chance to go into more detail about your educational and professional experiences. You will also build on the CV as you gain experience as a medical student. Here are some things to include on your CV:

  • All previous education, starting with your undergraduate degree and including school information and GPA. If you had your secondary school information on your undergraduate resume, it should not be included on your medical school CV. If you earned a graduate degree before starting medical school, make sure to include it as well.
  • Any work experience that you have had since starting your undergraduate degree. In particular, if you took time off to work between undergraduate and medical school, make sure to account for the time gaps in your education.
  • Any volunteer experience that you have had since starting your undergraduate degree. This can include volunteer work that you did while you were in undergraduate or medical school, as well as time spent away from school to volunteer full-time.
  • Supplementary educational opportunities, like student electives in the United States or outside lab research, can add depth to your CV.
  • Academic honors and awards, whether they are school-wide, regional, or national.
  • Extracurricular activities, like sports, student organizations, and religious groups.

Formatting and Updating Your CV

When you start working on your CV as a first-year medical student, you should choose a format that is well-organized and flexible, since you’ll constantly be adding to it and altering it for the remainder of your professional life. Also, note that when you add activities, awards, and experiences, they should be listed in reverse chronological order.

Stylistically, there are no set standards for the CV, but you’ll want to make sure that your CV is visually appealing and easy for any reader to follow. There are lots of examples online, and your school might also provide some examples from previous students. You can draw different elements from the examples you find to develop a unique format that works well for you.

Going through medical school, many students get caught up in the whirlwind of academics and clinicals, not to mention family and social life. You might end up forgetting to update your CV or continually putting it off until you need it for an application, at which point the amount of information that needs to be added can be overwhelming. A good idea is to add a monthly note to your calendar, planner, or phone organizer, reminding you to set aside an hour or so to add information to your CV. That way, when it comes time to apply for your residency, you will have a clean, comprehensive CV, all ready for submission to your programs of interest.

If you’re a foreign medical student thinking about applying to residency programs in the United States after you finish, FMG Portal offers a variety of programs to help you get matched, including student electives, which look great on your CV. Contact us today for more information!