What IS a Vita?

A vita is basically a resumé. Why don't we just call it a resumé? Well, I guess there's an idea that a resumé is what you do to get a regular work-force job, whereas the fancier sounding vita is what you construct to get a professional position after having been trained at an institute for higher learning (think of it as a brief, professional auto-biography).

There are lots of resources available on the WEB for helping you to come up with a reasonable resumé (such as this one. I don't agree with everything that site has to say, though.)

As a favor to you, I've stolen a pretty good Psychology based vita template for you to use as a model (see below). [Stolen/modified from http://www.socialpsychology.org/vitasamp.htm (but that link has since gone bad...)].

Date: Month, Year
(update semi-annually)

Your Name

[School Address]

[Home Address]

Department of Psychology



Street Address

City, State, Zip

City, State, Zip

Office Phone: (with area code and extension)

Home Phone: (with area code)

E-mail address


Born: Date, Place
Citizenship: (usually reserved for foreign applicants or international jobs)
Social Security Number: (optional -- may be useful for administrative purposes)
Marital Status: (optional)


B.A., Major Field, Year Received or Expected, University, City, State
M.A. or M.S., Field, Year Received or Expected, University, City, State
Ph.D., Field, Year Received of Expected, University, City, State


This is where you should list any academic honors, graduation prizes, fellowships, scholarships, writing prizes, and so forth. List each award, the granting institution, and the date awarded (note: if all of your awards are graduation honors, then omit this category and put the information under Education).


In this section, list all memberships in:

  • Psychology associations (e.g., APA, Psychonomics, APS, SEPA)
  • APA divisions (e.g., Experimental Psychology, Clinical Psychology)
  • International groups (e.g., International Society of Cognitive Scientists)
  • Honors societies (e.g., Psi Chi, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Chi, Phi Kappa Phi)
  • Science groups (e.g., American Association for the Advancement of Science)
  • Other professional organizations that link you with an interest or area of specialization


Beginning with your college years, list all work you have done that is relevant to the program or position to which you are applying. Include research positions with project titles and supervisors, and optionally, a brief description of the duties you performed. This is also a good place to list any consulting, manuscript reviewing, or editorial experience you have (or, if you have had extensive experience in one of these areas, you can form a separate category for "Research Experience," "Consulting Activities," "Ad Hoc Reviewing," or "Editorial Experience").

RESEARCH INTERESTS (usually for graduate applicants and prospective professors)

Briefly summarize your research interests with 4-6 key descriptors ranging from general to specific. For example, "I have broad interests in memory and language issues, particularly how they change with age. Specifically, I am interested in how older adults use various cognitive strategies to compensate for declines in reading comprehension."

CURRENT RESEARCH (usually for graduate students and prospective professors)

Describe some current research in one or two paragraphs. If you are fresh out of graduate school, this will most likely be an overview of your thesis/dissertation work. If you are working in more than one area, summarize each project in a separate paragraph. Conclude with a brief statement describing your research plans for the next five years or so (this shows prospective employers that you have an independent and viable program of research).

TEACHING EXPERIENCE (usually for teaching positions or prospective professors)

List any courses you have taught, co-taught, or assisted with as a TA. If you received strong teaching evaluations, attach copies of them or statistical summaries and 5-10 examples of the most positive praise you have received. Also, faculty job candidates should list 4-6 courses that they are prepared to teach if hired (from the most general courses to advanced courses and specialized seminars). For example, a prospective assistant professor of cognitive psychology might include the following:

I am prepared to teach the following courses:

  • Introductory Psychology
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Research Methods (with a lab)
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Memory
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Graduate or Undergraduate Seminar on the Psychology of Language


List the titles of talks given to professional audiences, the sponsoring organizations, the places, and the dates (this may include invited talks, brown-bag presentations, etc.).


List references in APA format according to date (including unpublished manuscripts or papers in press). Be careful not to list any papers you are unprepared to make available if requested.


List the names, titles, and addresses of at least 3-4 people whom you have already asked to serve as references for you.

Naturally, the above should not be thought of as a set-in-stone template. For example, when you do apply for jobs, you might apply for research/applied jobs and academic positions. I would recommend creating two different resumés, one that emphasizes research skills and downplays teaching, as well as one that emphasizes teaching. Which you send out will depend on what sort of emphasis the organization/college seems to be looking for.

It is TOTALLY FAIR to tailor your vita to more closely match the job you are applying for. In fact, I'd recommend that you also customize your cover letter to each job you apply for. I realize that this might seem tedious, but it could make the difference between getting an interview or getting kicked from the pool.