Basic Tips

  • Résumés for graduate students with prior work or research experience can be two or more pages long.  If your résumé is longer than one page, fill the subsequent page(s) to at least 75 percent.
  • Bullet points are easier to read quickly than paragraphs; in general, each bullet point should be at least five words and no more than three lines long.
  • Choose a standard font with a 10–12-point text size, and use it throughout the document other than for your name and headings, which can be larger.
  • Be consistent about use of italics and boldface (e.g., if you use boldface type for one previous job title, do so for all previous job titles). Do not underline words for emphasis.
  • Spell out any acronyms the first time you mention them, unless the acronym is widely known (e.g., NASA).
  • Write in the third person; do not use "I" (e.g., "Worked for three summers at…" rather than "I worked for three summers at…")
  • Include only information relating to your education, skills, professional interests, and work experience. Do not include photographs of yourself or personal information unrelated to your ability to do the job (e.g., Social Security number, height, weight, general health status, or personal interests).
  • International students: Do not include your visa status on your résumé; however, be prepared to talk about it in an interview.
  • Your spelling and grammar must be flawless.  Review your résumé several times, and have at least one other person review it as well.

Suggested Formats

Reverse Chronological

The reverse chronological format is recommended for graduate students who have little or no prior work experience. In this format, you list your education and qualifications near the top and your professional experiences in reverse chronological order (i.e., most recent first). The layout for a reverse chronological résumé typically includes the following sections:


Include your name, Penn State email address (e.g., abc1234@psu.edu) or other professionally appropriate email address, phone number, campus and/or permanent address, and LinkedIn profile URL if you have one.


  • Although not required, we recommend an objective statement on résumés for internship positions.  It is not necessary to include an objective if you are seeking a full-time position after graduation.
  • An objective should be no longer than two lines and should briefly describe your current goal, including the semester in which you are seeking a position (e.g., "To obtain a graduate-level mechanical engineering internship for summer 2018").


  • List your graduate degree or anticipated degree first—including area of study, graduation date or anticipated date (month and year), and cumulative grade point average—and then your undergraduate degree, including major/minor and graduation date (month and year). If you are using Nittany Lion Careers, current GPA is required in order for your résumé to be approved.
  • The official name of this institution is The Pennsylvania State University and the location of the University Park campus is University Park, PA (not State College).
  • International students: Consider including your Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores if English is not your native language.

Work Experience

  • Include current and past paid positions you have held, especially those that are or were engineering-related; include your title, the name of the company or organization, location, and months/years of employment.
  • Include volunteer positions and research projects, if applicable.
  • Begin each bullet point under each job title with an action word to describe specific responsibilities, and quantify whenever possible
    • Example: "Increased customer satisfaction with company procedures, as evidenced in 80 percent of customer surveys between 2017 and 2018"
    • In general, include no more than five bullet points to describe each position.
    • Descriptions of job responsibilities in current positions should be in the present tense; descriptions of responsibilities in past positions should be in the past tense.
    • International students: When describing previous work experience in your home country, provide additional information about the company that will help to put your experience into context for an American employer (e.g., "second-largest automotive technology company in China").
    • If you don't have much engineering or technical experience, emphasize the transferable skills that you may have used or developed in non-technical positions you have held, including management or public speaking
  • If you had a scheduled internship that was postponed, shortened significantly, or cancelled due to COVID-19, you may include that information if desired; company name, job title, timeframe, and situation (e.g., "cancelled due to COVID-19") are sufficient.


  • Avoid using subjective descriptors of your skills (e.g., "good communicator", "hard worker"). Instead, include specific technical skills, including computer programs related to your major that you would use in the position or any relevant special training.
  • Make sure you are reasonably proficient in any program you list as a "skill"—an employer might follow up to see how much you really know!
  • Non-technical skills can be helpful to include as well:
    • Include foreign language skills if you have them, especially if you are interested in working overseas.
    • International students: Emphasize strong English language skills (if you can do so honestly).

Activities, Honors, and Awards

  • Include membership in honor societies or academic, professional, or interest-related organizations. Specify those in which you took a leadership role (if applicable).
  • If you have received any academic or professional awards at Penn State or from a previous employer or another source, include them along with a brief description of what each award was for.


  • It’s not necessary to include "References Available Upon Request" at the bottom of your résumé.
  • References should be current or former employers, professors (including your thesis adviser), instructors, or other professionals. Do not use family members, friends, or significant others as references.
  • Prepare a reference list—separate from your résumé—that you can provide to employers upon request. Include at least three references with their full contact information, including name, title if available, phone number, email address, and relationship to you.
  • References need to be prepared for a potential employer's call. Provide each reference with any necessary job descriptions and a copy of your résumé so he or she will be able to prepare appropriate comments.

Functional Format

The functional résumé format is an option if you are a student who has returned to graduate school after a time either working in industry or academia or staying home to raise a family or pursue other interests. This format emphasizes work experience and workplace skills rather than education.   

Most elements of a functional résumé are similar to those of a reverse chronological résumé; however, the layout is a little different:

  • Provide your name and contact information in your heading at the top of the page.
  • The next section should be a "Profile" or "Summary" in which you provide a short professional description of yourself that includes some of your top selling points, with quantitative evidence of success (e.g., "Highly motivated engineer with five years of industry experience seeking a chemical engineering research position following completion of master’s degree program. Demonstrated history of managing up to 20 people in a research lab setting.  Excellent leadership and team-building skills.").
  • Include a "Work Experience" section that provides information about where you are working or have worked in reverse chronological order.  Emphasize transferable skills that you have gained from each experience in addition to specific job-related skills.
  • If you have received any awards or honors in the last few years—whether in graduate school or in a previous workplace—you can list them in an "Awards and Honors" section.
  • List your educational information toward the bottom.

Sample Documents

See our Sample Job Search Documents for examples of different types of résumés.


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032