What Is the Difference Between Internship and Externship

FT Contributor
An intern receives guidance from a potential employer.
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As a student, there are a variety of career-exploring opportunities available to you. Internships and externships are just two of those opportunities.

Internships are paid or unpaid opportunities for students to explore a particular career path, whereas an externship is a short-term opportunity for someone to shadow an industry-leading expert in a field they are interested in. They are often interchangeable, but an externship is typically a classroom experience outside of the traditional classroom.

More specifically, externships typically have one particular goal, lesson, or purpose, while internships tend to be much longer and more in-depth. The overarching goal of an externship is to explore, while an internship is to bridge students to professional life.

Learn more about the differences between externships and internships to find out which opportunity is right for you.

What Is an Externship?

Externships allow college students to explore a particular interest and gain relevant resume experience in an experiential setting. Externships focus on job shadowing, wherein you follow a professional around and observe their typical workday, but an externship can also require research or a small project.

While externships don’t offer school credit, they can satisfy the need for independent work-study credits. These opportunities are typically completed during the academic year and most often involve institutions partnering with your college, university, or employer, but they can also be short-term commitments that occur over spring or winter break.

Overall, the goal of an externship is to combine learning with real-world experience. In addition to experiencing an actual work environment, externships allow students to dig deeper into specific academic subjects in an experiential manner that can’t be duplicated in a regular classroom or curriculum.

Differences Between an Internship and Externship

Externships are shadowing opportunities where students can gain real-world experience in tandem with what they’re learning in an academic setting, but internships work a bit differently. While internships also provide students with relevant experience in an area of interest, there are a few key differences between the two.

Internships are opportunities to gain experience and essential on-the-job training. They typically last longer than externships, which are short-term opportunities. Generally, externships last a few weeks, whereas internships can last months at a time, sometimes even as long as a year.

Externships and internships can both lead to job opportunities. They also add value to a resume, helping to bolster it with relevant experience. Internships and externships require dedication on behalf of the student and a willingness to make the most out of the opportunity. Additionally, internships and externships can be paid or unpaid.

How to Get an Externship

There are a few different ways to secure an externship. One of the best ways to do so is by networking. Ask your friends, family, professors, and colleagues about externships with organizations that interest you. Be sure to make them aware of what you’re looking for in an externship so that they can communicate this information to their connections. To get an externship, you have to clearly request what you want.

Next, research companies with formal externship programs. Externships tend to be in specialized fields like medicine or construction, but that doesn’t mean another industry won’t offer an externship. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

You can also turn to social media for externship opportunities. Facebook may have a private group for an industry you’re interested in where externship information can be shared. Twitter is another good source for externship opportunities. Simply search the hashtag “externships” for information. Many schools will also list externship opportunities in online communities. Check your school’s website for more information.

Is an Externship Paid?

While it’s possible, it is extremely unlikely that an externship will be paid. Instead of monetary payment, the extern participates in the externship for exploration purposes so that they can gain knowledge in a particular career area. Instead of money, externships are all about the watch-and-learn experience. Additionally, externships are often unpaid because of the short amount of time they take.

What Are the Benefits of an Externship

If you’re unsure whether a certain career path is right for you, an externship can help you clarify. With real-world, hands-on experience, you’ll get a better idea of what a typical day looks like without having to commit to a full-time job or the long-term commitment that comes with an internship.

During your externship, you’ll be able to ask questions so that you can gain a better understanding of your potential career. Ultimately, externships allow you to develop confidence in your career choice. Externships are also excellent opportunities for networking and cultivating contacts in the industry that piques your interest.

Finally, externships can add tremendous value to your success as a professional. When applying for jobs, students who have participated in externships are often favored, as your participation demonstrates a clear interest in the field.

While they are both beneficial to education, there are clear differences between internships and externships. To choose the path that’s right for you, consider your area of study and the types of jobs you are interested in.

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