What is the Difference Between an Internship and an Externship?

While many students consider doing an internship in college, you may want to look at the difference between an internship and an externship to decide which one you should do. Both allow you to gain some experience in the field you want to work in and let you work with some professionals, but an internship will last longer than an externship. There are some other differences between the two that you should think about before signing up.

What is an Internship?

When most students think about gaining professional experience in college, they think about doing an internship. An internship is essentially a program that puts you to work in your chosen field. If you want to work as a human resource director, you might go to work for a major corporation in its HR department. Employers cannot use interns as free labor, and if you do duties that benefit the employer, the employer must pay you for your work. The career development office at your college should help you find an internship in your field.

What is an Externship?

Though some people use the terms externship and internship to describe the same types of programs, the two are actually quite different. An externship is really a type of job shadow program that pairs you with someone working in the field. Instead of doing work on your own or for your employer, you’ll simply follow a professional around and watch what he or she does throughout the day. These give you a practical look at the job to help you decide if you want a similar job in the future. High schools often offer students the chance to do an externship in their senior years.

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Length of Each

One major difference between an internship and an externship is how long each one lasts. When you sign up for an internship, you’ll usually spend an entire semester working in the field. As many students have busy schedules, most opt for internships that take place in the summer. This lets you work for an employer in your hometown and gain experience before going back to school in the fall. An externship is usually a much shorter experience. You might follow a professional for a single day, but some externship programs let you shadow that professional for several weeks.

Other Differences

A big difference between the two is the reward or credit that you get. While an externship will give you a broad overview of a career, you will not get any course credit or payment for your work. With an internship, you may get three or more credits from your college and a weekly paycheck too. Unpaid internships are common, but students in higher grades can often find paid internships. According to the United States Department of Labor, companies must pay interns if those employers provide interns with job training. Employers who use interns to replace traditional workers must pay those students for their work too.

Whether you do an internship or an externship depends on your level of education and what you hope to get out of the program. Though one difference between an internship and an externship is how long each one lasts, other differences can include what you do in the program and whether you receive payment or course credit for the work you perform.