Externship vs. Internship: Key Differences


Externships and internships are both valuable professional experiences, but they’re different. The main similarity is that both are short apprenticeship programs that companies provide to students to teach them a skill or trade. Other than that, there are some key differences between externships and internships.

An externship or internship will benefit you because it will equip you with the necessary skills and gain valuable work experience. So, if you want to learn more about these terms, this article is for you.

What Is an Externship?


An externship is a short-term professional experience and can last only a few days or weeks. These programs are offered to students as part of a course study, so they get exposed to the working environment and learn about the responsibilities of any specific job they want to pursue. Since externships are shorter in duration, you can do several of them to open your opportunities and see where your interests lie.

Through externships, students can gain hands-on experience and put into practice the theory they’ve learned in their classes. However, it doesn’t involve specific tasks or objectives. Instead, you observe the person working so you can learn about different roles. 

One of the most significant benefits of externships is that they allow you to catch a glimpse of working life before you choose a career. Essentially, with an externship, you’re getting fundamental yet practical support for your field of practice, similar to a job shadowing program.

Additionally, an externship allows you to:

  • Explore a career field and experience what it’s like to have a typical week on that job
  • Learn how to apply the theories you’ve learned in school with professionals of a similar background
  • Assess whether you’re the right fit for a specific position or company
  • Create career connections to strengthen your network
  • Review company literature
  • Conduct informational interviews
  • Add value to your resume

What Is an Internship?


Similar to externships, internships are short-term work experience that provides students opportunities to learn practical work in their relevant field. They last longer, usually for a whole semester.

As interns, students develop the hard and soft skills they might use in the future when seeking a full-time job. One of the most significant benefits of an internship is that it allows students to work in their areas of interest while also earning money.

An internship is often provided to college or university students who want to obtain a degree in a particular field of expertise. Most students complete their internships during a semester or over the summer. 

Additionally, internships can benefit both the employer and students because the low cost of training students can still provide the learner with theory and skills to excel in their professional practice. Undoubtedly, students who have completed an internship are more likely to receive more job offers after graduation.

In addition to that, an internship allows you to:

  • Explore a career hands-on
  • Expand your knowledge of what it’s like to work under the supervision of industry professionals in a specific field
  • Occupy yourself in a workplace environment while being busy with tasks and projects
  • Apply the skills you learned from your studies to the responsibilities of your industry of interest
  • Make career connections with team members and clients
  • Improve your resume
  • Take part in staff meetings
  • Work with team members to create a project

Externship vs. Internship: What Are the Differences?


As you’ve come to learn, externships and internships differ in what they offer students. Before deciding on either of these opportunities, ensure you know what to expect from them.


The first difference with these programs is that externships are not paid, so they involve only training, while internships can be paid or unpaid. Some internships may offer college credit and cover extra costs, but most externships don’t.

From 2013 to 2017, around 60% of every graduating class completed an internship. Additionally, since 2016, over 60% of internships have been paid.  

An internship can be considered part-time employment depending on whether it’s paid or not, but it also depends on the work given. On the other hand, an externship is unpaid mainly due to its short-term program.

Program design

Another difference between externships and internships is the program design since the students have different roles and responsibilities. While externs get to work on minor projects and observe job duties, interns have the opportunity to work in job roles within the company.

Externships also have specific learning objectives, so they’re considered a required ‘classroom’ experience. However, internships can be voluntary and less likely to have particular objectives needed for the curriculum.

College credit

When it comes to college credit, an externship is not often used for academic credit, while an internship can be counted for credit. 

The requirements for using an internship for college credit may differ, but it commonly includes:

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  • The company must provide an internship with specialized duties to offer training and practice in business, industry, research laboratory, etc.
  • The internship must be related to the student’s degree, and if requested, the student must provide documentation from a faculty member and academic advisor.
  • Credit approval is left at the discretion of the internship coordinator.

Additionally, a student is less likely to receive credit from an externship. However, long-term internship programs provide class credit.


Most people are familiar with internships because they’re more extended and common. An internship can last several weeks, up to 4 months, or longer, depending on the industry. Similarly, an externship varies by industry, but they’re still shorter than internships, so they last a week to a month.

Since they’re shorter, you can take another externship once you’re finished with your previous one, but it’s optional. You can do this if you want to look at a different career or job and expand your opportunities in the future.


Perhaps the best thing about completing an internship or externship program is that they offer employment opportunities. However, it’s worth mentioning that externships are less likely to lead to a job offer because they’re short-term and involve shadowing rather than actual work.

If you complete an internship and you have several months of work experience, you’re more likely to have a position on the way. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the class of 2021 had an average of 0.83 job opportunities per student.

How Can You Get an Externship?

Since externships are less formal than internships, there are a few steps you can take to arrange one:

  1. Visit the career center or check with your professors to see if they know of places that offer externships.
  2. Once you have found an externship that matches your field of study, check the requirements and see if you meet them. They may require you to complete an application, specific courses, or take a test.
  3. Ensure your resume is updated and you have a recent transcript of your grades and classes. Also, highlight skills and qualifications so your resume doesn’t lack.
  4. When the time for the interview comes, try to anticipate what their questions might be while also being polite and formal.
  5. When you get your externship, try to be professional, be on time and observe as much as possible. Don’t forget to ask as many questions as possible.

You can also get an externship by networking and professional, academic, or educational organizations as they may have leads for your externship search.

How Can You Get an Internship?


Getting an internship is slightly different from getting an externship. First, you need to consider your degree and interests as you can’t apply to every position you see. You can start small by exploring local organizations or groups affiliated with your school.

You must know where to look, and you can do this by visiting job sites, using your college’s career resources, contacting the companies directly, or networking. Here are some helpful job sites:

No matter where you apply, you need materials, such as a resume, cover letter, and online portfolio. Once you get to the interviewing part, ensure you know about the company’s product or services. You could use this to your advantage by asking a few questions about the company. Now the hard part is over, and you can finalize the offer.


Whether you opt for an internship or externship is up to you, but you can’t go wrong. Both programs offer experience, insight into the working environment, and career opportunities. You don’t have to pick one over the other because you can always alternate and find out where your interests are. After all, both options will benefit your resume, so you stand out for your working future.

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