Externship vs. Internship: How Do They Differ?

Experience is an important consideration for people who wish to land a job or make a successful career pivot. The more experience you have, the stronger candidate you’ll be. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to build your skill set. These include applying for internships or externships.

Apart from building your skills, externships and internships offer countless opportunities for exploring new career fields, gaining professional work experience and navigating the business world seamlessly. However, these two terms cannot be used interchangeably.

There are times when it’s a discussion of externship vs. internship, especially when you are considering which option is better for your career.

What are the Benefits of Externships and Internships?

Before we discuss the topic of internship vs. externship, let’s look at their similarities.

Simply put, what you learn as an intern or an extern can help you get hired or choose the right job offers. When employers must choose between two equally qualified candidates, the candidate with an externship or internship experience often gets the job, according to a 2020 job outlook survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

The NACE’s 2020 Internship & Co-Op Survey reports that candidates with internship experience benefitted from a job offer rate of 68 percent. Also, the one-year retention rate for hires with internal experience is 68 percent while hires with external internships had a job offer rate of 55 percent.

Apart from improving your job offer rate, both externships and internships can help you in the following ways:

  1. Network with professionals. During your externship or internship, you’ll meet people you can connect with. These contacts can help you build a professional network, which can help you build your career, too.
  2. Develop skills. Gain professional skills by observing employees and/or performing special duties during your externship or internship.
  3. Gain experience for your resume. You can add your externship or internship to your resume as work experience.
  4. Transition to a workforce setting easily. Completing an internship or externship can help you easily transition to a full-time career. With both programs, you can enter the workplace as an intern taking part in the projects or a job shadowing extern.

Externship vs. Internship: Definitions

You’ve invested in your education; now it’s time to move closer to the real world. Learning about externship vs. internship can help you decide which could be right for you.

Here’s what you need to know about each.

What is an Internship?

An internship is a short-term position that provides students and new graduates many opportunities to gain experience in a hands-on environment. This on-the-job training program requires interns to take on employee-like responsibilities. Interns can perform small projects and other assigned tasks.

With an internship, students can earn college credits apart from the small salary that they get from the company. The U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines that determine whether an intern can be paid or not. However, not all businesses pay their interns.

Internships are available in different industries, which include education, technology, business, non-profit organizations and government sectors. Most internship programs are also arranged by career services offices, college internship programs or high school guidance counselors.

Typically, internships are undertaken during the school or summer breaks or completed during a semester in college. Interns can either be part-time or full-time, depending on their requirements.

What is an Externship?

An externship is a short-term way for participants to get firsthand experience, learn how businesses work and connect their career interests to the workplace. A business may allow externs to handle small projects, but their primary responsibilities are to observe and job shadow.

Most externs are college students, but there are graduate students who take externships (e.g. many law schools offer long-term, full-time externships).

Similar to internships, they can be arranged through a direct set-up by the participant or via their schools.

There are two types of externships:

  • Short-term externships. This type of externship offers students and recent graduates the opportunity to get an overview of a workplace or an occupation without investing a significant amount of time. Externs can sit in on meetings, conduct informational interviews with employees and observe a workplace. The duration of a short-term externship can last from a day to a few weeks. Externships are similar to job shadowing programs where participants can spend a day or two with a professional to learn more about the office, industry or the job.
  • Graduate externships. Graduate school programs also offer externship programs. These opportunities help participants gain real-life experiences to help their studies. They last longer than short-term externships and are often credit-bearing.

What is the Difference Between an Internship and an Externship?

people at the office
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

One of the major differences between internships and externships is the latter doesn’t involve students receiving school credit for their experience. Even though the participant is in the workplace, they’re just shadowing professionals instead of working on projects and tasks, which is the point of internships. Externships are primarily used to help students explore curiosities while internships help students transition from life at school to life at work.

Other key differences between an externship and an internship include the following:

  1. Program type. Internships are on-the-job trainings while externships are just job shadow opportunities. During an externship, a student is unlikely to complete any task. Interns, on the other hand, must complete assigned tasks.
  2. Course credit. Internships usually offer course credits while externships do not due to the length of the program.
  3. Length. Internships can last for a few weeks and up to a year. Externships, on the other hand, can last from a day to a couple of weeks.
  4. Salary. Internships usually offer a small salary while externships are unpaid opportunities.

How to Become an Intern or an Extern

There are many ways to find externship or internship positions. These steps include:

Checking With Your School

For university students and recent graduates, start by looking for externship and internship opportunities in your college. Depending on your school, you’ll find externship and internship programs, access to alumni who can help and listings for paid and unpaid positions. At the same time, ask about career counseling in case you need guidance.

Searching Online

You can also find externship and internship positions on the internet. Consider the following steps:

  • Search LinkedIn Jobs by typing “externship” or “internship” in the search box.
  • Visit Handshake, a job site that connects students with employers posting externships, internships and co-ops. The website also has listings for full-time positions.
  • Check for listings on top job websites by using search terms like “externship” and “internship” to find openings.

Look at Job Boards

There are externships and internships on job boards. Students or fresh graduates can apply for these programs by submitting their resumes and cover letter. Some businesses might hold hiring events for externs or interns each year during the summer season.

Tap Your Network

Networking can also help you land an externship or an internship. If your college has an alumni database, ask for access so you can reach out to alumni who can help. Alumni are often eager to help candidates from their school.

Internship vs. Externship: Frequently Asked Questions

What Kind of Experience Do You Get with an Externship or Internship?

Internships and externships provide college students and new graduates with beneficial experiences. During your stay, ask questions to your colleagues so you can get the most out of your internship or externship.

Externships and internships also offer opportunities to explore potential career paths. Even if you don’t enjoy your internship or externship, the experience can help you land your dream job.

Do Internships and Externships Lead to Jobs?

They do. Businesses often request externs and interns because they need help. If you impress your employers during your stay, they might offer you a permanent spot in their company. During your externship or internship, keep your resume and cover letter updated just in case your employer wants to hire you.

Internships and externships are different in design but nearly the same in purpose. Both programs take you one step closer to a new job or your dream one (or both).

Scroll to Top