Internship Versus Externship: What’s the Difference?


Internships and externships are often suggested as a means of gaining experience in a certain industry prior to seeking employment in that industry. They are both popular options for college students and new graduates looking to enter the workforce. But what is the difference between them? How does an externship differ from an internship, and which option is better suited to your needs? Keep reading to find out.

Internships Versus Externships

The difference between an internship and an externship lies in what you actually do in each position. In an internship, you work for an organization, performing certain duties that are assigned to you. In an externship, you are not expected to actually do work during the arrangement. Instead, your role is to observe an industry professional while they do their job.

What to Expect in an Internship

In an internship, you can expect to get some hands-on experience. Every position is different, but often, you will be assigned to a team that is working on a specific project or creating a certain product. You’ll be given a role on that team and be expected to contribute in some way.

Throughout an internship, you also get to observe how the company functions and what roles various individuals play in the organization. You’ll have opportunities to network with team members, clients, and others in the industry. However, these are all secondary effects of the position; your key role as an intern is to perform actual work for the company.

What to Expect in an Externship

In an externship, you do not have a specific role in the company or any work to perform. Rather, your time with the company will involve a lot of observation. You may be invited to staff meetings, during which you’ll get to observe how these meetings are run. You will often be given tours of the company’s facilities, and you may get to review the company’s literature.

Should You Choose an Internship or an Externship?

Both internships and externships can provide you with valuable experience to add to your resume. They can help you determine whether you’d like to work in a certain industry, and they can help you get started in terms of building a network in that industry.

Some reasons to choose an internship over an externship include:

  • Opportunities for payment: Some internships are paid, while externships are almost never paid positions.
  • Hands-on experience: If you’re entering an industry where specific skills are needed, and internship gives you a chance to practice and hone those skills.
  • Workplace immersion: An an intern, you are an actual part of the team and get to experience what it’s really like to work for a company.

Some reasons to choose an externship over an internship include:

  • Expanding your network: An externship can help you make new connections with less effort than is required in an internship.
  • Entering a new field: This is a chance to explore a new field and see if it’s one you’d like to enter.
  • Mentorship: In an externship, you can and will meet many professionals who may serve as mentors as you enter the workforce.

Keep in mind that as a student, it is not just acceptable, but often desirable, to hold several different internships and externships throughout your program. The more knowledge and experience you have within an industry, the better your job options will be once you graduate.

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