Understanding the Differences Between Externships and Internships

May 7th 2016

The experience students gain from working with professionals in their desired careers is a valuable asset that can be considered job experience to be listed on a resume. College students should not underestimate the power of taking part in an internship or externship, as it can aid them with future employment.

What Is an Internship?

An internship is an on-the job experience that is temporary while a student is still completing college coursework. Internships are targeted to students within specific fields. They offer part-time work opportunities where students perform tasks as if they were actual employees. Students can gain work experience through internships in fields such as engineering, law, technology, advertising, architecture and health care. Internships at non-profit organizations and government agencies are often unpaid and feature 20 or more hours of work each week for students. Some private organizations and corporations offer partial or full pay for students, though. Most internships are semester-long commitments, and students can earn college credit while working in the field.

What Is an Externship?

Externships are very similar to internships because they offer students real-world experience while practicing job skills. However, the duration of an externship is typically shorter than an internship. Some externships last a few days or just a couple of weeks and allow students to shadow people in the industry. Externships are not always accompanied with college credit. The goal of an externship is to provide insight into the student's field of study. Many externships lead into internships, which could ultimately lead to a full-time position or a career within an organization or company. Students in the medical industry commonly opt for externships to shadow nurses or doctors to get a feel for the type of work they may be doing once they have finished their degrees.

Benefits of Both

Students who accept an internship or externship have valuable opportunities to network with professionals in the field, acquire mentors and make contacts that could aid in future job searches. An internship or externship could also lead to full-time employment upon graduation. Many employers who seek internship and externship candidates are seeking college students who may ultimately become employees of their companies at a later date. In fact, many companies offer college students who are diligent, professional and eager paid positions toward the end of their commitment.


College students have many opportunities to gain experience within their fields while they are still learning in an academic setting. Externships and internships provide students with real-life experience in the field and the opportunity to network with professionals. Externships and internships are often thought of as similar experiences, but there are subtle differences between the two.

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