Externship vs. Internship – Understanding The Difference

Written by Mark DeGrasso

May 20, 2023

Trying to figure out the difference between an externship vs. an internship?  This article is the complete guide to understanding the difference between an Internship and Externship. If you are seeking a professional experience to enhance your resume and learn valuable skills in your field of interest, then an externship or internship may be suitable for you. Both of these programs provide practical experiences in a real-world setting, but there are differences in terms of expectations, compensation, and duration. In this article, we will explore those differences to help you decide which program is right for you.

What is an Internship?

An internship is a training program for students or recent graduates who are looking to gain work experience in their chosen field. The purpose of an internship is to provide exposure to the profession, equip interns with relevant skills, and foster professional relationships.

Interns are usually expected to work full- or part-time for a fixed duration, which can be anywhere from a few months to a year. Internships are usually paid, but the compensation may be lower than that of a regular employee, and some interns may not receive payment at all. The focus of an internship is on learning, experience, and networking, rather than financial gain. Your next step to applying for an internship is by writing an internship cover letter.

What Does an Internship Do?

Internships are a great way to gain valuable experience, professional contacts, and knowledge in your field. An internship may involve a variety of activities, such as:

  • Assist in day-to-day business operations
  • Participate in team meetings and brainstorming sessions
  • Conduct research and data analysis
  • Create presentations, reports, and other deliverables

Interns may also be assigned to work on specific projects and tasks that align with their personal interests, skills, and career goals. Throughout the internship program, interns receive guidance, support, and feedback from their supervisors and mentors to improve their performance and develop their professional skills.

Why Are Internships Important?

Internships are important because they offer a unique opportunity for students and recent graduates to gain hands-on experience in their field. They provide a chance to apply what has been learned in the classroom to real-world situations, and to learn from experienced professionals in the industry.

Internships also help to build professional networks and relationships, which can be valuable for future job opportunities. They provide a chance to meet and work with people who may be able to offer advice, mentorship, or even job opportunities after graduation.

Additionally, internships can help to clarify career goals and interests. By working in a specific industry or role, interns can gain a better understanding of what they do and do not enjoy, and what they want to pursue in their future careers.

Types of Internships

There are many different types of internships available, depending on the industry, company, and position. Some common types of internships include:

  • Summer internships
  • Part-time internships
  • Virtual internships
  • Co-op programs
  • Research internships
  • Non-profit internships
  • Government internships

Each type of internship offers its own unique benefits and challenges, and may be more or less suitable for different individuals and career goals.

How to Find an Internship

There are many ways to find an internship, including:

  • Searching online job boards and company websites
  • Networking with professionals in your field
  • Attending career fairs and industry events
  • Working with your school’s career center or internship office
  • Reaching out to companies directly to inquire about internship opportunities

It is important to start the internship search process early, as many companies have specific application deadlines and may fill their positions quickly.

When applying for internships, it is important to tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific position and company, and to highlight relevant skills and experiences.

Overall, internships can be a valuable and rewarding experience for students and recent graduates, offering a chance to gain practical skills, build professional networks, and clarify career goals.

What is an Externship?

An externship, also known as an observation program, is a short-term job-shadowing experience in a professional setting. Externships are usually unpaid and are designed to give students or recent graduates the chance to see what it’s really like to work in their chosen field. The purpose of an externship is to observe, learn, and gain a better understanding of the profession.

An externship may last for a few days or up to a couple of weeks. It typically involves observing and shadowing professionals in their day-to-day activities, such as attending meetings, observing procedures, or assisting with tasks. An externship may also provide opportunities to network with professionals and ask questions about their career paths, skills, and experiences.

Externships are a great way to gain practical experience and exposure to the industry. They can be a valuable addition to a resume and can help participants stand out in a competitive job market. Externships can also provide a chance to explore different career paths and determine which one is the best fit.

Your next step to applying for an externship is to write an externship cover letter.

What Does an Externship Do?

An externship is an opportunity to gain insight into the inner workings of a profession, get a sneak peek into a company’s culture, and determine if it’s a good fit. During an externship, participants may:

  • Observe professionals at work: Participants can see how professionals in their chosen field perform their daily tasks and get a better understanding of what the job entails.
  • Shadow experts in their field to get a real understanding of their job responsibilities: Participants can learn from experienced professionals and gain valuable insights into the industry.
  • Attend meetings and see how decisions are made: Participants can observe how professionals communicate and collaborate with each other to make important decisions.
  • Make connections and ask professionals about their experiences: Participants can network with professionals in their field and gain valuable advice and insights into the industry.
  • Get hands-on experience: Depending on the externship, participants may have the opportunity to assist with tasks and gain practical experience in their chosen field.

Overall, an externship can provide a valuable learning experience and help participants make informed decisions about their career paths. It can be a great way to gain practical experience, network with professionals, and get a foot in the door in a competitive job market.

How Do Internships and Externships Differ?

Internships and externships are both valuable experiences for students and recent graduates to gain practical knowledge and skills in their field of study. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences worth considering before making a decision.


One of the primary differences between internships and externships is the duration of the experience. Internships typically last longer, ranging from a few months to a year or more, whereas externships are shorter-term experiences, often lasting just a few weeks or a month.

The longer duration of internships allows for a more in-depth and comprehensive learning experience, as interns have more time to work on projects and become fully immersed in the day-to-day operations of the company or organization they are working for.


Another key difference between internships and externships is compensation. While some internships may offer a stipend or hourly wage, many are unpaid. Externs, on the other hand, are almost always unpaid.

While the lack of compensation may make internships and externships less appealing to some, the experience gained and connections made during these experiences can be invaluable in the long run.


Interns and externs also differ in the level of responsibility they are given during their experience. Interns may be given more responsibility and may work on specific projects with deadlines, whereas externs observe and shadow without participating in decision-making processes.

This difference in responsibility can be a deciding factor for some students, as those who are looking for a more hands-on experience may prefer an internship, while those who are seeking a more observational experience may prefer an externship.


Both internships and externships provide networking opportunities, but internships usually offer more opportunities for networking and building relationships with professionals in the field.

During an internship, interns have the opportunity to work closely with professionals in their field, attend meetings and events, and build connections that can lead to future job opportunities. Externs may also have networking opportunities, but they are often more limited in scope.

Overall, whether you choose an internship or an externship depends on your goals and what you hope to gain from the experience. Both can be valuable in their own way, and it’s important to carefully consider the differences before making a decision.

How Do I Decide Whether an Externship or Internship is Right For Me?

Choosing between an externship and an internship can be a difficult decision, but it ultimately depends on your goals, interests, and availability. Both options offer unique benefits and can provide valuable experience in your desired field. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:


What are your career goals? Are you looking to explore different professions and learn about various responsibilities? Or are you looking to gain hands-on experience in your field, develop professional skills, and build relationships? Answering these questions can help you determine which option is best for you.


What are your interests? If you have a specific area of interest within your desired field, an internship may be the better choice. Internships offer more opportunities for involvement and can provide a deeper understanding of a specific area within your field.


Do you have limited availability or time constraints due to other commitments? If so, an externship may be suitable for you. Externships typically have a shorter duration and require less time commitment than internships.


Are you looking to build relationships and make connections within your desired field? If so, an internship may be the better choice. Internships offer more opportunities to network with professionals in your field and may lead to future job opportunities.


What kind of experience are you looking for? If you are looking to gain hands-on experience in your field, an internship may be the better choice. Internships offer more opportunities to work on real-world projects and gain practical experience.

Overall, both externships and internships can provide valuable experience and help you achieve your career goals. It’s important to carefully consider your options and choose the one that best fits your needs and interests.

How Do You Get Paid For an Externship or Internship?

Externships and internships are great opportunities for students and recent graduates to gain valuable experience in their field of interest. However, one of the most common questions that arise when considering these opportunities is whether or not they offer compensation. Let’s take a closer look at the different ways you can get paid for an externship or internship.


Externships are typically short-term experiences that allow students to shadow professionals in their field. They are usually unpaid, but they may offer perks such as transportation or meal reimbursement. These perks can be a great way to offset some of the costs associated with participating in an externship.

In addition to these benefits, externships can also provide students with valuable networking opportunities. By working alongside professionals in their field, students can make connections that may lead to future job opportunities.


Internships are more structured than externships and typically last for a longer period of time. They are also more likely to provide compensation, but the amount may vary based on the company, industry, and location. It’s important to do your research and understand what kind of compensation you can expect before accepting a position.

Some internships may offer a stipend, which is a fixed amount of money paid to the intern on a regular basis. Others may offer hourly pay or a salary. It’s important to understand the terms of your compensation before accepting an internship, as some may require you to work a certain number of hours per week in order to receive payment.

Other Forms of Compensation

While monetary compensation is certainly a valuable perk of externships and internships, it’s not the only form of compensation that you may receive. Some companies may offer other benefits, such as access to training programs or the opportunity to work on meaningful projects that can add to your portfolio.

Additionally, participating in an externship or internship can be a great way to gain experience and build your resume. This experience can be invaluable when it comes to applying for future job opportunities.


Whether you’re considering an externship or internship, it’s important to understand what kind of compensation you can expect. While some opportunities may be unpaid, they can still offer valuable experience and networking opportunities. By doing your research and understanding the terms of your compensation, you can make the most of your externship or internship experience.


What is the difference between a co-op and an internship?

Co-op programs are a type of internship that provides long-term professional opportunities with more responsibilities and greater compensation. Co-ops may require students to take a “leave of absence” from school, and the duration is typically longer than a regular internship.

During a co-op, you can expect to work on challenging projects, gain hands-on experience, and build lasting relationships with your colleagues. Co-ops are a great way to explore different career paths and determine what you want to do after graduation.

Are internships only for college students?

No, internships are not restricted to college students. Some companies offer internships for recent graduates or those looking to switch careers. Internships are a valuable way to gain experience in a new field and make connections with industry professionals.

If you are a recent graduate or looking to switch careers, be sure to highlight any relevant skills or experiences on your resume and cover letter. You may also want to consider reaching out to your network or attending industry events to make connections.

Can internships or externships turn into full-time employment?

Yes, it is possible for internships or externships to lead to full-time employment. In fact, many companies use internships as a way to identify and recruit top talent.

If you are interested in a full-time position, be sure to communicate your goals with your supervisor or mentor. Ask about possible job openings and express your interest in a full-time role. It’s also a good idea to network with other employees and attend company events to make connections.

How many hours a week do interns typically work?

The number of hours per week can vary based on the company and industry. However, full-time internships are usually 40 hours per week, while part-time internships can range from 10-30 hours per week.

It’s important to clarify the expectations for your internship before you begin. Make sure you understand the number of hours you will be expected to work, as well as any other requirements or responsibilities.

How do I find an externship or internship?

There are a variety of resources available to help you find externships or internships. Consult with your school’s career center or search online job boards such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed.

You can also network with industry professionals, attend career fairs, and reach out to companies directly to inquire about internship opportunities. Be sure to tailor your resume and cover letter to each position you apply for, and follow up with any contacts you make.

When should I apply for an externship or internship?

The timing of applications varies by company and industry. Some companies accept applications year-round, while others have specific deadlines. Research the companies or organizations you are interested in and apply early to increase your chances of acceptance.

It’s also a good idea to set up informational interviews with professionals in your desired field. This can help you learn more about the industry and gain insights into the application process.

Can externships and internships be done remotely?

Yes, many externships and internships are done virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, remote opportunities may be limited and require a strong internet connection and computer skills.

If you are interested in a remote internship or externship, be sure to clarify the expectations and requirements with the company. You may also want to consider taking courses or workshops to improve your computer skills and demonstrate your ability to work remotely.

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between externships and internships, you can make an informed decision about which program is right for you. Both can provide valuable insights, skills, and networking opportunities, and can make a significant impact on your future career path. Good luck!