Externship vs Internship Difference

Externship vs Internship Difference

If you ask anyone what an internship is, odds are they would be able to tell you. An internship is a defined period of work within an organization, usually without pay, for a trainee to gain experience.

An internship often involves specific tasks or projects to complete and, in many cases, can lead to employment once the internship is over.

When asked about an externship, though, many people don’t know what to say. What is an externship? How is it different from an internship? What does an externship involve?

What Is an Externship?

An externship involves shadowing a professional for a period of time to learn about their profession.

It is less hands-on than an internship and does not usually involve specific tasks or projects. Rather you observe the person working to see what the role is all about.

Throughout your externship, you may end up shadowing a few different people to learn about different roles.

Externships generally take place during the academic year and are short in duration, running from one day to a few weeks. Because of their short duration, you can do several externships to see where your interests lie.

Externships are beneficial in many ways because they allow you to experience a snapshot of working life before choosing a career. You can also gain some experience to add to your resume for related jobs.

Most externships offer little in the way of payment and are more desired for the experience they provide.

What Are the Differences Between an Internship and an Externship?

Internships and externships are similar in that they both offer on-the-job training outside of the classroom.

However, there are a few differences between the two:

Length of Program

Externships are generally short, lasting from a few days to a few weeks. Internships are longer and can run over a few weeks or months, either during the school year or the summer break.

Because of their short length, you can take on another externship when you have finished your previous one if you want to look at a different job or career, and if your institution of study allows.

Program Pay

Both internships and externships are usually unpaid, although they may offer a small honorarium payment at the end of the work.

While some internships may offer to cover some extra costs and/or offer college credit, most externships do not.

Job Description

Both internships and externships offer valuable experience in the workplace.

Many college or university programs require that you complete an internship as part of your credits to graduate. These same schools and programs are often in demand because of the internship part of the curriculum.

Internships are generally offered at the end of the schooling period, with the intent that they could transition into full-time work once complete.

Internships tend to involve specific work or projects with a timeframe for completion.

Externships are usually during the college year and, because they are for such a short duration, are not likely to lead to employment right away. However, they can still be a very valuable experience.

Like any work experience, an externship can lead anywhere. It may lead to an internship or another externship at a different company that in turn leads to a job. Regardless of which path you choose, give it your best effort.


Many internships are offered with the expectation that they may lead to employment later and may even state this in the job description.

You can leave your internship with several months of work behind you and hopefully a position in the pipeline.

Externships on the other hand are less likely to lead to a job offer. Because they are short and usually involve shadowing rather than actively carrying out work, you should not expect a position at the end.

What Are the Benefits of an Externship?

There are many benefits of an externship to both the student and the employer. It may seem as though the externship comes up short next to the internship, but it has a lot to offer.

Job Insight

While some people know exactly what they want to do when they are out of college, many people do not. An externship allows a short look at a job or career without committing too much time.

You can see what would be expected of you in the job by watching the supervisor and other employees. You can get a feel for the pace of the work environment, what is expected of the employees and whether it’s something you feel you can do.

You can also shadow several people in an externship. Your interest may begin in one area, but you may find you change your mind once you see what another job area entails.

The short duration of an externship allows you to experience a few externships if you have not settled on a career path.

Externship vs Internship
Externship vs Internship

Hands-On Experience

An externship gives you the chance to put to use what you have learned in class.

While you have studied and learned about your chosen profession in the classroom, an externship will teach you how it is applied in the real world.

An externship gives you a chance to see if a particular job is something you really want to do and gives you a taste of what it will be like working with others and with a supervisor.

What may have sounded like a good idea in a lecture or classroom may not be so in the real world. An externship gives you the chance to experience the work first-hand, and make changes to your career path if you need to.

Learn the Work Culture

The culture of a workplace is one of the most important factors in deciding whether or not to accept a job offer.

If you are not comfortable where you work, you will not be productive.

An externship gives you the chance to peek at how things are done, how employees and supervisors treat each other and what is expected of those who work there.

You can also get a chance to feel whether it is a formal office or an informal one, whether they promote employee wellness or ask for long hours to be worked. All these are important factors when deciding where to take a job.

Make Connections

Any work-related contacts you can make outside of school will be valuable to you as you continue your job search.

Your externship is likely to be short, but the more contacts you can make, the more help you may have when it is time to job hunt.

Not only will your connections hopefully be able to provide you with a good reference, but they can also recommend other places of employment if their own place is not hiring.

Getting a Head Start

Those students who undertake an externship reap many benefits, as listed here, over those who do not.

This gives you an advantage when it is time to apply for a job.

You will have a bit more experience, a better understanding of the job or career and hopefully some well-connected contacts.

Short Time Commitment

Because externships run only a few days to a few weeks, if you did not have a good experience or want to try something else, you are able to fit in another one.

Resume Experience

Your work as an extern can be used on your resume as work experience, hopefully giving you an advantage over those who have not done an externship.

Benefits to Employers

Students are not the only people who benefit from externships.

Externships allow employers to see what students are learning regarding their line of work. They can see how ready to work the student is and, if they are leaving college, how ready they are for the workplace.

Externships also enable employers to provide feedback to colleges and universities about where they are succeeding, as well as areas where improvements or additions can be made to ensure their students are more desirable employees.

What Should You Expect From Your Externship?

There are several things you should expect to experience and gain during your externship, despite the fact it is not as formal as an internship:

  • Duration of externship – Most externships generally last anywhere from a one-day placement to a few weeks. They are short in nature, allowing students to experience several externships if they choose.

  • Pay – Externships are generally unpaid. Because they do not involve actual work but rather shadowing someone, payment tends not to be included. Externships are more desired for the experience.

  • Ask questions – One of the benefits of an externship is the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the specific job, the industry, experience needed and more. These are questions that can be better answered by an employer rather than your professor. You may have entered the externship with questions in mind and will likely find that you have even more as you continue.

  • Make observations – While internships will involve assigned tasks to be completed, an externship is generally the chance to shadow someone doing the job and to observe. Use the time wisely and note all aspects of the job which could factor into your career decisions.

  • Supervisor interaction – An externship allows you the opportunity to see how you might be supervised in that particular role or company. It also gives you the chance to ask questions of more senior staff members.

  • Confidence builder – It is one thing to sit in a class and learn about a career, it is quite another to step out into the working world. An externship allows you to experience a slice of the real world and gain confidence in what you are studying, before starting a job.

How to Get an Externship

Because externships are a bit less formal than an internship, there are certain steps to take that will make it easier for you to arrange one:

  1. Begin by visiting the career center at your place of study. They should have a good relationship with many places of employment and have postings or knowledge of available externships. You can also try checking with your professors as they may know of places offering externships related to your field of study.

  2. If you have found an externship of interest, be sure to note all the requirements and make sure you meet them. They may require you to have completed certain courses. They may also want you to complete an application or take a test. Keep track of any due dates so you do not miss deadlines.

  3. Make sure your resume is up to date and ensure you have a current transcript of your classes and grades as these may be required. You may find your resume lacking, especially if you are low on experience. Do your best to highlight your skills and qualifications and let your genuine enthusiasm shine through.

  4. You will likely have an interview with your potential externship provider. Prepare well for the interview and try to anticipate what they may ask. Be polite but formal and be sure to follow up after your interview for feedback.

  5. When you do get your externship, be professional, on time and try to observe as much as possible. Remember to ask as many questions as you can and truly get a feel for the job.

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to go for an internship or an externship is up to you and you cannot really go wrong either way.

Both options will give you some experience and insight into the working world and hopefully your career of choice.

Remember that you do not have to pick one over the other. You can always do some externships to find out where your interests are and then undertake a longer internship after.

If you have waited and completed an internship at the end of the academic year, why not try an externship the following year to gain a different perspective?

Both options can only benefit your job searching and resume, and stand you in good stead for your working future.

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