Externship vs. Internship: What's The Difference? [2020 Updated]

externship vs internship

Have you heard the term externship? Wondering what it is? How about the term internship? What’s the difference between the two? We’re going to tell you exactly what an internship vs. an externship is and what you might want to consider before pursuing the two paths. Both are incredible opportunities and it can be difficult to understand which to choose, but we're here to help.

What Is An Internship?

For the most part, an internship is a limited opportunity where you get the chance to work with a company as a recent graduate. Internships can count as credit towards your degree, they can sometimes be a paid position and they allow you to gain important experience that’s required to move forward in your field. During an internship, your roles and responsibilities will most likely vary. Most internship opportunities consist of a specific department handing over the random or administrative tasks that other employees might not have the time to do. Expect a workload which is not the most exciting but will garnish you the exposure to the inner workings of a business that can make future employment a lot easier.

What Is An Externship?

An externship is quite similar to an internship in the sense that you are being employed on a limited basis by a company in order to receive experience. When you have an externship, it is when you are shadowing or working closely with one person in particular, versus working with a team. This person could be a vice president of the company or potentially the founder of the company. You are working with them closely so that you can gain hands-on experience inside that particular job function. Externships aren’t always applicable to university level credit, you’ll need to speak with the company you are going to be working with in order to clarify that. Though, in most circumstances, if you ask, you should be able to have the HR department speak with your student services and get the credit applied.

Why Should I Do An Internship or Externship?

Both of these opportunities are incredibly important. In today's world of employment, your degree doesn’t go very far. That’s the honest truth. Most employees are being hired because of the experience that they have. Think about it, when you put together your resume, what portion of the resume is the longest word count on the page? The experience section of the resume. This is because it is the highest priority for future employers to know in terms of understanding how well you can perform the job function you are applying for.

Hopefully, while at a university garnishing your bachelor's degree, you chose to gain experience by exposing yourself to areas of interest that might be applicable for your future employment. That could mean taking part in a community gathering, executing freelance work at home or even having a personal project which is applicable to your career. Experience can come in all shapes and sizes, it’s important that you take the time to look back and decide what might be considered the experience to put onto your resume.

Benefits Of An Internship

The main benefits of an internship are as follows:

Benefits Of An Externship

The main benefits of an externship are as follows:

Externship vs. Internship

There’s not a significant amount of differences between the two. Although timing can be one of the biggest. With internships, you might be working with a company for a three-month "program." In an externship, it could potentially be very short. Shadowing a significant figure (like the CEO) for a few days to one week. And in other circumstances, maybe longer periods of time but at fewer intervals per week. This is because the person you will be shadowing still could be impacted by the fact that you are shadowing them (meaning they have an additional job aside from the one they already do). Another key difference between the two is that internships will often have a larger amount of tasks associated with them. An intern could potentially have a job function that is quite autonomous. While an extern is mostly there to observe, take notes, shadow and then have a retrospective after it’s all done. Both of these could potentially be paid opportunities, it depends on the company you are applying to and what their policies are. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

How To Get An Externship

Externships are usually acquired through networking. You will have to be forthcoming about your interest in shadowing someone in particular. This person will most likely be a significant figure in the companies leadership. In order to ensure you increase your chances of gaining the externship, you’ll need to be prepared with good reasoning behind your desire to shadow. And what benefit it will also bring to the table for the company. For example, you could explain to the company that after your externship, you’ll write a blog post series which explains what you learned about the leadership team and portray it in a positive light. For the company, that could be a marketing opportunity and shows that you’re willing to do a little extra work at the end of the program. This provides some mutual exchange of value.

Who Should Get Externships?

For the most part, externships are great for all categories of career development. Though, a few that stand out, in particular, is anything in the law fields, medical fields, and educational fields. This is where you’ll be able to learn the most simply by observation. In other fields, you might not be able to learn as much when you are watching an executive type away at a computer, which is what they might be doing through 80% of their workday. Though, it all depends on what your career path is and where you want to go. If you have a good reason for the externship, it is something you should ask for and see if there’s an opportunity for that to be considered.

Job Seeker FAQ

Questions about the difference between an externship vs internship.

What is a veterinary internship?

Technically, this is still an internship, not an externship program.

What about in law school, is it an internship or externship?

Internship. Unless otherwise dictated by your choice to try and find an externship.

Does an externship and internship count as work experience?

Both do, yes.

What if I need academic credit, which should I pursue?

An internship. In school, you may need to have an internship to earn school credit as a college student to complete your university program. You can usually find this in your college materials. It will be defined as a class credit that must be completed.

Are unpaid internships considered externships?

No, not all of them are. Unless you are job shadowing, then you are still in an internship. It is just not compensated.

If I am performing a job shadow of a CEO, then that's an externship?

Yes, absolutely.

What about a residency program and nurse program, what types of internships are those?

In medical school, it is usually considered an externship. But for the most part, you are completing a residency, which is still different than a full-on externship. It is about you gaining valuable experience through hands-on learning and shadowing a physician or other medical practitioner under proper supervision. The nursing field usually requires some type of residency within a hospital or private medical facility.

What is a clerkship?

A clerkship is found in the medical and law field. It can be for both law and medical students. And can be an extended period of time that you are shadowing another professional.

Internship Resources

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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