Difference between an Internship and an Externship

December 28, 2016 by Editorial Team

Practical learning programs are useful to all students. They give you the chance to make sure your chosen industry is a good fit for you. Some colleges may give you opportunities to experience multiple career options, so knowing where to invest your time is priceless. But what kind of learning programs are there? Is an internship the best option or is an externship a better way of gaining experience? Which one should you choose?


An internship is a job training program that allows students to spend time in companies relevant to the industry they are studying. The students hold the status of an intern or an apprentice and they can perform minor tasks. During this time, they may sit in on certain meetings, they may speak to the people in the office, and they may discover some of the industry specifics from within.

Internship programs count for work experience and can even merit a salary. They usually last a minimum of eight weeks and a maximum of one year. Some students may enroll in internship programs because by doing so they can get access to information necessary for their college research papers.

An externship program gives students the opportunity to shadow a successful person in their field of interest. They follow the employee around, see what challenges he/she is up against on a daily basis and see how decisions are made. This provides a career sample and gives the student a chance to observe from within.

Externships are usually short. Therefore, they take only a couple of days. This means the students will not receive any money and may not gain academic credit. Externships are mainly of personal value as students can use them to decide for or against a career. This makes this type of program more suited for high school students looking to decide on an industry.


Both educational programs place students in a professional setting and give them information from within. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, depending on a student’s needs and timing.

Internship programs take a lot of time and they are extensive. The student usually plays a small part in the company. At the end, therefore, he/she will have an understanding of other types of tasks, types of decisions taken within the industry and the thought process behind them. The student can also receive a salary and will have enough time to make conclusions about the industry. Also, the experience has academic value and can result in the student getting research information for dissertation papers.

Externship programs, on the other hand, are far too brief to be paid. They offer a very limited insight on the industry and are good for general career choices. They imply having the student follow one person around and learn from his/her actions. This means that the success of the program depends on how open and communicative that professional is.

Both programs can result in the student getting a job in the company, but the internship program increases the chances of this happening because it allows the student to exercise some of his/her skills during the office hours. It is more difficult to get a job as a result of an externship program. It depends on the willingness of the shadowed professional to hire, as well as very keen observations on behalf of the student in order to be able to demonstrate his/her abilities.

Comparison Chart

A job training programA job shadowing program
The intern acts like an employee and does minor tasks to support the activity of the office without having too much responsibilityThe extern follows an employee around and takes note of the challenges of a daily job in a specific industry
Can be about 8 weeks to 1 yearCan last for a couple of days
May be a paid positionIs not a paid position
The intern has a good chance of getting hiredThe extern has a slim chance of getting hired
The intern can receive tasks and perform small jobsThe extern mainly observes