Externships vs Internships

June 12, 2020

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What is the difference between an externship and an internship?

The difference between an externship and an internship is that an externship is typically an unpaid shadowing of a respected industry professional during which the extern will observe daily duties, while an internship is a paid or voluntary position with an organization for someone who is learning a profession and industry, typically spanning over a few months. Externships are typically shorter than an internship, ranging from a day to about eight weeks, which is why many students choose to do an externship during winter break or spring break.

What are the responsibilities of an externship as opposed to an internship?

An internship might include:

  • Substantial, project-based tasks allowing the intern to witness the primary business functions of the organization
  • Working with team members to produce a project
  • Networking and making connections with team members and/or clients
  • Taking part in staff meetings

An externship might include:

  • Observing and networking with professionals
  • Taking a tour of company facilities
  • Conducting informational interviews
  • Sitting in on staff meetings
  • Reviewing company literature

What is the value of each one?

Internships and externships are both pre-career opportunities that are extremely beneficial for students and aspiring professionals and are highly suggested. Participation in multiple internships and/or externships while in college highly increases the odds of students securing employment or entering graduate school within six months of graduation. 

An internship allows individuals to:

  • Explore a career field hands-on
  • Immerse themselves in a workplace environment while applying themselves to tasks and projects
  • Apply skills learned from their studies to responsibilities relevant to their industry of interest
  • Expand their knowledge of what it is like to work inside a specific field while under the guidance of industry professionals
  • Make career connections and strengthen their network
  • Add value to their resume

An externship allows individuals to:

  • Explore a career field and experience a typical week on the job
  • Learn how to apply their academic major through discussions with professionals who have a similar background
  • Assess their "fit" for a particular position or organization
  • Make career connections and strengthen their network
  • Add value to their resume

What are the differences in terms of payment, employment and college credit?

An internship can either be unpaid or paid, depending on the organization’s policies, and can be considered as part-time employment. The main difference between an unpaid and paid internship is the type of work that is given.

An unpaid internship can be similar to training one might receive in an educational environment and is part of the intern’s coursework. The intern may receive academic credit for the internship, whereas a paid intern will complete responsibilities and tasks very similar to that of a regular employee.

Additionally, an internship may be counted as college credit. The Eller College’s requirements for using an internship position as college credit include the following:

  • The organization must provide an internship that consists of specialized duties that provide training and practice in actual service in settings such as an industry, business, research laboratory, theatre, museum, community agency or government office
  • The internship must be directly related to the student's major and the student must be able to provide documentation from academic advisor, faculty member and/or supervisor if requested
  • Approval for credit is left at the sole discretion of the internship coordinator for the college.

Learn more about earning academic credit for an internship.

An externship, on the other hand, is typically an unpaid experience, not deemed as employment and is not often used for academic credit. This is mainly due to its short-term nature and the different kind of responsibilities an extern has as opposed to a paid intern.

Should I put an externship on my resume?

Yes! Both internships and externships should be listed on your resume. Much like an internship, an externship is a great way for employers to see your first-hand experience in the field and propels your professional experience.

How is each perceived on a resume?

An internship is geared towards giving the intern a hands-on experience through the completion of tasks and responsibilities, whereas an externship is focused on giving a student or aspiring professional a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of a specific industry. An internship on a resume will show employers that one has experience working in an industry, whereas an externship shows one’s in-depth and behind-the-scenes knowledge of a specific profession.

How do I get an internship?

There are many networking options within the Eller College that can lead to experiential learning opportunities to complement your classroom experiences. From campus resources, like Handshake, major-specific internships and student organizations, there are a significant amount of resources for students to find an internship to fit their needs.

For undergraduates, learn more about finding and securing an internship: https://eller.arizona.edu/programs/undergraduate/professional-development/internships/search

For graduates, learn more about professional development for your industry: https://eller.arizona.edu/career-outcomes/graduate

How do I get an externship?

To help students find the right externship, Eller matches each student who applies on Handshake to an externship. Determinations are based on each student’s interests and past experiences.

To find externships within Eller, learn who is eligible and how to prepare for an externship, visit our Undergraduate Externships page.

Additionally, externships can be found through networking and connections via professors, family, friends, etc. A beneficial way to make new connections within your industry of interest is to attend an Eller Expo or Career Showcase where you will be introduced to various companies, businesspeople and industry professionals.

Looking for first-person experience when it comes to externships? Visit our Externship Roundup page to learn from students who have had externships.


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