An internship is a work experience program that allows beginners to have on-the-job training in a particular industry; these programs usually last for several weeks to a few months. An externship is more practical, generally takes place over a shorter period of time, and is sometimes similar to a job shadowing program. Either type of program can be paid or unpaid in the United States, and some are connected to college credits, while others are not. The two terms are used interchangeably at times, meaning the program types may be very similar or very different, depending on the industry and college/university.
Extern and intern duties vary wildly. Some externships are more like short-term job shadowing, allowing students to watch professionals at work. Others are hands-on and practical and last for several weeks. Because they typically run longer than externships, internships tend to be a combination of watching and learning from professionals and hands-on experience. In law and some other industries, the duties and experiences of externs and interns are identical and the terms may be used interchangeably.
Pay and Job Prospects
Whether externships or internships are paid or not varies. However, shorter-termed programs—typically externships—and those carried out with a non-profit are less likely to be paid. Among longer-termed programs, roughly 48% are unpaid.
In the United States, unpaid internships have become more common in recent years, leading some to question their value and legality, especially when interns have been assigned tasks unrelated to their future career (e.g., cleaning, running errands). Since 2010, there has been a wave of lawsuits and settlements surrounding unpaid internships and whether they violate the Fair Labor Standards Act. The website Unpaid Interns Lawsuit is dedicated to these legal efforts.
The value of internships — paid or unpaid — is difficult to measure, with different studies occasionally turning up vastly different results. However, there are some universal truths, to date. Far fewer unpaid interns than paid ones report that their experiences led to a future job offer.
Some externships and internships are organized through a college or university, which may or may not give class credit for the program. Short-term programs are less likely to receive credits than long-term programs.
Many colleges require students to pay for their credit hours during an internship, including during summer internships. This can be very expensive for those whose externship or internship is already unpaid.
In most cases, externships are shorter than internships. Externships often last a week to a month, while internships last for several weeks, to a month, or longer. Internships organized by universities tend to last for a semester (i.e., about a few months).
For some professions, longer externships or internships can be beneficial. A study of dental externships showed that students felt more confident and were more efficient following a 10-week externship than following a six-week externship.
- Are unpaid internships illegal? - The Washington Post
- Condé Nast Settles Its Internship Lawsuit - The New School Free Press
- Do Externs Get Paid? - Chron.com
- Do Unpaid Internships Lead to Jobs? Not for College Students - The Atlantic
- Evaluating externship programs: impact of program length on clinical productivity - NIH.gov
- Externship FAQs - Cockrell School of Engineering
- Externships: Information for Student Participants - Carlton College
- Good Steps Against Unpaid Internships - NYTimes.com
- How Long Do Internships Last? - Internships.com
- The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not - NYTimes.com
- Unpaid Interns Gain the Right to Sue - NYTimes.com
- Unpaid internships: are they beneficial or exploitative for college students? - Daily Sundial
- The Unpaid Internship Is Not Dead Yet - Forbes
- Wikipedia: Internship
- Wikipedia: Externship