What Is the Difference Between an Internship and Externship?

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Colleges of Distinction »

College is your time to gain the breadth and depth of knowledge needed for your desired career. All the books and coursework are vital to the field you pursue. At the same time, there are also a lot of important things that can’t be taught in a classroom setting. Hands-on experiences are designed to immerse you in the practical aspects of your future career. For a more realistic look into the day-to-day operations of your desired career, you can learn a lot by enrolling in an internship or externship that takes you out into the real world.

When you take on an internship or an externship, you take a huge step toward your career goals. But what’s the difference? Keep reading this article to learn everything you need to know. You’ll find your career taking off in record time!

What Is an Internship?

An internship is a type of work experience that allows you to work within the setting of a certain industry. Internships help you gain work skills and experience in the real world, lasting from as little as a few weeks to an entire semester. During an internship, you’ll work for a company and participate in their projects and meetings, all while shadowing someone who has the job you might want after graduation.

Not only are internships enlightening, but they are also a great addition to your résumé. Potential employers will look favorably on any type of internship background you have, as it shows that you are not entirely new to the industry of work; rather, it tells employers that you are not starting from scratch with no prior work experience. 

The most common types of internships include:

Paid Internships

Paid internships are typically offered by larger companies that need help with entry-level tasks. You’ll be paid a certain salary or stipend that is combined with on-the-job training. Obviously, the main advantage of doing a paid internship is the ability to earn money while getting job experience.

This job experience will help you narrow down exactly what type of job you’ll apply for in the future. If everything works out, paid internships can also lead you to secure a permanent job with the company.

Non-profit Internships

Non-profit internships are much like volunteer programs. It’s important to remember non-profit organizations are usually charitable organizations and do not have owners or stockholders. 

You likely won’t be paid to intern at a non-profit organization, but this type of experience is very rewarding and can teach you the skills you need to pursue this line of work.

Unpaid Internships

Some companies do not have a budget to offer paid internships, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth looking at. As with all internships, you might be able to receive college credit for the work you do. If the company and its operations are interesting to you, and if you can afford not to be paid, it can be well worth your time and effort when you learn priceless skills that allow you to get ahead in your chosen career.

University Internships

You’ll find that a growing number of universities require students to participate in internships, some of which are offered on campus.

One major advantage of university internships is that they are managed by faculty you already know! This tight-knit network will make internships easy to find and more likely to qualify for course credit.

At Saint Xavier University, a partnership between Parker Dewey connects students with off-campus internship opportunities. Saint Xavier also encourages departments to create project-based positions for interested students. Additionally, utilizing Handshake, LinkedIn and networking events are a great way to look for internships. External outreach is encouraged as well.

Your university might offer internships as courses throughout the semester and/or over the span of 8-12 weeks during the summer. Get the most out of your summer internship by being open to learning and immersing yourself in every learning opportunity you get.

What Is an Externship?

Externships are a type of short, informal internships that last from one day to a few weeks. Many times, you’ll be required to attend an externship through your program of study so you can gain working experience without missing class.

You’ll also find that larger companies offer externships; they often use them in their recruitment process so that applicants can know what to expect if they are hired.


During an externship, you’ll be able to network and observe how professionals work together as a team. You’ll read through the company rules and regulations and take a workplace tour.

Typically, you’ll also be a part of staff meetings and shadow multiple people in one day. You might participate in certain tasks, but there’s no pressure to complete work assignments on your own. Externships are excellent opportunities that allow you to consider what it might be like to work in a certain career without the obligation to get a certain amount of work done. They’re like a sample platter of different jobs and responsibilities!


There’s no employment agreement or interview process for an externship. Rather, you are invited as an observer. Because of that, externships are usually unpaid. Attending them, however, can get you credit for your degree or a grade for one of your classes.

Secure Your Internship or Externship Today

Now that you know the difference between an internship and an externship, you can start your application process with confidence.

Don’t be afraid to apply to multiple positions to find what fits you the best. The more on-the-job experience you get, the more in tune you’ll be with the career goals you want to achieve.If you’re looking for colleges to attend or need advice about finances or graduation, look no further than Colleges of Distinction. You’ll find everything you need to fine-tune your education and career goals!