What Is the Difference Between Internship and Externship? According to 6 Experts

What is the difference between an externship and an internship?

We asked experts to differentiate the two.

Ciara Van De Velde

Ciara Van De Velde

Career Engagement Manager, Employment BOOST

Externships are for students shadowing professionals in a field of interest over a short period of time

This typically over the course of a week. Externships are typically unpaid considering no work or projects are assigned to the student but will allow the individual to assess the job functions.

Internships may be paid or unpaid and provide the student with more hands-on experience

While internship projects and assignments may vary depending on the company, it allows the student to apply their academic knowledge into the workplace and grants them the opportunity to further develop and enhance their skills while gaining a true understanding of the position.

Related: How to Get an Internship

Jared Weitz

Jared Weitz

CEO & Founder, United Capital Source, Inc.

Externships and internships vary largely based on the school’s policy or the employer’s guidelines

In general, an externship will be short duration and not paid, while an internship can be paid and lasts anywhere from three months to more. In some instances, internships last six months to a full year during which time students take a break from school.

Look at an externship as a real-world experience of shadowing someone in a career or role you aspire to fill, this won’t really be an opportunity to actually dig in and get work done.

With an internship, you can expect to be handed a large project to manage during your contract or daily responsibilities to complete. This is a small scale way to gain work experience and can be used to complete school credits or credential requirements.

Nate Masterson

Nate Masterson

Business Consultant | CMO, Maple Holistics

Duration and involvement

The two main differences between internships and externships are the duration of each of them and the consequent involvement of the student in the position’s tasks.

An internship typically lasts for at least a month (but often longer). During this time the intern gets hands-on experience and gets to perform duties associated with their role.

However, an externship only lasts a day to a week. During this time the extern shadows an employee but typically doesn’t act on their own. Interning is essentially getting a small taste of the actual job, while “externing” is essentially shadowing.

Chane Steiner

Chane Steiner

CEO, Crediful

Internships are long-term assignments in which the student gains real professional experience

Typically, you will be given certain assignments and some training. You are treated like an employee in many ways and it is expected that you take the opportunity as if it is a real job. The saying ‘dress for the job you want, not the one you have’ is 100% true at internships. You need to be as professional as possible in the way you dress, carry yourself, and interact with others.

Keep in mind that the potential is there for internships to turn into full-time or permanent employment. This experience is crucial for networking and potentially getting a job in the future.

Your supervisor can write recommendation letters for you and them, or co-workers can help you network to find permanent employment if they liked your work but did not have any open positions.

An externship is more like job shadowing

Think of it as an extended informational interview. These are shorter-term assignments (up to 8 weeks) where the focus is for you to witness how the job is done, without much participation.

Related: Who and How to Ask for an Informational Interview

It’s great for figuring out what you want to do, networking, and getting your name known in a company you’d like to work for.

Steve Kurniawan

Steve Kurniawan

Marketing Expert, Nine Peaks Media

Externship can be described as “external” classroom experience

Normally there is a specific learning objective where written reports are necessary. Externships are fairly short (usually a week-long), and the extern usually doesn’t have any “real” job description but will only follow an employee or several employees where they can observe their work, ask questions, etc.

It is important to note that externs usually don’t have any job responsibilities. Sometimes, an externship can last fairly long (4 to 6 weeks), and sometimes the externs will be assigned some tasks during the externships.

Internships might be an assignment from the educational organization the intern is in or can be completely voluntary

Internship is usually longer, at least 2 months or more, and the intern is assigned a real role in the company with specific tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines. Technically, an intern functions just like an employee.

Another notable thing is internships might be paid by the company (not always), while externship is usually unpaid.

Polly Kay

Polly Kay

Senior Marketing Manager, English Blinds


An internship is a workplace-based trainee role performed by a person who needs to gain experience or qualifications within a certain type of position.

Internships provide on-the-job training and experience for the person in question whilst they simultaneously serve as an employee. Internships are sometimes unpaid or paid at a lower rate than that for a qualified or experienced person, but they generally attract some form of salary.


An externship is a temporary workplace training placement performed by a person who is enrolled at a college or educational establishment as part of a course of academic study, like business school or medical school.

Externships are designed to provide hands-on workplace experience for students to support their theoretical knowledge and generally continue for a set period of time in between college attendance.

Externships may be performed during breaks from college, or as a recognized and provisioned part of a course of study. Externships are usually short in duration (generally anything from a week to a couple of months-long) and are almost universally unpaid.

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