Externship vs. Internship: Which Model Suits Your Company Best?

Externship vs. Internship: Which Model Suits Your Company Best?

There are many choices for businesses looking to adopt a training program for a new generation of employees. From internships and fellowships to co-ops and externships, the differences between them can be somewhat nuanced. And when it comes to an externship vs. internship, there are some key factors to keep in mind.

Training programs that introduce potential employees to the profession are a great concept, but companies need to carefully consider which model best suits their unique needs. For businesses choosing between an externship vs. internship, this guide offers a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two to offer the important insight your company needs.

Externship vs. Internship: How Are They Alike?Externship vs. Internship: Group of young people having a meeting at a table

When it comes to an externship vs. internship, each has similar goals. They are programs meant to introduce young people or inexperienced employees to their fields of interest and potential career paths.

These experiences are usually designed by employers and always facilitated in the workplace. During both an externship and an internship, participants can expect to learn from professionals in their areas of interest. In both models, this happens in two ways.

First, participants can observe daily work firsthand. By physically being in the workplace, they gain a better understanding of how an office functions or how different departments within the same company interact. Participants get to see the many pieces at work behind the scenes.

Second, externs and interns also get the chance to ask questions and interact with mentors. If interns have questions about how the company functions or the various roles of different employees, they can get instant feedback. Interns might also gain insight into how to build the skills and experiences necessary to get started in that profession.

Externs and interns learn about professions that might be future career paths through observation and conversation. Regardless of which program they participate in, interns and externs get an inside perspective of the company and the day-to-day demands of professionals in that field.

Externship vs. Internship: How Do They Differ?

Externship vs. Internship: Smiling nurse

While they share many goals and benefits, internships and externships are two distinct training models. Here are the three major differences when it comes to an externship vs. internship.

1. Workplace Experience

In an externship, participants gain real-world exposure to a possible career path, but they generally don’t get actual work experience.

Instead, most externship programs operate similarly to job shadowing programs. Externs join a workplace for a short period of time. During the externship program, they observe employees to get a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes at a company. Externs will usually have the chance to ask questions and learn more about the work environment, which helps them narrow down their possible career choices.

While externs don’t gain hands-on experience in the field, they do learn a lot about daily activities in the workplace.

In an internship program, interns participate as entry-level employees. Whereas externs are observers, interns are active participants. There are many different models for internships, but in all of them, interns perform work, build experience, and gain skills. Interns have a formal mentor and receive input about their performance as they learn and grow. Internships provide interns with practical, hands-on experience in the workplace.

2. Duration of the Program

Generally speaking, internship programs last longer than externship programs.

Because externs do not participate in day-to-day work, externship programs may range from a single day up to a couple of weeks in length. They rarely exceed one month.

On the other hand, internship programs commonly last for several months, or even longer — they are rarely less than a week. Daily time commitments can vary, as internships can be part-time or full-time, depending on the arrangement. Because interns are taking on actual job responsibilities, these experiences need to last long enough for them to be trained in necessary skills.

3. Compensation for Participants

There is no cut-and-dried answer on how to compensate participants in externships and internships. In general, externships are almost always unpaid, while internships may or may not be paid.

Because externship programs tend to be shorter in duration and do not involve hands-on work, they are not paid experiences. Also, the short time period usually means there is no college credit offered.

Instead, students who participate in externship programs can expect to learn more about a particular industry or career path. Externs will have the chance to interview key team players and get a better idea of what it’s like to work in that profession.

Although externs don’t necessarily build skill sets or gain real-world experience on the job, they do gain a lot of insight into the skills and knowledge necessary for success in that career field.

While unpaid internships do exist, many are paid internships. Internships vary in duration and time commitment, so there is no universal rule regarding remuneration. However, there are laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act that require interns to be paid if they are performing work for the employer that would otherwise be done by another paid employee. As such, companies must check with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations to ensure they’re in compliance, especially if offering an unpaid internship.

Interns often receive a stipend or hourly compensation. Regardless of whether or not they’re paid, interns also gain valuable real-world experience of taking on job responsibilities in a chosen career path.

College students also sometimes participate in internship programs to gain school credit. When academic credit is given, interns might not be paid, but they will still receive job training. This hands-on experience helps build the skill set needed to pursue a job in their field of interest.

Questions to Consider When Selecting a Career Training Model

Externship vs. Internship: Two men looking at a computer screen

For any company considering a training model to attract potential new employees, choosing the right one can be a challenge. When deciding between an externship vs. internship, companies should ask themselves these questions:

What Is the Budget for the Program?

  • If there is a budget available to pay participants for their work, an internship may be the preferable training model.
  • If funds for the program are limited, an externship may provide a better option.

How Much Time Can We Commit?

  • If higher-level employees can mentor and meet with participants regularly over an extended period, an internship may be the right choice.
  • If professionals in the company have minimal time and may only commit a day or two, an externship may be the most worthwhile use of time.

Are There Work Tasks Appropriate for Entry-Level Employees?

  • If there are authentic work tasks that could be completed by an entry-level employee, an intern may be a good person to complete them while also learning about the industry.
  • If only highly-skilled professionals perform tasks in a specific department or company, an extern may be excited to observe these functions without expecting to participate.

Externship vs. Internship: The Bottom Line

Externship vs. Internship: Three business people having a meeting

Providing work experience for the next wave of young professionals is a smart move for businesses. Employers can share their knowledge and offer a deeper understanding of a company’s day-to-day workings while getting to know potential employees in a professional environment before extending any job offers.

Although both externships and internships provide distinct benefits to participants and employers alike, only internships provide hands-on practical experiences that build the exact skill set necessary for success within the field.

To learn more about how to hire interns, attract top graduates, and find high-quality candidates for entry-level positions, check out the services of Scholars.

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