The Difference Between and Internship and an Externship

Internships and externships are both work experiences that give participants the opportunity to learn job skills and gain experience in their field.  Both methods are popular among individuals who are seeking to learn more about a particular field or to bridge the gap between school, a part-time position and full-time employment.

Nevertheless, internships and externships differ in several ways – and understanding the differences is key to leveraging the power of both to reach your company’s goals and outmaneuver your competitors.


  • What is it?  An internship focuses on giving the participant, or “intern,” relevant knowledge and skills about a specific field.  Internships are typically temporary, and their focus is to help the intern get a job.  They may be paid, unpaid, or partially paid.  Academic credit may also be available for some internships.
  • What’s the difference?  Interns are given specific duties, receive concrete feedback from supervisors, and are typically compensated in some manner for their services – whether by pay, by earning academic credit, or by receiving tuition waivers.
  • How does it benefit our company?  Internships benefit companies by allowing them a “trial run” with interns who may become employees, testing both their skills and their fit with the company’s culture.  Internship programs also tend to improve retention rates and boost a company’s community image by enhancing the local workforce and providing educational opportunities.


  • What is it?  An externship offers “job-shadowing” experience.  Participants, known as “externs,” spend time with professionals in a work setting, learning how to apply their studies to a career.  Externships typically focus on building relationships, networking, and information-gathering.
  • What’s the difference?  Externs fill a passive role, watching the goings-on of certain companies and positions without performing specific duties.  They are typically not compensated by employers, although some academic organizations may give credit for externships.
  • How does it benefit our company?  Externships benefit companies by introducing them to potential interns or employees.  They also connect companies to local academic institutions and the broader community by providing educational opportunities.  In some externships, externs also perform student work like research, lab work, or data analysis that may be applied to the company’s current projects.

At THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC, our experienced recruiters partner with employers to find the right candidates for a range of open positions. Contact us today to learn more about our recruiting services in the Twin Cities and beyond!

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