Completing an internship or externship will give you short-term work experience in a professional setting. While either will help you gain valuable insight about your chosen career field, there are some clear differences between the two, as the chart below indicates.


Duration: Typically a semester or longer

Number: Students usually complete no more than two while attending college

Experience: Meaningful, often long-term projects, with assigned responsibilities and deadlines

Benefits: Usually paid (in businesses)

Educational Benefits: Usually college credit; academic advisor will itnerface with workplace supervisor

Career Benefits: Contacts, networking, possiiblity of leading into long-term employment

Approach: Professionalism and committment


Duration: Usually a day or a week (can complete over a winter or spring break)

Number: Short time period allows for many, providing insights into different work environments

Experience: Generally, job-shadowing; real-life preview of a career

Benefits: Unpaid

Educational Benefits: No college credit; student makes arrangements

Career Benefits: Contacts, networking, possibility of leading to internship

Approach: Professionalism and commitment

Comparison information courtesy of

Both internships and externships offer great opportunities to explore your chosen profession and help you make good career choices. If you manage your time well, you’ll be able to pick and choose a mix of internships and externships to give you diverse experiences.

Career and Academic Planning (CAP) at JMU can let you know more about internships, externships, and help you find either.  Especially useful is their Internship Resources page.

Learn more about the difference between internships and externships at BrightHub

Here is an article in Forbes about the value of externships.

Back to Top