Externships vs Internships: What they are and How to Get One

Externships are short-term, unpaid work experiences in a particular field or industry. Keep reading to learn more about externships and how to get one!

Michael Yan
Published: (Updated: ) - 7 min read
Michael Yan is the co-founder & CEO of Simplify. Previously a software engineer at Meta, Michael dropped out of Stanford to found Simplify. He is a part-time career coach & Y Combinator alum.

Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

An externship is a short-term, unpaid work experience in a particular field or industry. Externships are typically unpaid positions, though some paid positions are available. Participation in an externship can help a student decide what to specialize in, gain experience in a particular field, receive direct feedback from professionals and organizations who might be able to provide employment in the future, and develop useful contacts. Keep reading to learn more about externships and how to get one!

Role Responsibilities

Externs often work on smaller tasks while job shadowing. Externships give students the unique chance to apply what they've learned in a real-world workplace setting and give them a chance to decide if the area they are interested in is a good fit.

During your externship, you might participate in meetings or even sit down for one-on-one informational interviews with various professionals. This period can last for a single day or an entire month. Graduate externships are another choice; they tend to be longer-term and more comparable to internships. Although some students may be fortunate enough to get payment for these jobs, these are often conducted largely for course credit.

Is an externship right for you?

For those who are just beginning out in a career or are unclear about whether they would be a good fit for one, externships are wonderful possibilities. An externship might offer you a sense of what working in that industry is like if you are new to it. You can use it to see if that particular field is a good fit for you. Externships can also be a wonderful opportunity to connect with people within your desired industry.

Ready to apply? Check out Simplify's database of over 1,000,000+ jobs and internships here!

What’s the difference?

The main difference between an internship and an externship is that an internship is typically a paid position, while an externship is usually an unpaid position. An internship is a position with an employer where the student learns skills related to their field of study. They are also generally more structured and tailored to specific majors and academic levels.

Externships, on the other hand, are more flexible and can be tailored to the interests of the student. They can be completed during the summer or during the school year. Externships are also generally shorter than internships, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Both internships and externships provide opportunities for students to gain experience in their field of interest and learn new skills.

Program duration

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the specific program and employer.

  • Externships – Typically last a shorter amount of time than internships (few days to a few weeks). Externships are more flexible and can be tailored to the interests of the student, so they do not necessarily require as much time.
  • Internships – There is no standard program duration for internships. The length of the program depends on the specific company and the type of internship. Generally speaking, internships can last anywhere from a few weeks to a full year. This is because internships are generally more structured and require more time to complete.
Still wondering about internship durations? Indeed has a great article that goes in-depth about internship lengths. Check it out here

Program depth

Program depth of externships vs. internships can vary greatly. Internships are typically longer, lasting anywhere from a few months to a year, while externships are generally shorter, lasting a few days to a few weeks.

  • Externships – Program depth for externships tend to be brief, and less detailed than an internship. Since externship duration ranges from a few days to a few weeks, there's only so many topics that can be covered. Externships will not lead to job opportunities, as the purpose of an externship is for students to gain exposure and learn about their desired field.

What's covered in an externship?

Some example topics that may be covered in an externship include: 

  • An overview of the company or organization
  • A tour of the facilities
  • Shadowing of employees in various departments
  • Meeting with HR to learn about the hiring process
  • Job shadowing a specific position
  • A project or presentation related to the company's work
  • Internships – The depth of an internship can vary greatly depending on the student's goals and the organization's needs. Some internships may have the student shadowing a professional or working on small projects, while others may have the student working on more substantial projects or taking on more responsibilities. They are also generally more structured and tailored to specific majors and academic levels.

What's covered in an internship?

One of the main purposes of an internship is to provide students with exposure and hands-on experience within a given field or industry. Students who intern typically perform various tasks and duties assigned to them by their supervisors. These tasks and duties may relate to the students' academic field of study and help them gain practical experience and knowledge in their chosen career field.

Program pay

Both externships and internships can be paid or unpaid depending on the program and the organization.

  • Externships –  There is no set amount that externships usually pay. Some externships are unpaid, while others offer a stipend or hourly wage. The amount of pay an externship offers typically depends on the type of organization and the location of the externship. For example, externships in major metropolitan areas may pay more than those in smaller towns. Externships at non-profit organizations may also be more likely to be unpaid than those at for-profit organizations.
  • Internships – This can vary greatly depending on the company, location, and type of internship. Unpaid internships are not uncommon, although some employers will offer a small stipend to help offset the costs of living. Paid internships can range anywhere from minimum wage to $30+ per hour. Ultimately, it is up to the employer to decide what amount they are able to pay their interns. Before accepting an internship, it is a good idea to find out how much you will be compensated.
Download the Simplify extension to fill out applications at Intel, Google, Amazon, and more – all in one click!

Which is better: an internship or an externship?

Naturally, both are advantageous. Even though they are generally shorter, internships are frequently the initial step in getting a foot in the door. An extended look into the field you're interested in is provided by an externship. The decision comes down to your individual career goals. Are you just getting started, and wondering what the xyz field is like? Or, are you further into your career, and looking for relevant work experience?

Internships are great ways to gain practical work experience in your field of study! As an intern, you will have the opportunity to collaborate on worthwhile projects with others to further your career, build a professional network, and receive valuable feedback. Interns get the opportunity to work on significant projects that provide them the chance to observe the organization's main business operations. They collaborate on team initiatives and use networking to build relationships with coworkers and clients. They attend staff meetings, and overall, are pretty much part of the team for the duration of their internship!

Externships are great opportunities to get brief exposure to a desired career field. Externships are generally shorter in length than internships, so they are perfect for those who want to try out a certain job or company without making a long-term commitment. Externships also tend to be more structured than internships, so you will have a better idea of what your day-to-day tasks will be. And because externships are shorter, you can try out multiple externships until you find the perfect fit!

Which job is right for you? Sign-up on Simplify and get matched with jobs that fit your skills and interests. More than 1 million applications were submitted using Simplify this year – check it out!

How do I get an externship?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to get an externship may vary depending on your individual circumstances and goals. However, some tips on how to get an externship may include networking with professionals in your desired field, researching externship programs that match your interests, and reaching out to potential externship hosts to inquire about opportunities. Additionally, many colleges and universities offer resources and support to help students secure externships, so be sure to explore the options at your school.

There are many ways to find externships. One way is to look on your school's career services website- they may have a listing of externship opportunities. Another way is to look on the websites of companies or organizations that you are interested in working for- many of them offer externships. Finally, you can search online for "externships" or "externship opportunities."

How do I get an internship?

There are a few ways to get an internship. Students can often times find internships through their college or university. Many students also find internships through job boards or by searching for internship postings online. Sometimes, students will know someone who works at a company where they would like to intern and can inquire about opportunities that way.

Applying to internships? Here are our top tips!

  • Check out Simplify's database of over 1,000,000+ jobs and internships here!
  • Make sure your resume is up-to-date and tailored to the internship you are applying for.
  • Research the company or organization you are applying to.
  • Be professional and polite when communicating with potential employers.
Looking for entry-level jobs that fit you? Take our 30-second preference quiz to get matched with thousands of jobs and internships that best fit you!


Internships and externships are both great opportunities for students. Internships provide students with the chance to learn about a certain field or company and gain valuable work experience. Externships provide students with a glimpse within their desired field. Applying to these opportunities are great ways to gain experience, network with professionals, and learn more about a desired field. These experiences can also help students earn college credit and stand out on their resumes.

Which job is right for you? Sign-up on Simplify and get matched with jobs that fit your skills and interests. More than 1 million applications were submitted using Simplify this year – check it out!