Apprenticeships Vs. Internships: What’s the Difference?

Apprenticeships Vs. Internships: What’s the Difference?

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July 02, 2019

Author: Deanna Quintana, NCCER Guest Contributor

Maybe you see them, maybe you don’t. Whether they’re in the office, grabbing coffee, working on a project, accepting new challenges or anxiously trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible, interns and apprentices play a large role in a majority of today’s workforce.

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Internship or the TV show The Apprentice, you may have a general idea of the roles. But despite the pop culture depiction, we see a lot of confusion regarding the difference between these two terms, internship and apprenticeship.

Although sometimes used interchangeably, the two terms serve different purposes and it’s important to understand those differences. Here’s a look at apprenticeships vs. internships.

What’s an internship?

Way, way back the term “intern” originated in the medical community. It described a doctor who had a medical degree but lacked a license (scary right?). Medicine was considered a field that could only be taught through hands-on experience and observation.

Now, the blanket term describes anyone working as a student or trainee to gain experience in the work industry. An internship encompasses educational learning that stretches far beyond the walls of a hospital or doctor’s office.

In fact, Congress passed several laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, to lay out the standards for hiring unpaid interns, standards that are still in use today.

The 7-factor test is as follows:

  1. The internship must be similar to training that would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship must be tied to academic commitments and the academic calendar.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees.
  4. The internship’s duration is for a limited period.
  5. The intern is not entitled to a job at the end of the internship.
  6. The intern understands that he or she is not entitled to wages.

Think of it this way, internships are intended to coincide with your education.

Is there a purpose?

Yes. Think of an internship like a taste-test, but in the job industry. Interns get the chance to gain experience in a trade or at a company for a short period of time and discover what you want to do and don’t want to do.

Intern has become a blanket term for anyone, particularly students, looking for a better chance of landing their dream job — or, any job. Internships typically last between two to three months; for example, a summer semester.

Internships are an opportunity to make valuable connections, get professional feedback and boost your resume.

How is this different from an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are like an on-ramp to a career. It is a position intended for someone who has decided a career path and is looking for individual training and in-depth experience in a specific job or industry. These individuals are full-time, paid employees who participate in on-the-job training paired with classroom learning.

It’s about learning the technical and academic competencies that apply to the job and taking the time to do so. Apprenticeship programs typically take one to six years to complete. But, one of the most defining characteristics of an apprenticeship, is that at the end the apprentice is certified to work in their industry.

Look at the construction industry. You’ll spend about 20% of your time in school and the other 80% of your time on site, getting paid and learning from a professional in the field.

Guaranteed pay to learn? Sounds great to me! Plus, apprenticeships are intended to advance your skills, knowledge and ability. This means as you improve, so does the pay. Apprenticeships take time, effort and push you to meet the benchmarks for skill attainment.

What -ship is best for you?

This is for you to decide. Both offer vast opportunities to work in the field and gain educational benefits. Are you still taking classes but want experience in a field of your interest during the summer? Apply for an internship. Want to get paid, be on the site and in the action while learning your craft? Go for an apprenticeship.

The most important thing to note is the differences in apprenticeships vs. internships. In construction, apprenticeship helps fast-track you to a career.

Interested in learning more? Discover more today about the construction industry and how you can use this knowledge of both internships and apprenticeships to jump-start your career today.