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A Quick and Easy Guide to the 7 Types of Internships

by | Jan 9, 2020 | Business, Internships, Productivity

If you’re considering starting an internship program at your company, you may be wondering about different types of internships and what their differences are. Here is a quick and simple guide to help you navigate the many options you have as the host of an internship program and how each type of internship can benefit you and your hired student or recent graduate. 

Paid Internships 

Paid internships exist primarily in the private sector or in large organizations that have the money to pay students to learn while they work. Given a choice of paid or unpaid internship, paid internships are definitely the internships of choice. More and more organizations are recognizing the value of internship programs and the enormous benefit they play in the recruitment process. As these organizations work to train interns, they are also scrutinizing them on all fronts to evaluate their potential as potential future full-time employees.

For this reason, companies that can afford to pay their interns will usually make a decision to go ahead and do so.

Internships for college credit 

Internships for credit require that the experience is strongly related to an academic discipline to be deemed “credit-worthy”. The main question is determining the value of the internship experience in a higher education context. This is something you as the internship program creator can research to see if your program aligns with credit criteria. If yes, your program could be a more desirable option for potential candidates. 

When an internship is performed in exchange for college credit, the assigning of credit is strictly between the student and his or her school. Students looking to do an internship for credit usually need to have an academic sponsor to oversee and set criteria for the internship. To meet the academic component of the internship, students may be required to complete a journal, essay, or presentation during or immediately after the internship to illustrate the knowledge and skills they learned over the course of the semester.  If your internship position is clerical or mechanical in nature, it’s unlikely that interns will be able to earn college credit. 

Summer Internships 

According to Chegg Internships, “summer internships are typically the most popular because students have less academic requirements and more availability.” Summer internships typically run for eight to twelve weeks long and can be full or part-time. These short-term experiences provide a real insight into what it’s actually like working in a particular job or career field. There’s ample time to get into a regular work routine and gain valuable knowledge and skills.

Summer internships can be completed for credit but they don’t have to be. Getting credit during the summer can be helpful since it can lighten a student’s course load during the fall or spring semester, but the downside is that most colleges require tuition in order for students to receive credit.

Nonprofit Internships 

If your company is a nonprofit, the type of internship is usually quite different than working in an organization for profit. With no stockholders, shares in the annual profits or losses that are determined by the organization each year, the focus is more on providing a service. As you would expect, interns generally do not get paid when interning at a nonprofit. However, completing an internship in a nonprofit organization provides some very useful skills required by employers when seeking to hire entry-level employees in this field. 

Co-Op (Cooperative Education)

Another type of internship to choose from is a cooperative education program. A co-op is a three-way partnership between a student, an employer, and a college or university. The main difference between an internship and a co-op experience is the length of time. While internships generally last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, co-op’s normally last one or more years. Co-Ops allow students to gain valuable work experience while also earning college credits. Many colleges endorse cooperative education by partnering with a variety of employers to provide career-related opportunities. Participating students work in jobs that relate to their majors. 


Another option for your company is an externship, which is generally shorter than an internship. Externships provide brief experiential learning opportunities for students, typically consisting of a day to a few weeks.

Externships are sometimes referred to as job shadowing, as they allow students to gain insight and knowledge in a career field of interest, by determining whether the job’s day-to-day activities and responsibilities are a good fit for their skills and interests.

If you’d like to test-drive the idea of an internship program, you may want to start by offering brief externships. Students who enjoy the externship may become future interns or even future hires. 

Service Learning 

Although there are different perspectives on what constitutes services learning, there are several specific criteria that must be met for an experience to be considered a service learning experience. Service learning requires a combination of meeting specific learning objectives by completing some type of community service work. It is usually structured as a three step process in which students outline their proposed service term and objectives, perform the service work, and then present conclusions based on an analysis of their experiences. Service learning allows students to work in organized service.

According to The Balanced Careers, “It is different from other forms of experiential education in that it requires that the recipient and the provider of the service both benefit in some way and are changed equally by the experience. These are very structured programs that require self-reflection and self-discovery along with gaining the specific values, skills, and knowledge required for success in the field.” Understanding more about this option could be a great way to benefit your company. 

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.