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What is an Externship?

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Student Life

Almost all college students are familiar with and hold internships but not many know what externships are. Externships are highly important for college students to gain a better, first-hand understanding of their industry and confirm that this path is the correct one for them. 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, externships are, “a training program that is part of a course study of an educational institution and its business.”

The word externship is a combination of experience and internship. The role of an extern is exactly that. It is an internship but with a heavy emphasis on experience rather than doing tasks. 

Externship Program Design

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An externship is meant to be a short, informal internship. Externs typically are shadowing individuals within an organization. The goal is to get an overall understanding of the career field. 

Certain fields require or have a higher emphasis on externships. These fields are medicine, engineering, and law. They will have a more formal field placement process to assist students in finding opportunities. 

However, any field can pursue an externship and find high value in the experience. Experts recommend that college students do both internships and externships during their college experience. This allows for students to gain the most real-world experience during their time at a university.

How Is an Externship Different From an Internship?

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Internships are typically performed during summer breaks or to be done part-time for a period of time. Externship opportunities are intended to be a day up to a month-long. They will be formatted to be done while in school or during spring breaks or winter breaks. 

Internships can be paid, unpaid, or for academic credits. While externships are usually unpaid and uncredited experiences, this is because of their short length in nature. If an externship happens to be paid, it will usually be in the form of a stipend.  

Internships are intended to get hands-on experience working at a company. They are more focused on having tasks to complete. Externships are focused more heavily on job shadowing and giving experiential learning opportunities. 

Unlike internships which are typically reserved for college upperclassmen, externships can be done in high school as well. 

Although the positions have differences, both internships and externships have the common goal of giving college students and recent graduates an introduction to their field of interest and potential career paths. 

How Is an Externship Different From a Co-Op?

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A co-op stands for cooperative education. Between internships, externships, and co-ops, it can be difficult to understand which experience is best for your industry and your experience-level. Though, both experiences are similar in their ability to gain practical and experiential learning. 

Between the two, the formalities are polar opposites. A co-op is a more formal experience, while an externship is an informal experience. 

For a co-op, colleges have a designated process. Students who want to do a co-op will choose from a list of approved organizations. But, they are similar to externships in the sense that some industries require them, and others only highly suggest time. For externships, students can reach out to university advisors but there is not a direct list of organizations to pick from. 

In terms of length, co-ops usually are months long, with a distinct ending date. They are full-time positions and schooling cannot occur at the same time. But, students will achieve college credit for doing the co-op

On the other hand, externships are short and only for a few weeks and at most, a few hours a day commitment. Students who participate rarely get college credits from it. 


What Are the Benefits of Having an Externship Experience?

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The main benefit of an externship is its ability to expose you further to your career path. 

In the role, you will gain a broad look at your career path by shadowing someone. While shadowing them for a length of time, you will see all aspects of what they do. This allows you to solidify your interest in this career or branch out to other options.

An experience allows you to get a good picture of a specific company’s work environment while seeing the industry’s overall work experience. 

Externs can even be done in high school if you are considering which major to go into in college. 

How to Get an Externship

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During an externship search, first, go to your university advisor. Universities have relationships with organizations for the purpose of taking on externs. 

If your university does not have the right information for you, then LinkedIn would be the next place to look. Go through your network and find someone with a position that is similar to the one you would like doing. 

Since externships are more informal experiences, it is more likely that you can find one via networking over sending out applications. 

To learn more about externships, internships, and entry-level jobs post-grad, check out the services of Scholars

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