Internship vs. Apprenticeship: Everything You Need to Know

Internship vs. Apprenticeship Everything You Need to Know

Confused about the difference between internships and apprenticeships? That’s understandable considering that internships and apprenticeships share a few common characteristics between them. Both opportunities can help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in your chosen career. And, if you play your cards right, both internships and apprenticeships can potentially set you up for a high-paying career down the road. 

However, that’s about where the similarities come to an end. Internships and apprenticeships are two distinct opportunities that can lead you on wildly different (but equally rewarding) career paths. Below, we’ll break down the differences between internships vs. apprenticeships.

Internship Characteristics 

There’s a good chance that you’re more familiar with internships than you are with apprenticeships. Why? Because internships are far more common than apprenticeships. 

At least, that’s the case for the United States. Things are a slightly different story across the pond. (TL;DR: We’re super envious of England’s top-notch apprenticeship system.)

So, what makes an internship, well, an internship? Let’s take a look at some common characteristics:

  • Career Exploration – Still undecided on a career path? Participating in an internship can be a great way to explore different careers and fields before you commit the next four years of your life to it. The best part is that you’ll learn practical skills on the job all while investigating your career interests.
  • Short-Term Training Program – Internships are typically short in duration, lasting anywhere from 10 weeks to three months. This is because internships are mostly geared towards college students who can only participate in internships during the summer.
  • Office Environment – Internships are more likely to take place in an office environment compared to apprenticeships, so if the cubicle life is your thing, internships may be your best bet. Of course, not every internship takes place in an office environment. If you’re studying marine biology, for instance, your internship could involve wrestling sharks for data collection purposes. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the picture.) 
  • Paid or Unpaid – One of the biggest differences between internships and apprenticeships is that interns aren’t guaranteed a paycheck. Super lame, we know. You can check out our blog – Do Interns Get Paid? – to get all the deets on unpaid internships.

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Apprenticeship Characteristics

While it’s true that apprenticeships aren’t as common as internships, this is beginning to change. According to the Department of Labor, there were nearly 25,000 registered apprenticeship programs active across the country in 2019. The DOL reported 3,133 new apprenticeships in 2019 alone, representing a growth of 128 percent from 2009.

Related: What Is an Apprenticeship?

So, is an apprenticeship right for you? Let’s take a look at some common characteristics of apprenticeships:

  • Trade Work – A key difference between apprenticeships and internships is that apprenticeships are commonly associated with trade work (plumbing, construction, ironwork, carpentry, etc.). To set workers up for success in their chosen trade, apprenticeship programs provide a combination of on-the-job learning and classroom instruction.
  • Long-Term Training Program – Apprenticeships are often marketed as an alternative to college because they require a full-time commitment. Most apprenticeships take one to six years to complete. 
  • Guaranteed Paycheck – Although the time commitment involved with apprenticeships is longer than internships, there is a silver lining: You get paid from day one. Unlike internships, apprenticeships are always considered a job, which means you’re required to earn at least minimum wage from the get-go. 
  • Hands-On Experience – Forget all about coffee runs and meaningless busywork. As an apprentice, you’ll be doing real work immediately. It may not be “fun” work right away, but you’ll be part of a team and learning every step of the way.
  • Results in a Credential At the end of an internship, you get experience and perhaps a letter of recommendation from your supervisor, which is great if you’re going to graduate school or trying to land your first job out of college. But at the end of your apprenticeship, you can get an industry-recognized and portable credential that tells employers you’re qualified for the job.

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Internship vs. Apprenticeship: Which Is Right for Me?

That depends. What are your career and education goals? If you’re uncertain about your career path, internships are a great way to explore a variety of careers and get your feet wet before you fully commit. On the other hand, if you’ve always had a passion for carpentry or know that you want to be an electrician, an apprenticeship could be the better option.

No matter which option you ultimately decide to go with, finding the right opportunity is key to getting your career off to a good start. To find internships and apprenticeships, create a Tallo profile and we’ll match you with brand-new opportunities suited to your interests and talents.

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