What Is an Externship? (And How To Get One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated April 1, 2021 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated April 1, 2021

Published February 4, 2020

Related: How to Find an Internship: Identify Opportunities

In this video, Jenn explains how to find an internship, the top 5 ways to land the job, AND some great advice on what NOT to do.

College students have access to several resources that exist to help them start their careers off right. One such resource is an externship. While internships are frequently discussed and hugely popular with students due to their obvious benefits, fewer people truly understand the importance of externships and how they can help. In this article, you'll learn all about externships, what they are and how embarking on one might benefit you.

What is an externship?

An externship is a program that college students embark on to supplement work experience during their educational pursuits. Like an internship, it provides an opportunity for students to get hands-on work experience, with a few notable differences. Externships are valuable resources for students who plan to immediately enter the workforce because they can be used on a resume to highlight experience in each area.

Externships usually occur during the school year, as a part of a student's curriculum, and provide an experiential learning environment that offers real-world insight to theoretical topics being learned about in school. Externships usually come about due to existing relationships between colleges and organizations willing to offer training. In most cases, externs perform mostly job shadowing and may work on small projects.

Externships provide the unique opportunity for students to demonstrate what they've been learning in a real-world work environment, as well as a chance for the student to determine that the field they are interested in is a good fit. Typically, externships are done for experience over pay. If they offer compensation at all, the amount is negligible. However, the benefit of completing an externship is the opportunity to learn in an occupational setting and confirm that you are on the right career path.

Internship vs externship: How are they different?

Internships and externships are similar in that they both offer experiential learning opportunities but are also different in some very distinct ways. Here's how:

  • Program duration

  • Program design

  • Program depth

  • Program pay

Program duration

Internships are usually lengthy programs completed over weeks or months, during the summer or concurrent with schooling. That's not the case for externships. Instead, externships offer a short but concentrated program that allows you to experience various aspects of the business or industry over a short matter of weeks or days.

The reason the program is designed like this isn't entirely convenient. In fact, when students get to sit in on a job for a couple of days or a week, they get a reasonable idea of what the job entails and can decide if it's something they want to pursue. Because internships are short and concentrated, students can complete several externships to apply their skills to different jobs until they find the most fulfilling fit.

Program design

Externs might be required to seize several learning opportunities like job shadowing, attending conferences, group learning, practicing several operational tasks, completing small projects and working through any specialized processes. Due to the design of the program, externs may experience a lot of different parts of an occupation in a short time, whereas interns will perform day-to-day operations stretched out over months.

Program depth

Because externships are short previews of what a typical job might be like for a prospecting student, they tend to be less detailed training than an internship. One strategy for determining a future career path while in college might be to try a few externships before completing an internship. The right externship can inform a student as to whether it's a good occupation to intern within. Even if you end up deciding not to pursue work in a field you externed in, it's still great experience for a resume right out of college.

Program pay

There are exceptions to everything, but typically, externships are unpaid. It makes sense with the program design and length that they would be completed for experience and not to make money fast. With internships, on the other hand, they can be paid or unpaid. However, there's been a push in some industries to pay interns for their time since they devote so much of it to the learning opportunity.

How can you get an externship?

There are a couple of ways that students can get an externship. Here are two common ways you might come across your next externship:

  • College or university career services

  • Networking relationships

  • Other scholastic, professional or educational organizations

College or university career services

Most of the time, externships are developed through a relationship between the college or university and the organization providing the learning opportunity. For that reason, if you're looking for an externship, it makes sense to talk to your designated advisor. If you don't have an advisor or you don't know who it is, you can check with your college's career services office. They can usually direct you to a directory of potential externships within your considered field.

Networking relationships

If you decide to search for externships on your own, one way to do that is through networking. Whether attending a business networking event as a student, reaching out to existing business connections or attending conferences and participating in educational opportunities where you meet people in your chosen field, it's always good to grow your network. Once you have an established network, you can ask for externship referrals.

Additionally, you can use social media to expand your network and ask for help finding an externship. If you don't already have a profile on business networking social websites, it's a good time to start one while you're in college and seeking professional opportunities to gain experience.

Other scholastic, professional or educational organizations

Community organizations like a rotary club, chamber of commerce or other non-profit could assist students in setting up externships. Reach out to organizations that rely on community connections for funding and membership and see if they have any leads for your externship search. Even government agencies like a courthouse or police department might be willing to assist with externship opportunities. Be prepared to get a little creative with your search if your college or university doesn't offer externship placement services.

Related: How to Find an Internship: Determine Your Interests

In this video, Jenn explains how to find an internship, the top 5 ways to land the job, AND some great advice on what NOT to do.


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