Types of Internships

Internships provide real-world experience to those looking to explore or gain the relevant knowledge and skills required to enter into a particular career field. Internships are relatively short-term in nature with the primary focus on getting some on the job training and taking what’s learned in the classroom and applying it to the real world.

01 of 07

Paid Internships

Intern shaking hands with interviewer after accepting an internship
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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.

02 of 07

Internships for Credit

Teenager working a type of internship for credit
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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. Internships that are primarily clerical or mechanical do not qualify for academic credit.

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.

03 of 07

Nonprofit Internships

interns working in an artistic type of internship office
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Doing an internship for a nonprofit organization is usually quite different than working in an organization for profit. In a nonprofit organization, there are no stockholders (or owners) and no one shares in the annual profits or losses that are determined by the organization each year. Nonprofit organizations, which are tax-exempt and must be incorporated under the laws of the state in which they are established, include:

  • Charities
  • Universities
  • Government agencies
  • Religious organizations
  • Some hospitals

Since the purpose of these organizations is not to make money, instead they focus more on providing a service. Interns generally do not get paid when interning at a nonprofit. 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.

04 of 07

Summer Internships

Interns working at a summer type of internship
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Summer internships are usually eight to twelve weeks long and can be full or part-time. More students do internships during the summer than during any other time of the year. 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.

05 of 07

Service Learning

Smiling interns working at a service type of internship
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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 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.

06 of 07

Co-Operative Education

Male digital designer explaining design to an intern at design type of interview
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The main difference between an internship and a co-op experience is the length of time. While internships generally last anywhere’s from a few weeks to several months, co-op’s normally last one or more years. Usually, students will attend classes and work on their co-op simultaneously or they may do their co-op during winter and/or summer breaks.

Co-ops and internships are both excellent ways for students to gain valuable knowledge and skills in their field of interest, plus they offer an opportunity to network with professionals already working in the field.

07 of 07


Two interns discussing assignments for their externship type of internship
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Externships are very similar to internships but only of a much shorter duration. Another common name for externship is job shadowing. Although these opportunities may only consist of one day to several weeks, they tend to offer participants a bird’s eye view of what it’s actually like working in a particular career field as well as providing some professional contacts for future networking.

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