Internships vs. Apprenticeships

Although they have a few things in common, internships and apprenticeships are vastly different from one another—and they’re often confused. Both provide hands-on experience and a taste of professionalism, but that’s about where the similarities end. Take a trip through time with us as we explore the characteristics of internship and apprenticeships. See how they differ, and which one might be the right fit for you.


The term “intern” was first used in the 1920s, and referred to medical students who practiced without a license. As terrifying as that sounds, students needed a way to observe and gain hands-on experience – interning was the way to do it. Over time, internships have evolved to encompass a variety of fields and positions. 

More like the aged, distant cousin of internships, apprenticeships got their start in the Middle Ages. Workers would pay a guild master to house them and teach them a trade over the course of a decade. Upon completion of their apprenticeship, workers could finally earn a wage and join a guild. Apprenticeships have gone in and out of fashion over the years, but are currently growing as fast, if not faster than all other occupations.


Most internships last only a few months and provide a small taste of a trade or company. Because internships are so short-term, many people end up interning for multiple different organizations.

Apprenticeships are typically much longer than internships, and can last anywhere from one to six years. Essentially, apprentices work to become an expert in a specific trade, and therefore need much longer, in-depth training.


Internships are often stereotyped as a place for overworked and unpaid college students to fill up their resumes fetching coffee. However, many internships actually offer stipends, small salaries or college credit. At the very least, you can gain valuable experience and opportunities for portfolio material.

Apprenticeships have a bit of an edge on internships when it comes to wages. Unlike their medieval counterparts, modern apprentices are paid throughout their training. Though they earn about half as much as an experienced worker, the wages are often high and increase as the apprentice’s training advances.

Career Options

Several interns use their experience as a launchpad into a full-time career. For example, Sierra Roberts started her career as a computer programmer after an internship with Ohio Mutual. Though not every internship promises a career, internships give students valuable connections and skills for later down the road.

After years of rigorous training, apprentices are ready to start a career in their specific trade. Sponsors typically expect their apprentices to begin working for them, essentially guaranteeing a career upon completion of the program.

Which One is Right for Me?

It depends on your career goals and interests! If you’re uncertain about your career path, an internship could be a great way to figure out your interests and gain relevant experience. Typically, internships serve as a supplement for classes or another job. Apprenticeships, on the other hand, are a full-time commitment. If you’re looking for a fast-track to a specific career, an apprenticeship might be right for you. Whichever you choose, both internships and apprenticeships will boost your career opportunities and give you relevant, immersive experiences.

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