Internships vs. Externships

Julia de Raadt
Julia de Raadt

Julia has dedicated much of her career to education. Since commencing with Empowerly, Julia has looked after the research team which handles student questions on different topics about college admission.

With the current state of things, finding summer activities are hard. Luckily, a lot of internships and externships have switched over to being remote. This move allows students to continue to explore possible career paths without putting themselves at risk of exposure. But what are externships and what makes them different from internships?

An internship is a great opportunity to get some experience under your belt and learn from those more senior to you. This is great if you already have an idea of what sort of career you want to pursue. 

Not sure exactly what you’d like to do when you finish your education? Keen to test the options in an industry before making a decision? Then perhaps you should consider an externship.


The difference between externships and internships

Externships differ from internships in several ways: the work you do; the time you do it for; the compensation; and the age requirement. 

What you do

The activities you do in an internship often differ from the work you do in an externship. Students look for opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge in the workforce. This increases as they approach their final years of study. Internships offer just that – the opportunity to apply knowledge as well as learn new skills through on-the-job learning. Often internships act as a stepping stone to permanent work.  Externships, on the other hand, target someone who wants to explore a career path. Participants gain insight through job shadowing and learning through observation, rather than learning by doing. Externships can help you identify career interests and prepare you for the workforce, giving you a taste of what you might expect.  

How long you do it for

Externships tend to be much shorter than internships, as short as a week in fact. Some run for longer, up to a month or two. Internships on the other hand usually last for at least a couple months at minimum and can be up to a year or more.  

How much you get paid

You don’t earn money to do an externship. In some cases organized by an external provider you may even have to pay a fee to participate. Internships on the other hand may include a wage or small stipend. If you are a college student you may also be eligible to receive college credit.

How old you have to be

Many internships primarily target at college students. In the case that high school students can apply, requirements ask that you be 16 years or older for insurance/liability reasons.  Externships may also suit college students best; however, in an informal case, they may not have an age requirement. 

Should I seek an internship or an externship? 

If you are a lower-classman in high school, unsure about what you want to pursue as a career and keen to explore your options,  then an externship might be worthwhile considering. 

But if you have a pretty clear idea of what you plan on doing when you graduate and you are ready to apply what you already know,  then an internship may be the better choice. Both provide you with the opportunity to boost your network and learn new skills.

How can I find an internship/externship as a high school student and in these current times?

Like applying for any job, it can be competitive to get either. But, with determination and persistence, you can do it. Remember a rejection letter shouldn’t stop you from continuing to try. It can be a numbers game, the more quality applications (and quality is important!) the better your chances of landing one. 


Externships tend to be more informal and not always advertised online, you’re more likely to hear about them through word of mouth. If you are interested in an externship, discuss your interests with your parents or their friends and colleagues. They are often the best leads. Alternatively, your school counselor may be able to provide you some options. 

Searching Online

Internships advertised online are often targeted at the college-level student although its not impossible to find an internship in high school.  Take a look at Chegg Internships or Internship programs – they advertise internships with companies and nonprofits that are targeted at high school students. 

Disclaimer for Quarantine

Keep in mind that because a lot of businesses are currently closed, there will be fewer opportunities available and it will, thus, be much harder to land a position. Empowerly has created a database of remote internships that you can access through our Empowerly portal. Contact us to see how to access it! Bear in mind that the competition is fierce, applicants often need to meet GPA and/or standardized test requirements and respond to essay questions. If you can demonstrate previous research experience you’ll be ahead of your competitors. 

Keep Trying

It’s important to cast your net wide when applying for internships, apply for several positions as early as possible. In many cases the early bird does catch the worm, with applicants accepted on a rolling basis until the positions are filled; so apply early to improve your chances! For those positions that you haven’t heard back from, but are particularly excited about, keep trying. Follow up with the contact person/HR department. And don’t wait too long to apply to more if you haven’t received any offers. You want to make sure you have fallback options.

Externships/internships that are now remote that you can apply to…

To get you started with your search, here are a few example of some worthwhile externships/internships that you could apply for: 

The Girls Inc of Orange County Externship Program offers an externship for girls between 9th and 12th grade. The program includes a series of development days, a training week, and an 80-hour externship at a local Orange County business or organization. Industries include: Science Business, Education, Engineering, Finance, Health Care, Human Resources, Legal, Medical and PR/Marketing. 

The Cell-Science Summer Internship Program is a 7 week biotechnology internship program, where students work on their own projects with oral presentations and project reports. This program is for 11th grade and up, and is focused on drug design and discovery.

Empowerly also offers an internship program (now completely remote), matching applicants with local startups. Applicants get hands-on, real world experience interning in the fields of software engineering, business development, marketing, research, and more. Be assured that you won’t be running errands or fetching coffee for your colleagues, but will be given the opportunity to do some meaningful work and contribute to the establishment and growth of local startups. You’ll also get to work directly with the founders and learn about their experiences. 


Some examples of the work our past interns have done for local startups include: 

  • Developed and executed a marketing strategy targeted at  high school students for a location-based app
  • Reviewed and improved existing curriculum for an automated online course in computer science 
  • Data entry to train machine-learning algorithms for a platform of app recommendation products
Portrait of smiling working girl in meeting

Avoid doing coffee runs. Find an internship just right for you!

Questions? Let us know!