Internship and Apprenticeship: What are the Differences?

With diverse understandings on the two concepts, internship and apprenticeship sound quite similar but they are very different in their practical terms. The question which everyone may want to have handy is: what are the differences? Being an Apprentice or an Intern are both valid ways of getting valuable experience within a specific industry and extremely useful for employers to fill skill or staffing shortages.

They both however differ greatly in the benefit to employer and trainee.

Internship is more like learning and getting paid at the same time, while apprenticeship is almost like learning and being something that looks like slave in order to get become a master of your own without getting paid.

What is Internship?

An internship is a short-term position to help you learn more about a specific industry, role or company. Organizations often sponsor internships for students or recent college graduates to allow them to understand a field or particular area of focus better and determine their career interests. Internships are usually temporary or seasonal opportunities, and they may or may not provide compensation.

Fields Where Internships Can Work:

  • Information technology
  • Marketing and sales
  • Finance
  • Engineering
  • Communications
  • Biotech and pharmaceuticals
  • Human resources
  • Social work
  • Sports medicine

What is Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship combines your workplace learning with in-class lessons. These lessons are to support your current knowledge based on your work experience, as well as introduce you to the next level of skills.

Fields Where Apprenticeships Can Learn:

  • Trades, Construction
  • Culinary
  • Information and Technology Services
  • Agriculture

Differences Between Internship and Apprenticeship

In order to help you get a better understanding of the distinctions which they share, we have gathered some very salient points of differences between the two concepts:


An internship usually only lasts for a few months but can be longer whereas an apprenticeship will last for a minimum of a year and in some cases up to 5 or 6 years, depending on the qualification and industry. An internship is usually regarded as a short work experience stint where an intern will put existing skills into use and gain experience.

An Apprentice however is a long term qualification where you teach an appropriate person new skills and knowledge to ensure they are of most value to the company long term.


An apprentice will receive training from an apprenticeship provider, college or university and work towards a nationally recognized qualification at an appropriate level. This will be achieved through a combination of training, shadowing, coursework and mentoring and they are required to spend a minimum of 6 hours a week of their time developing in this way.

The apprenticeship is a combination of training from the provider and the employer so it is imperative that the company has the skills to teach and develop the new hire apprentice.

An intern on the other hand will only receive training from their employer and will not gain any form of qualification from the process. They will also usually only be putting existing skills into use and gaining experience rather than new skills from the process.

Due to this it is not unheard of for an intern to be hired and given a project outside of the companies skillset or knowledge. Apprentices will be looking for their first step on the career ladder whereas an intern is collecting practical experience.


Many interns are still in college when they finish their internships. As a result, they typically work at their internships in part-time or brief full-time positions. While you can build valuable networking connections and craft a stronger resume by completing an internship, there’s no guarantee you can get a full-time position at the company once you graduate.

An apprenticeship usually lasts for a longer period and provides in-depth training to participants. When you finish an apprenticeship, it’s likely you may have the chance to transition into an official role at the company and earn a higher salary. An employer may pay competitive wages to keep you there since they invested time and money into training you.


Apprenticeships include a structured training plan, focusing on mastering specific skills an employer needs to fill an occupation within their organization. Internships aren’t structured and often concentrate on entry-level general work experience.

Larger companies may have consistent, structured programs, while small businesses might ask temporary hires to be flexible and hop in as needed. The U.S. Department of Labor regulates apprenticeships to ensure compliance and effectiveness. Dozens of trades employ apprentices through programs sponsored by employers or union partnerships.


Apprenticeships are designed to train you thoroughly in a specific trade or profession, so you are typically handed a heavier load of responsibility right from the get-go. They consider you more of a team member than just an observer. You are expected to contribute actively, take on tasks, and even handle certain projects independently under guidance.

The level of responsibility gradually increases as you progress through the program. With experience and knowledge, you will handle more complex tasks and projects – taking on real responsibilities within the scope of your training.

Internships come with a lower level of initial responsibility compared to apprenticeships. In internships, you are there to learn and get a taste of the professional world which can involve shadowing, assisting, or contributing to ongoing projects under supervision.

Internships typically start with tasks that provide exposure to the company or industry. As an intern, you will often work alongside professionals but your role will be more observation-based initially. However, as you prove your capabilities and gain more experience, your level of responsibility can increase throughout the internship, with opportunities to take on more substantial tasks or projects.


Apprenticeships are a-blend between learning in a classroom and learning on the job. The learning curve is steeper because there is a focus on mastering a specific skill set or trade. You are shadowing or observing and actively engaged in the day-to-day work, getting your hands dirty, so to speak.

Internships provide more of an experiential learning opportunity. During an internship, you are likely to work on actual projects and tasks but the main focus is not always on skill-building. The emphasis in an internship is more on exposure and understanding:

  • Get a broader view of the industry
  • Get a sense of different roles within a company
  • Learn how things operate in a professional environment

While you might pick up some specific skills along the way, the depth of skill development is not as intensive as in an apprenticeship.

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