What Is An Externship And What Are The Benefits

When you are early in your professional career, trying out short term work experience is incredibly useful before you enter the workforce in a more full time role.

Short term roles are a more  practical way of someone deciding whether it is a good fit for them, and help to boost their career profile, and make it easier when applying for jobs in the future. 

There are a few different options that a student or young professional can take when looking for short term work – like internships, work experience, apprenticeships, and now increasingly, externships.

In this article, we will help you to understand what an externship is, what the differences between the externship and a more typical/traditional internship, and what its specific benefits are. 

What Is An Externship?

‘Externship’ is a portmanteau word, combining internship and experience, suggesting that an externship is a job that has been created for someone to gain experience. They are typically classed as work experience, or work placements. 

An externship is usually unpaid, and involve only a low level of involvement with the employer among varying timelines.

As an example, some externships involve a few days work a week for only a couple of weeks, whilst others might involve a few days a week on a much longer time frame, like a year.

A few companies, especially in highly sought after industries like publishing and law, may offer short term externships in the summer months, for those that are in full time education the rest of the year. 

How Are Internships And Externships Different From One Another?

In the traditional sense, an internship is typically a work placement that lasts around a year long, and are usually offered to graduates, and occasionally lead to full time employment within the company. On the other hand, an externship tends to be shorter term, and are usually unpaid. 

In other senses they are quite similar, and both externships and internships schemes are filled by the same sort of people, who are looking to gain experience in the industry before going into the work force full time. 

When Do Externships Take Place? 

Work placements (both externships and internships) can take place during the academic year in school, college or university, as part of their course or curriculum.

If it is part of a course, then it is typically organized by your school, and come about because of strong connections between your school and any organizations and businesses. 

If they are part of the school curriculum, then these externships are usually later in the student’s academic career. They might even be a full year-long work placement, which tends to be sandwiched between the penultimate and final years of a degree program. 

Externships that happen outside of school or college usually take place during the spring and summer, between the academic terms.

This is because most enrolled in externships and internships are students, so the structure of the academic year needs to be accommodated for (especially if the work placement has an intense work load, or is in person rather than digital). 

What Will You Do During A Work Placement?

Those that are on work experience are rarely given important projects, or projects that involve directly interacting with clients, especially at the beginning of their placement.

Externs are more likely to perform low importance tasks, like admin, or contribute to small projects, mixed with practical teaching and shadowing full time professionals in the workplace. 

Some companies that use specific specialist software/tools might choose to train intern sin this tech, using online lessons, and practical activities – which can be good for your CV, especially if it is software that is used frequently in the industry. 

If you turn out to be an exceptional extern, and the company has the capacity for it, they may allow you to complete tasks for a current project.

Overall, the aim of externship schemes is to gain a little in office experience, and observe how a company operates at the ground level, rather than to contribute to companies. 

The Key Benefits Of Doing An Externship

1. You get to experience the full extent of your potential career before you pursue it full time, putting all of your academic and professional training into practical action.

This means that whether you are unsure about your major as a career, or you want to see what your potential future career will look like from the inside, an externship is the right place for you. They provide a great opportunity for you to gain insight into the professional world. 

2. You can use an externship to learn about the companies professional culture, as you are given more opportunities to absorb office life. This is really important, as work culture is one of the most important aspects to considered when you are choosing a job.

Experiencing office culture can help you decide whether you prefer a small, quiet office,  with only a few other colleagues, or would you prefer to work in a larger, louder office filled with other employees.

Company culture is a really important factor to be aware of and understand before making any important decisions about your career.

Not only can you decide what kind of office environment you prefer, but also whether the company that you are employed in would be a good fit for you long term. 

3. Externships are a short term commitment, in comparison with a typical internship. The shorter duration is great for students, who have only a short time out of school in the holidays.

If you manage to find ones that are compatible in shifts, you can even manage to cram several into a single break, letting you gain insight into various industries and companies. 

4. You can get a jump start on networking, as you will be able to introduce yourself and make connections with working professionals. This is a good thing – when the time comes for you to start looking for a full time job, you’ll have a good network of established professionals to help you. 

5. You will get your foot in the door, and an externship gives you a leg up on the competition when it comes to applying for permanent jobs. Recruiters will see that you have already proved to be a good fit, and have meshed well with the office’s culture before. 

6. Great resume building benefits can be reaped from your externship, as they prove to employers that you have already taken initiative with your employment, and are keen on throwing yourself into the professional world.

You should list the dates that you worked, any skills you acquired and training that you received, so you have a more compelling resume. 

Final Thoughts

If you are just starting out on your profession, or are in your first forays into the working world, externships are a great way of trying out a few different careers whilst you are still in school, without over committing your time, capacity and resources.

You can gain valuable experience and training, whilst keeping all pf your options open.

They also give you a chance to send feelers out about a company that you are considering as a prospective employer, both allowing you to test out whether you enjoy the company culture, and making your own impression on the recruitment team. 

Overall, we think you should throw yourself into externships, so that you can develop your CV, skill set, and ambitions. 


Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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