What Is The Difference Between A Practicum And An Internship

As good as it is to have a degree and college experience, in order to secure employment, many establishments want to see some level of work experience. This is where internship and practicum programs come in handy. 

Practicums and Internships have some differences, but they both provide an array of benefits to students. 

An Internship 

Internships are widely known in the world of work. Many professions offer them as a way of introducing students and young people to what is to be expected of them once they graduate and are in full-time employment. 

Internships are usually quite hands-on, and they mimic a real job by having the interns use the knowledge and skills they have learned in their studies and apply them to real-life situations independently.

They can be carried out for a few weeks, to a whole year on the side of attending college. The latter is known as a co-op internship

Interns are typically assigned a supervisor during their time in the establishment of choice, where they will maybe shadow this person at first, before carrying out tasks independently.

If the internship has been organized by an internship program, then they will also be assigned a program leader who will visit them on-site to evaluate their progress and performance.

They are often carried out every day of the week, as a normal full-time job would be. Some internships are part of college degrees, and the student will receive credit for completing one successfully. Other internships run through the summer and may offer some payment to the interns involved.  

Below are some common professions that invite interns to their establishments and what kind of work the internship entails. 

Medical internships: Medical internships are some of the more demanding ones out there. While interns will not practice medicine without supervision, they are given the responsibility of many other tasks.

Some of these include consults with other teams in the hospital, discharging patients, following up on patients, and prescribing some medications. The idea is to get them comfortable and give them insight into what a normal day will look like for people who work at the hospital. 

Business internships: Business internships are great for interns to get an idea of the day-to-day tasks involved in working for a business.

Interns will be learning how to conduct market research in a variety of fields, will also assist in project developments, and will perhaps be given an area to work on independently. This will depend on the level of work the intern has displayed so far. 

Education internships: These internships are referred to as student teaching experiences. They will involve student teachers observing full-time teachers for some lessons, before writing their own lesson plans and delivering them to classes on their own. 

A Practicum

A Practicum

Practicums differ from internships in the sense that those involved in them are not expected to carry out tasks individually.

These experiences are more for the student to observe and document and give them an understanding of what will be expected of them in the world of work, without implementing themselves in the day-to-day tasks. 

The expectations of the student will vary according to the profession and industry, but usually, it will involve the student observing and documenting how professionals carry out their job duties.

They may be assigned one person and they will shadow them for a few days, or they may be assigned different full-time professions, in order to see how different roles are expected to operate throughout the day. 

Unlike internships, practicums often run a few times during the week, for two or four-hour sessions. They typically run alongside a college course, and students are supposed to record their experiences and report back to their professor.

They can also sometimes add credit to a student’s final score. 

Both Are Beneficial 

Both internships and practicums are excellent in providing students with an insight into working in their chosen field. Understanding the difference between these two will also give students an idea of what college course to go for, as some will regularly offer one or the other. 

It is possible to select a course with a practicum included, and then apply for a private internship during the summer.

This will enable you to observe and document what professionals in your chosen field do day-to-day, before embarking on an internship that will have you performing individual tasks. 

When it comes to employers going through resumes, if you can demonstrate that you have partaken in a practicum, internship or both, employers will notice you have had some relevant work experience, and you are more likely to be hired based on this. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Entry Requirements Are Required For Internships? 

The entry requirements will vary from internship to internship, but you may be required to submit a cover letter, resume, transcripts, or a formal application. 

Some internships will also require two letters of recommendation. These can be written by professors, mentors, or any previous employees. 

Do Interns Get Paid? 

Interns may or may not get paid, depending on the internship. Unpaid internships are very common, especially if it counts towards academic credit as part of a college course. 

Despite this, many employers do pay their interns, but these internships may have less flexibility when it comes to working hours and a heavier workload. You may also feel like more of an equal when you are involved as a paid intern, as it is similar to being an official part of the team. 

Final Thoughts 

There are differences and similarities between practicums and internships. Similarly, they will both enable you to gain some insight into the world of work.

However, internships are more hands-on, and run for a longer period of time, whereas practicums are more about observation and documenting.

Qualifications are great to have and will demonstrate that you have sufficient academic knowledge to join a team.

Work experience, on top of this, will show employers that you have relevant experience in working in an environment that matches their own and will put you ahead of those who have no experience. 


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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