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Apprenticeships and Internships: What’s The Difference And Who Should Do Them?

Apprenticeships and Internships. What's the difference and who should do them?

You have to learn before you earn. Experience is king in today’s dynamic workplace, but how do you get it when you’re just starting out? Easy, you could do internships or apprenticeships. And, no, they’re not the same. Internships give you general exposure to the industry to help you figure out what you want to do. An apprenticeship is a proper training program that teaches you how to perform a job. As for what you should do: It depends. Internships are better for short-term exposure to build familiarity. Apprenticeships are best for specialized roles with technical skills. 

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a long-term training program in which a master teaches a skill to an apprentice, like technical engineering for construction. The apprentice receives both the knowledge of that trade and a living income. The arrangement could last anywhere between 1 to 6 years, depending on the industry. 

The fields that most commonly offer apprenticeships are manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and transportation. The apprenticeship gives the apprentice the skills they need to practice the job they’re taught about. 

Most apprenticeships end once the apprentice is deemed to be skilled enough. They’ll also usually receive a certification or license that permits them to work independently. 

What is an internship?

An internship is a broad learning opportunity in a specific industry. In contrast with apprentices, interns normally don’t learn a specific job. Since they’re exposed to the industry, they decide whether it’s a good fit for them career-wise. 

Most interns only perform basic business tasks, like filing paperwork or running errands. Internships are short, Interns usually aren’t taught specific technical skills. Most companies offer one to two-month internships for college students or recent graduates. 

Students usually complete internships to gain knowledge and exposure or to eventually land a role at the company they’re interning in. It’s common for businesses in many industries, ranging from IT to pharmaceuticals and marketing, to offer internships. 

What are the differences between Apprenticeships and Internships?

These are the 4 most important differences between apprenticeships and internships.

1. They Offer Different Types of Experiences

Interns gain a general knowledge of the industry they’re in. They’ll perform basic tasks and make connections. But, they’re not taught any technical skills. At best, they just gain exposure to how the industry operates. 

In contrast, an apprenticeship provides professional skills with the intention that the apprentice will then work independently. Apprentices also learn specific skills for their trade. For example, a dentist’s apprentice learns how to treat people’s teeth.

In short, the apprentice learns a job to eventually perform it. An intern only gains exposure to the industry to decide whether they want to pursue it.

2. They Have Different Pay Scales

Internships can be paid or unpaid. If paid, internships usually don’t provide a living wage. Most interns only earn a token payment as thanks for their contribution, whereas apprentices are always paid. Most often, they’re paid a living wage. 

The reason for this difference is that apprentices contribute immediately to the company. They’re expected to perform for the company, unlike interns. Most interns don’t contribute to a business’s daily activities. Interns are there to learn, not earn. 

Even when internships are paid, they don’t compare with apprenticeships. Apprentices are an investment of future skilled labor for a company. Interns are potential employees. 

3. Apprenticeships Lead To Employment

Most internships target high school or college students and recent college graduates. These demographics intern for short time periods, normally no more than three months. This time is too short for them to develop skills and connections. And, since they’re not taught technical skills either, interns aren’t guaranteed employment. 

In contrast, apprentices are guaranteed employment on day one. The apprenticeship’s purpose is to provide the company with skilled employees in the future. Most apprentices change to full-time employment immediately after finishing their apprenticeship. They’re also paid competitively and considered valuable labor. 

4. Mentorship

Most interns work with multiple employees and supervisors. So, they’re not likely to form a mentor-mentee relationship during their internship. At most, interns may shadow one or two specific supervisors in a specialized internship, like in a legal internship. 

Contrastingly, apprentices almost always have one, at most, two, mentors. They’ll spend the majority of their apprenticeship under the tutelage of their mentor and directly learn from them. 

As a result, apprenticeships are designed to be built to teach specific skills. In comparison, internships have a looser structure that gives interns the chance to work with different people and departments.

Should I do an apprenticeship or an internship? 

Whether you should do an internship or apprenticeship depends on your goals, industry, and qualifications. Generally, people use apprenticeships as an alternative to college. 

Most industries that offer apprenticeships, like construction and transportation, don’t conventionally have strict academic requirements. An apprenticeship is also a good choice if you’ve decided on a specific job. The apprenticeship will give you the specific skills you need for that job. 

Internships are a better choice if you’re uncertain about what role or industry you want. An internship gives you the freedom to gain exposure and then decide on your professional career. You could also complete multiple internships while still in high school or college to maximize exposure.  

Putting everything together, internships provide short-term exposure, and apprenticeships provide long-term skills. Interns aren’t guaranteed full employment post-internship, but apprentices are. An internship is right for you if you want to gain exposure, build connections, and if you’re not sure what role you want. An apprenticeship is right if you know exactly what you want to do and just need the skills to go professional.

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