When trying to start a career, internships and externships are crucial. They give a student the ability to take concepts learned in the classroom into a real workplace. More and more, employers are looking for students with work experience, even those that are straight out of college. This is especially true in the STEM field.

So, when trying to jumpstart your career, you have different options for getting experience. The two most popular ways of doing this are through an internship or externship.

But what are internships and externships, and what’s the difference?

Frederick CREST can help you find an opportunity. The following will outline the differences between the two and try to help you decide which one will benefit you the most.


The sibling of the internship, an externship gives a student or aspiring professional the opportunity to experience a specific aspect of a workplace in a shorter period of time.

Generally, externships differ from internships because they’re shorter, typically lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. They give the student more of a “straight-to-the-point” type of experience while also providing college credits. However, due to their short nature, they are unpaid.

Another defining trait of an externship is that it acts as more of job shadowing experience as opposed to functioning like an entry-level job. A medical externship could involve a student working with a team of paramedics in the field. The extern would go through a short onboarding process and then get the opportunity to follow the team and observe an actual day of work. After getting a grasp on how things work, the extern may even get the opportunity to work directly with a patient.

The length of an externship makes it very different from an internship. A particularly short externship could involve an experienced medical student working as a surgeon’s assistant for just one week. The benefit of this is that it provides very real experience in a short amount of time. Thanks to this short time period, students can complete several externships per semester and gain a variety of real work experience quickly.

Externships will also help you build up your network, as you’ll work closely with a professional who will teach you a lot while getting to know you.


Internships are a bit more like a real job. The shortest internship is typically eight weeks, which gives the student plenty of time to get a feel for the work environment in a particular field while also learning a lot.

Internships can be credit or non-credit bearing and paid or unpaid. Many STEM internships are paid, but the rates vary. The intern won’t necessarily shadow somebody, but he or she may be trained by a supervisor.

In an internship, a student will be given training and a wider range of experiences, since they spend a longer time at the work site.

An example of a typical STEM internship could involve an engineering student working below a team of engineers. Ideally, the internship would work on small parts of several projects, while observing and learning about the more important tasks being done by the professionals. The intern may also get a taste of how the organization operates and how to manage teams or projects.

The length of an internship allows the student to form a closer bond with the organization and supervisor. This can help the intern get career advice from mentors. Since the internship is longer, it can also act similarly to an extended job interview. The internship supervisor will have several months to evaluate the intern’s competencies and ability to learn. If an intern does an exceptional job and the timing is right, the internship could lead to a full-time job.

Similarities in Opportunity

The differences between internships and externships mainly lie within the way they are shaped. Externships are shorter and more specific to one type of skill, while internships offer a more complete view of how an industry works.

They are similar, however, in that they both provide an important opportunity to learn from professionals. Beyond this, they give a chance to make connections and, sometimes, find full-time employment.

If you’re a student, we highly recommend you find an internship or externship. If you’ve chosen a career path, these experiences will help you to get it started. If you haven’t chosen a career path, these experiences will give you a chance to test the water and decide if a certain field is right for you.

Find an Opportunity Through Frederick CREST

So, you know that internships and externships are important, but now you need to find one. Frederick CREST is a nonprofit that bridges the gap between university students and employers. We aim to provide a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-focused research and education hub in Frederick.

We currently have opportunities in many fields such as bioengineering, biotechnology, agriculture, and toxicology, to state just a few. If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, get in touch with us. We’ll help you find an opportunity that best fits your skill set and level of experience.