Apprenticeship vs. Internship: What’s the Difference?

Happy National Apprenticeship Week! Now in its 7th year, NAW takes place through November 21, 2021. Arizona is home to several events during NAW, including the WECA Arizona Electrical Apprenticeship Program Open House in Phoenix.

Apprenticeships can be a valuable way to gain work-based experience and grow your career in an exciting field. An apprenticeship can lead to a full-time job and give you a head-start in your role.

You may have heard terms like internship and apprenticeship and wondered, “What’s the difference?” Here’s how apprenticeships and internships might differ and what to look for when you’re considering an apprenticeship.

What’s an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a type of work-based learning program that typically provides paid work under the supervision of a career professional. The idea of an apprenticeship is that the apprentice learns directly from someone with experience in a real-world career setting. More than an assistant, an apprentice may complete real job tasks that contribute to business results.

Some qualities of an apprenticeship program include:

  • Work in a real career environment
  • Get paid a salary
  • Learn under a professional with a full-time title
  • May lead to post-apprenticeship full-time employment and career advancement

According to the federal government, 94% of apprentices who finish an apprenticeship stay employed, with an average annual compensation of $70,000. Apprenticeships may include classroom education and credentialing opportunities, as well as mentorship that lasts well into an apprentice’s future career.

Apprenticeships are available in all types of industries, including hands-on skilled trades fields like manufacturing and construction, as well as knowledge worker industries like IT and MedTech. Many companies offer apprenticeships because it gives employers the ability to teach entry-level workers their operations and processes, while providing valuable supervised work-based experience that cultivates a pipeline of talent.

What’s an Internship?

Internships are typically for students who are enrolled in a post-secondary degree program, such as at a community college or a 4-year university. Some internships are paid, and some are not.

The main benefit you get from an internship program is work-based experience you can add to a resume that can help you get a job after you graduate. Most internship programs also provide college credit you can apply toward your degree.

The duties you encounter in an internship program can vary widely depending on the employer. Some interns work a small amount of time in various departments, so they can learn more about what work is like throughout a company or industry. Sometimes, interns complete junior-level work or assist someone in a higher position.

Internships may be part-time or full-time, depending on when the intern is in the program. Since many interns are also attending school during the program, internship programs are typically less intensive compared to apprenticeship programs, which may require full-time work schedules.

What’s Better: Internship or Apprenticeship?

Whether you choose to pursue an internship or apprenticeship program will depend on where you are in your career and what you’re looking for from a work-based experience. Here are some things to consider.

Where are you in your life?

If you’re a student in college, your class schedule may be demanding. Internships have flexible schedules to accommodate full-time students. They may last only a few months and provide part-time work, while an apprenticeship could last a year or longer and require a full-time schedule.

Typically, if you’re an adult who has already completed school or you don’t yet have a degree, you might look for an apprenticeship. You can learn on the job and potentially grow a career, even though the initial pay may be lower than other full-time positions.

What are your career goals?

If you know you want to work in a certain position or career, an apprenticeship may make more sense. Even if you don’t have the experience you need yet, you can commit your time to an apprenticeship, with the intent to pursue a certain role once it’s completed.

For those who are exploring various industries or roles, an internship may be a better fit. Internships can be customized or generalized to expose interns to various work functions. Apprenticeships tend to be more structured and focused for a particular position.

What are your salary requirements?

Keep in mind, internships aren’t always paid. With some internships, the main tangible benefit is college credit and work experience to add to your resume.

If you want a salary, you may want to search for paid apprenticeships. Apprenticeships may require a more dedicated schedule and time commitment, but they can also help you earn money while you learn on the job.

Ready to Get to Work?

If you know what you want out of a career and you know the field you want to pursue work in, an apprenticeship is a great option when you don’t yet have the experience you need. Apprenticeships can lead to long-lasting, meaningful careers. You can connect with experienced professionals, learn valuable skills in entry-level work and immerse yourself in a company that might employ you full-time once the apprenticeship is over. There are hundreds of apprenticeships available in Arizona right now, in roles like pharm tech apprentice, apprentice technician and more. Search jobs in Arizona to see what’s open.

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