6 Differences Between An Internship and Apprenticeship

Internships and apprenticeships both give you hands on training, but that’s where the similarities end.

While completing an internship is almost expected for any college graduate seeking employment, an apprenticeship (almost) guarantees you a high paying job once you successfully complete it.

“The comparison between an internship and an apprenticeship is like comparing a row boat to a destroyer,” says AnthonyCarnevale, the Director and Research Professor of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “There’s a lot of applied work with people who are highly accomplished in their field.”

From the competitive nature of an apprenticeship to the pay rate, here’s a look at six ways apprenticeships differ from internships.

1. Internship programs outnumber apprenticeships

Apprenticeships aren’t as common in the U.S. as they are in Europe, but there are a number of ones you can apply for. Often they are geared toward highly skilled technical jobs in areas such as engineering or construction. Other popular trades where you can find apprenticeships include carpentry, plumbing, electrical and telecommunications. Internships, on the other hand, are readily available for most college students through their school or university and are often generalized rather than specified for a particular trade.

 2. Apprenticeships are longer term

When it comes to an internship, most people either do it for a semester or summer and then move on to the next one or get hired full-time. With an apprenticeship, it can take years to complete and requires a full-time commitment. While there are programs that last only a year, many are multi-year in length. “Internships are generally shorter and don’t have any classroom instruction attached to it,” says John Ladd, administrator, Office of Apprenticeship, U.S. Department of Labor. “An intern gets work experience and an apprentice gets more than just work experience.”

3. The pay is greater than with an internship

Apprenticeships are highly competitive, and one of the main reasons is because you get paid while you learn. While you won’t be banking six figures in year one of your apprenticeship, you are going to earn more than with an internship. Often internships give you college credits, a small stipend or something to add to your resume, where an apprenticeship gives you a salary you can live off. “The difference with an apprenticeship versus other types of training is it’s directly tied to paid employment,” says Jeff Vincent, the National Training Fund Director for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE).

4. Apprenticeships give you hands on training

Anyone who has completed an internship knows you aren’t going to have too much responsibility. Yes, you’ll get to see how the marketing department works or how a newsroom operates, but chances are you won’t be creating a marketing campaign or publishing a news article. An apprenticeship, on the other hand, gives you real on the job training in the profession you will eventually work in. “The whole deal is your seeing what you are doing for the rest of your career,” says Vincent.

5. Classroom training is tied to the apprenticeship

Internships are a great way to get exposure to corporate America and to beef up your resume, but typically what you learn during your stint with a company isn’t going to be taught in the classroom. This isn’t the case with an apprenticeship. “A key piece of an apprenticeship is that your classroom instruction relates to your occupation,” says Ladd. “You get a combination of classroom and on the job training and you’re getting paid.”

6. You’ll come out of the apprenticeship with a job

In a perfect world, you would complete an internship in your senior year of college and then get a full time offer from the employer you have been working for, but that’s not always the case. In many cases, your internship won’t get you that foot in the door. However, an apprenticeship will. Since the employer is sponsoring you and spending the time to teach and train you, you are almost guaranteed to have a good paying job once you complete the program. “When you complete an internship you don’t have anything at the end that says I’m ready,” says Ladd. “When you complete an apprenticeship you’ve earned the certificate that says I’m fully proficient to do the job.”

Interested in applying for an apprenticeship? Learn more about Glassdoor’s On-the-Job Training Finder here, which features apprenticeship opportunities across the country.