Apprenticeship Vs. Internship: What Are The Differences?

Updated 27 July 2023

Individuals who seek additional professional experience often apply for an apprenticeship or internship. While there are many similarities between these professional opportunities, there are also some key differences. Learning about these two options can help you decide which one might benefit your career. In this article, we provide the definitions of an apprenticeship vs. internship, explain the major differences between them and offer tips on how to choose the most suitable programme.

Apprenticeship Vs. Internship

Before analysing an apprenticeship vs. internship to decide which one might suit your professional development, you may benefit from learning what each of these work opportunities is. Here are their definitions:

What is an internship?

An internship is an opportunity to learn more about a specific industry, role or company. Organisations often sponsor internships for college students or recent graduates to allow them to understand a field better and determine their career interests. Completing an internship is sometimes a requirement for a student to graduate. Internships are usually temporary, seasonal opportunities. Here is a list of industries that commonly offer these programmes:

  • Information technology (IT)

  • Marketing and sales

  • Finance

  • Engineering

  • Communications

  • Biotech and pharmaceuticals

Related: What Are Internships And How Do You Find One?

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a long-term training programme in which you can learn the skills of a trade while receiving living wages. Companies offer apprenticeships to help candidates develop practical abilities to perform skilled jobs. During an apprenticeship, you typically work under the guidance of one or more experienced, qualified employees. After one to six years, depending on the job and industry, you may earn a certification or licence in the field. Common industries that offer apprenticeships include the following:

  • Manufacturing

  • Construction

  • IT

  • Health care

  • Energy

  • Transportation

Related: What Is Apprenticeship Training? (With Types And Benefits)

Key Differences Between An Apprenticeship And An Internship

Here are a few key differences between these two professional programmes:


Apprenticeships tend to provide more training structure than internships. This is usually due to specialised requirements of a particular business. For instance, an apprentice at a construction firm may participate in official training on how to adhere to safety guidelines on construction sites. In contrast, internships often involve performing more general responsibilities. It is more common for interns to build communication, organisation and other soft skills as they work rather than attend a specific training programme.

Related: Vocational Training: Definition, Types And Examples

Financial compensation

Apprenticeships are paid positions, while internships usually are not. Since apprentices contribute almost immediately to the company, they receive payment for their work. Interns, in contrast, may spend more time learning about the industry than making actual contributions. They may accept payment in the form of experience or course credits. An intern's pay often depends on their duties and the industry they wish to enter. For instance, an engineering intern who works on high-level aerospace projects may earn a higher wage than a general intern at a marketing firm.

Related: How To Create An Internship Report

Type of experience

The type of experience you receive as an intern differs from that of an apprentice. As an apprentice, you typically get hands-on experience by applying your skills directly to the work. As a result, you obtain knowledge by practising rather than just observing others perform their tasks.

As an intern, you often shadow employees to observe how they do their work. You may note the employee's responsibilities to understand what constitutes their role. You may also perform some simple administrative or supportive tasks, such as making copies or taking meeting minutes. Usually, an intern's role is to help a business stay productive while learning from the working environment.

Related: How To Apply For An Internship (And What To Do After Applying)

Stage of professional development

People looking for internships and apprenticeships often have different career objectives. Individuals may seek apprenticeships as alternatives to college careers, as these programmes can take as long as it takes to earn an associate or bachelor's degree. Some apprenticeship programmes may also include college courses, which may allow you to earn credits towards a degree.

Internships can be ideal for recent high school graduates or college students interested in a specific industry but still unsure of their career path. These individuals can complete multiple internships with different companies to gain more focus and make informed career decisions. Since internships usually occur during summer breaks, it can be easy to complete them to supplement your education and add to your resume.

Related: Guide: How To List An Internship On A Resume

Job opportunities

Many interns are still in college or high school when they finish their internship. As a result, they typically work at their internship part-time or for brief full-time periods and only experience a bit of the role. You can still build valuable networking connections and craft a stronger resume by completing such a programme, but there is no guarantee you can get a full-time position at the company once you graduate.

An apprenticeship usually lasts for a longer time and provides in-depth training to participants. When you finish an apprenticeship, you often get the chance to transition into an official role at the company and earn a higher salary. Companies may pay competitive wages to keep you, since they invested extensive time and money into training you.

Related: On-The-Job Training For Efficient Staff Development


Interns usually work with several employees, such as supervisors, trainers and other interns, who help them learn skills to complete assigned tasks successfully. In contrast, apprentices often assist employees who are experts in the practical skills of the trade. Over time, as an apprentice, you can gain more independence. You may also develop a mentor–mentee relationship with your supervisor or an experienced employee at the organisation.

Related: How To Write A College Student Resume (Example And Tips)

Type of business

Companies offer apprenticeships for certain types of careers and internships for others. Generally, apprenticeships are more common in skilled trades, such as the following:

  • Plumbing

  • Welding

  • Construction

  • Appliance maintenance

  • Electrical work

  • Automotive work

  • Heavy machinery operating

  • Truck driving

Apprenticeships have grown in popularity in recent years, so you may find programmes in non-traditional areas, such as cosmetology and IT. Since many internships are more general, you can usually find them in a variety of fields, such as engineering, marketing and administration. Conduct research and consult your professional network to learn more about various internship opportunities in your field of choice.

Related: 16 Apprentice Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)


An apprenticeship typically lasts longer than an internship. The minimum duration of a typical apprenticeship is usually one year, but these programmes may even last up to five or six years. Internships, instead, generally last for a few months. For most of the undergraduate courses, the duration of internships is between four and six months.

Related: How To Write An Apprentice Cover Letter: A Complete Guide

How To Find The Right Apprenticeship Or Internship?

Here are three steps you may follow to find the right apprenticeship or internship for yourself:

1. Assess your requirements

Whether you are looking for an apprenticeship or an internship, first assess your requirements and expectations. Ask yourself whether you want to do an internship because it is a requirement under your coursework, or if you wish to learn a specific skill. Working as an apprentice can help you gain the necessary skills and contacts to find full-time employment in the future, but completing it may also be a requirement for obtaining some licence.

Related: How To Get An Online Internship In Finance (Skills And Tips)

2. Review the listings

After you have decided which type of internship or apprenticeship you want to pursue, you may start exploring various options. You may find such listings online or in the institution you work or study at. Consider shortlisting the relevant posts depending on your requirements, such as compensation, duration, location and specialisation.

3. Review the job descriptions

Once you have shortlisted the relevant postings, you may start going through each one in detail. Getting more information about specific roles can help you assess if the opportunity is suitable for you. You may then select a few positions you are going to apply for. Lastly, prepare your CV accordingly and submit your applications.

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