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Internship and Apprenticeship: What’s The Difference?

Apprenticeship has been the new buzzword for the last several years. By now I am sure you have been wondering with all this talk about apprenticeship; what does that mean for internships? What is the difference between internships and apprenticeships? While internships and apprenticeships are very similar they do have a couple of distinct uniqueness’s that are important to understand.

Length of Time: An apprenticeship program is meant to be a long-term strategic employment plan. When you are hiring on an apprentice you are hiring on a full-time employee that you intend on keeping for the long haul. Initially the apprentice may only be working part-time hours while they are attending school, but once they have completed their apprenticeship program, they will be a full-time employee for you. On the flip side an internship is typically shorter term and may only last a few months. There are scenarios where interns are later hired on as full-time employees, but that is not the intent at the start of the internship program. Typically interns come in to complete a certain length of time or project for an employer and then each party goes their separate ways.

Mentorship: As part of the apprenticeship model, apprentices are paired up with a one-on-one mentor who guides them through the entire process. This mentor is the one who will work with the apprentice to master new on the job skills as well as be the go-to person when the apprentice has a question. Interns may have a one-on-one mentor throughout their internship, but the relationship is likely not as structured as you would see with an apprenticeship program.

Pay: Since we mentioned earlier that apprentices are full-time employees; they earn a salary from day one. This salary is likely lower when they start and will progress as their skills gains increase over the duration of the apprenticeship program. Internships do not have to be paid; however, we highly encourage that you do invest in paid experiences as it will increase the talent pool you have to choose from.

Credential: If your business decided to register your apprenticeship program with the United States Department of Labor, the apprentice will receive a nationally recognized credential upon completion of the program. The apprenticeship program can also be built so the apprentice receives industry recognized credentials throughout the program. Typically, with an internship the student is not receiving any type of credential. The student may receive a credential as part of a larger education plan they are on, but typically an internship alone will not be enough to obtain a credential of any sort.

College Credit: A majority of apprenticeship programs are built so the apprentice will receive credit towards a degree of study. With internships there is a huge variety when it comes to if the experience will lead to credit towards a degree. Some programs of study require a student to complete an internship prior to completing their college program while others do not.

Apprenticeship Internship
Length of Time Long term (1-3 years) Typically - short term (1-3 months)
Structure Structured training plan, with a focus on mastering specific skills an employer needs to fill a position Typically, aren’t structured and often focus on entry-level or project-based experience
Mentorship Apprentices are partnered with an experienced mentor who walks them through the entire process Doesn’t always include a one-on-one mentor
Pay Paid Experiences Not always paid, although we do recommend paid experiences
Credential Leads to an industry-recognized credential May or may not lead to an industry-recognized credential
College Credit Leads to credit towards a degree May lead to credit towards a degree

While apprenticeship may seem like a buzzword today it is the way of the future. Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what makes an internship program an apprenticeship program and vice versa. (Yes, there are currently apprenticeship programs happening in businesses and they don’t even realize it is an apprenticeship program versus an internship.)

If you want to learn more about how your business can get involved in shaping the youth of today via an apprenticeship or internship program visit or send us a note at to schedule a complimentary one-on-one consultation with one of our experts.

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