12 Key Differences between Internships and Apprenticeships

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #1: Purpose

An internship is an informal insight into how an industry/profession works. It lets you find out more without you having to commit to a permanent job. It gives you the chance to explore different career options and improve your CV.

An apprenticeship is formal structured on the job learning. It teaches you the skills and tools needed for a particular career.

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #2: People

Internships are usually given to university students who are still figuring out their career options. Usually, only a small percentage of university students will do an internship. The ones who do will be streets ahead of their peers when it comes to interviewing for and securing a job

People who embark on apprenticeships know what profession/industry they want to work in. They have already done an internship which helped them to pick an apprenticeship.

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #3: What you learn

An internship will improve your confidence, interpersonal skills, and give you an insight into the working world. Interns are given menial tasks not really related to the job.

Apprentices will be taught tangible skills to equip you for a career in that industry/trade.

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Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #4: How you learn

An intern will do lots of shadowing of their seniors, attending meetings, taking notes, and having coffees with people to find out about their jobs.

There will be a lot more structure to an apprenticeship. It will usually include on the job training and classroom-based learning.

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #5: Length

Internships are short-term and temporary in nature. It’s not uncommon for a young person to do several internships lasting a couple of weeks each. They can range from 1 week to 12 months.

Apprenticeships can last from one to six years. At the end, you will have a formal qualification. You may also get a job offer because the company has invested in you over the last few years.

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #6: Pay

Lots of internships can be unpaid, as there can be a lot of competition for internships especially at the bigger companies. This results in many young people doing unpaid internships. The ‘cooler’ industries i.e. music, media, culture, performing arts, and smaller companies tend to be worst culprits for paying their interns. Having said that, you might get paid more in an internship vs apprenticeship.

The pay tends to be lower in an apprenticeship, as you are getting paid while you learn. The highest paid apprenticeships in the UK are 1) Financial Services 2) Business & Accountancy 3) Legal 4) Creative/Digital Marketing 5) Computer Hardware

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Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #7: Types of companies

Apprenticeships used to be more common with blue-collar industries, however, this is changing as many professional services firms are implementing apprenticeship programs. They have realised they can train school leavers just as easily as university graduates.

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #8: Qualification

Interns don’t get any formal qualification, but they may get a job offer. An internship will often be part of a university degree. I interviewed many interns for my book 1000 Years of Career Advice, you can read what they liked/didn’t like and their advice on how to get a good apprenticeship below:

Josue, 22, Economics Graduate

Sushila, 21, Neuroscience Graduate

Sajni, 21, Business Economics Student

Many of them impressed and secured permanent roles out of their internships. A senior manager I interviewed for the book also spoke highly of internships. Many of the young people he saw coming into the company off the back of internships he thought might not have got a job via the graduate programme.

There is a tangible qualification at the end of an apprenticeship. In the UK, there are various levels of qualifications you can attain:

Immediate Level Apprenticeship – basically the same as 5 GCSE passes

Advanced Level Apprenticeship – the same as two A-Level passes

Higher Apprenticeship – same as NVQ Level 4 or in some cases a foundation degree

Some apprenticeships now offer a full bachelors degree as part of their program.

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #9: Job Prospects

Both internships and apprenticeships can provide a route to a career. If an intern makes a good impression; then it makes sense for a company to offer him/her a graduate job.

The number of apprenticeships staying on with their employer will be a lot higher as the company has invested more time and effort in them.

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Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #10: Responsibility

Internships won’t contain much real work. There will be a lot of admin and shadowing more senior people. In my internship, I barely did anything for the 6 weeks, but I learned a huge amount about an office environment and what people actually did for a living!

Apprentices will get thrown in at the deep-end, as they need to be prepared for their future careers!

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #11: Age

Some companies will accept interns 16 and older, whereas the minimum age in others is 18. Some employers will only take interns who are part of an educational program. I myself did a six week internship in the finance dept. of a construction company in between 2nd and 3rd year of university. I’m not sure I would have got as much out of it if I did it when I was any younger.

Approximately half of all apprentices in the UK in 2017 were 25yrs or older. 25% were aged 20-24, and 25% were 19 or under. Although there is no age limit, in the UK there is the issue of whether the government or your employer will pay for your training:

16-18: Full government funding of the cost of training.
19-24: Up to 50% government funding, so the employer will have to pay for the other half.
25+: The government isn’t obliged to give the employer any help with funding, although they may supply a small contribution.

Difference between Internship and Apprenticeship #12: Competitiveness

Some of the most popular white collar apprenticeships (in the UK) are JP Morgan, Airbus, PwC, Jaguar Land Rover, Tesco, Deloitte, Civil Service, BBC

Getting an internship with a big firm like the above can be difficult as there is a lot of competition. Interning at a small to medium sized company can be easier and a more valuable learning experience too. Often you’ll find big firms have well funded apprenticeship schemes as they are trying to grow their talent pool for the future. So it may be easier to get an apprenticeship vs an internship (in the big multinationals)

If you found the above helpful, check out some of the FREE resources available to download:

1. Ebook: 1000 Years of Career Advice
2. Sample CVs of Graduates 10 years out of University
3. Checklist: How to Prepare for a Job Interview
4. *Premium Content* The Earning Potential of various Careers

Paul Murphy

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