Skip to content
Externships can offer valuable career-building skills

Externships: What they are and why they’re important for career success 

As young adults prepare to enter the workforce, having the opportunity to gain real-world experience in their desired field or a field that might pique their interest is hugely beneficial.  

Internships and the lesser-known option, externships, provide young learners with these opportunities and the resources to help them discover careers they can get excited about.

Many students are aware of internships as they are often the most discussed and promoted when it comes to early career experience. But externships provide students with more flexibility when it comes to career discovery and can even be taken before an internship. 

Interested in externships? See our current programs

What is an Externship?

An externship is an experiential learning opportunity that allows students to learn from a respected industry professional. It’s a way to supplement work experience that focuses on understanding what it’s like to work in a specific professional role. 

Externship VS. Internship

Let's break down the similarities and differences between externships and internships—it's important to know what you're getting into (and what you're getting out of such programs) when you sign up.

How are Externships & Internships the Same?

Externships and internships offer short-term professional learning experiences, exposure to the workplace, and resume building. Both programs can help students or young professionals understand what it would be like to focus and grow into a desired career path. And both options leave participants with great learning and networking experiences regardless of if they choose that career path in the end. 

These experiences are excellent ways to make sure a title and industry is a fit or to help young learners gain visibility into career options they might not have known were available. 

Educators: learn more about what we do for school districts

How are Externships & Internships Different?

Internships are typically extended programs completed over weeks or months. Interns perform day-to-day tasks and responsibilities for a company as they're given a role within a particular team and are expected to complete specific projects and/or contribute in some way. Simply put, interns have a job! 

Externships, on the other hand, do not place externs in a specific role for a company. Instead, externships are short programs that sometimes only last a day or a week. Externs don't work for the company and don't have a role with responsibilities for the company. An externship is more about observing and practicing to gain real-world insight and an overview of the position or industry without investing significant time.

Externships can take many forms. Externs might sit in on meetings, job shadow an individual, or interview an entire team in one department. Or they can take the form of work-based learning programs run by industry professionals, which is how we run our externships. This approach lets young people experience the kinds of projects they would solve on the job, and be coached on soft skills such as organization and presentation skills. 

Externships may provide participants with hands-on practice of what they've learned. "Externships provide the unique opportunity for students to demonstrate what they've been learning in a real-world work environment, as well as a chance for the student to determine that the field they are interested in is a good fit," according to Indeed.com

Because externships are shorter in duration, they tend to be less detail-oriented and less of a commitment for participants and companies. This allows young learners exposure and the chance to explore different career paths by completing a few externships before committing to an internship or formal job. 

Internships:

  • Gain skills and experience

  • Part of a team and company

  • Complete work-related tasks with real impact

  • Longer in length: lasting a semester or summer 

  • May or may not be paid

Externships:

  • Get an overview of a career

  • Observe a workplace

  • Practice work-related projects in a safe environment

  • Short term; either days or weeks 

  • Normally unpaid 

Benefits of an Externship 

Overview:

  • Quick exposure to see if they like a job, industry, or company

  • Small time commitment and minimal investment

  • Ability to have multiple externships to compare companies

  • Potential to get an internship or full-time job later on

  • An experience they can include on their resume

*Credit CFI

Career Insight

During an externship, you’ll be able to gain direct insight into a career. This might inform the field you pursue or the position you pursue. Perhaps you are interested in a career in coding but are unsure if Computer Systems Engineer, Software Application Developer, or Web Developer best fits your interests and goals. An externship can allow you to understand all of these roles better and help inform your future career choices. 

Resume Building

For students and young professionals looking to enter college, the workforce, or change careers, externships are good personal experience and a great resume builder. 

Adding externships before a job or internship shows that the individual has done their research and has real-world experience in the role and field. It allows you as the extern to present great talking points in interview processes and help the company feel more comfortable and confident with you as a candidate. 

Make Connections 

Career opportunities and success often go hand in hand with networking and your connections. Knowing someone or even knowing someone who can make an introduction for you is a huge help when you’re trying to get your foot in the door. 

Externships allow you to make quick connections with quite a handful of individuals that can be helpful in the future. 

Tips to improve your connections with externships:

  • Always send a thank you note via email after your externship ends.

  • Connect with any individuals you meet on Linkedin. 

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for further mentoring, questions, or help after the externship ends. People often have no problem staying in touch and lending a professional hand when they can.

How to get an Externship

If an externship seems like an option that you or a young student you know would like to explore the next question is simply, well, how do you get one?

There are two main ways to get an externship:

  • Professional networking

  • Apply for a program 

Remember, both ways will take time and research on your part! Part of taking an externship is learning how to solve problems and develop a professional mindset—that begins before the externship even starts.

Professional Networking 

Your current network, the network of family and friends in your community, or cold outreach (reaching out to people without an introduction)  is a great way to get an externship. This might mean asking your neighbor who works at a company you're interested in to connect you with someone who does the role you’re interested in. It could mean finding the companies in the field you’re interested in on LinkedIn, searching who's fulfilling the roles you would like one day to hold, and reaching out directly. 

With externships being less formal than internships, the company or individual has less to commit to, making it easier to agree to and complete. 

It's important to remember that some people might need to be made aware of what an externship is! Make sure you explain the program details to them while also focusing on explaining you want to learn more about their work. 

From there, you'll be able to work out a schedule and plan that fits you both. 

Apply for a Program 

Many schools and companies have externship programs. Connect with your advisor at school to ask about options. 

Another option is to research the companies you're interested in to see if there is a program to apply to. If there isn't, you can always reach out through their contact email to ask. 

When applying for an externship, review all the information and requirements. Some programs involve certain hours, specific days, or may require qualifications to be eligible. 

Externships with Work ED

At Work ED, our mission is to unlock the talent hidden within the U.S. school system by making impactful afterschool programs easy to run and allowing every student to learn the skills to access future-proof careers.

We’ve applied our experience to create externships as part of our career and technical education (CTE) pathways for School Districts.

Here’s a rundown of our current externship programs.

Worked Externship Programs:

  • Cybersecurity Discovery

  • Business Startup 

  • Game Design 

  • Cybersecurity Advanced 

  • Drone and Aviation

  • Artificial Intelligence  

A small drone hovering over a person's open hand

All programs have a 20-hour duration, affordable per-person pricing, and formatting options like hybrid or virtual options, making it possible and easy for students to experience externships regardless of background or circumstances.. 

We work closely with leading industry professionals and have designed programs that offer young learners a unique experience in exploring career options. With detailed daily itineraries, certifications, and professional connections that can be utilized long after the externship ends, our program offers unique experiences and opportunities for young people to change their financial future.

If you're interested in learning more about the externships with us here at Worked, click here to find more details on each program. 

Conclusion 

Many options are available for exploring career paths and building out your experience. Some may even be new concepts to you- like externships! Regardless of the program you select, exploring options to find the right career path and industry for you is what’s most important. 

We wish you the best of luck!

Learn more about pathways to high-earning careers, get in touch!