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Carrington College Blog

What’s the Difference Between an Internship and an Externship?

February 8, 2017

What’s the difference? That’s a question we get asked a lot. The simple answer is…not too much. Most Carrington College students experience ‘real world’ learning during their externship (clinical rotation for some programs). Whatever name is used, they’re a super important part of your education.

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The education that Carrington students get focuses on developing real-world, practical skills. We’re talking about the skills that employers look for. That’s why letting you test yourself in professional situations with actual patients and clients is HUGE! It helps boost confidence after months of classroom and lab experience.

The terms are often interchangeable. The main difference for us is an externship tends to be a required ‘classroom’ experience outside the traditional classroom. Externships normally have specific learning objectives. Internships may be voluntary, not likely to have specific elements required in the curriculum, and may be paid or unpaid.

Got more questions? Maybe the answer’s here…

Is an externship paid?

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Short answer – No. That’s a key thing to point out early. Carrington externships are unpaid. They’re designed to give you a taste of your new career, to build your experience and your confidence. While some internships are paid, or maybe offer an allowance for travel, many do not.

How long is an externship vs. an internship?

Externships are typically shorter than internships, but it all depends on the school’s policy and the arrangements they make with their partner employers. Carrington externships are typically six weeks long. An internship could last three months or more, even a full year.

What kind of experience will I get on an externship?

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Think of your externship as job shadowing. A six week externship is designed so you can ask questions, observe and get a feel for a real-world workplace. While the work you do will be important (I mean you are dealing with real patients or clients), you don’t have fixed responsibilities that you might on a longer term internship or full-time job.

An externship is more about real-world education than employment. It’s an opportunity to take what you’ve learned in class and lab, and see how it applies to the job outside of the classroom.

The hands-on experience you’ll get can be invaluable, and it can be very, VERY real. Respiratory Care[1]* program students Mario and Miriam recently shared their experiences.

“I did six weeks at my clinical rotation in Tempe, AZ. I saw a lot of life threatening situations that respiratory therapists had to respond to,” said Mario. “I came running when I heard the call; I was the first one in the room and I got to perform CPR on the patient…and he survived,” explained Miriam.

Respiratory Care Students Mario & Miriam

Will an externship lead to a job?

Not necessarily…but maybe! It’s basically the same with internships. There are no guarantees, but a lot of the employers that the school works with take in externs because they have positions to fill. They see an externship as an extended interview, and so should you. Make the most of your opportunity because if an employer likes what they see, they might find a way to keep you around after you graduate. That’s why externships are the last six weeks of most of our programs.

Recent Medical Assisting program* graduate Heather now works at her externship site, a multispecialty clinic in Tucson, Arizona.

“My externship gave me a taste for it. I was told that if I gave it a little time, they’d have a position for me. I was actually offered two positions before I started with Banner. It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t want those jobs, but I knew what I had coming and I knew that was where I wanted to be.”

Megan Beckle, a 2013 Medical Assisting program* graduate got a job at her extern site in California. She shared her story in an Alumni Spotlight in November 2013.

Megan Beckle

“I was hired on by my externship, an urgent care facility in Los Gatos, which was pretty awesome! I started the externship on June 15th and I’ve been working there ever since. The only thing that’s changed is that I get paid now! I knew going in that if I worked hard, and did well, it could result in an offer of employment. I just had to prove myself. I have to say that they never treated me as an extern. So although I say I “officially graduated” on July 27th, I really feel that I graduated on June 15th because I’ve been treated like an employee since the day I started.”

How do I make the most of my externship?

Whether it’s a six week externship on a Carrington program or a six month internship elsewhere, treat the experience as if you were heading out each day to a job. Show up on time, be professional, be focused and engaged all day every day. Remember that you’re there to learn, so be respectful, ask questions and be the best that you can be. Do that and you’ll rock it!

[1] *Important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rate of students who attended these programs can be found here

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