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Externships vs Internships

As a business owner, there are times when it is beneficial for you to offer opportunities to students to help them gain experience or insight into a chosen field. These opportunities can bring necessary support to your current workforce during busy times and allow you as a business owner to invest in future leaders and discover new talent. These opportunities are either classified as internships or externships and while both offer opportunities for enlightening students of various educational levels, there are legal differences between the two and you should make sure you are promoting the right type of position to avoid legal pitfalls.


Internships are generally a limited term position for students and graduates with opportunities to gain skills and experience in more of a hands-on environment. Internships usually last at least a week or two and can be as long as a semester. Internships are usually arranged through the school either via the career services office, guidance counselors or internships program. Internships can be paid or unpaid and the Department of Labor has certain guidelines to help determine whether an intern is considered an employee and must be paid. In general, an internship may include substantial, project-based tasks working on a project, networking and taking active part in company meetings.


On the other hand, an externship is defined to connect someone’s career interests to the workplace and learn more how companies operate. This is usually a very short term like a day or two maybe up to a week and more on an observational basis instead of taking an active role in some operation of the company. It is more on the level of a job shadow, with a more in-depth investigation into the actual running of a business and the career associated with it. Externships include conducting informal interviews, observing staff meetings, networking with professionals and reviewing company literature.


If you are looking to bring on a student to help with the actual running of the business and help your current workforce, you will likely need to bring them on as intern and then you will need to determine whether the position will be unpaid or paid. If the position is unpaid, you can work with the educational institute that the student attends to determine whether this position you are offering could be used for college credit. If you are unsure of whether the position you are offering needs to be paid, the Department of Labor has created a seven-factor test to determine whether you must consider the intern as an employee or if they are considered an intern. The courts have made this a flexible test and no single factor is determinative than another.


If you have questions regarding how to bring on an intern and the type of internship you are offering, we can help! Set up a time to speak with one of us today.


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