What is the Difference Between Internships and Apprenticeships?

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When it comes to education, there are often several pathways that people didn’t even know they could take. The “main” path of education might not be right for you – so what should you do? Well, you may often hear educational professionals using the words ‘internship’ and ‘apprenticeship’. Both internships and apprenticeships are post-16 education options. Although it can be hard to know what you want out of education, an apprenticeship or internship might be the right choice for you – but what’s the difference?

Internships and apprenticeships differ in length, qualifications, pay, future options, and more. Generally, an apprenticeship is longer, is an official qualification, is paid, and has better options post-completion, whereas an internship is/does not. However, both are valuable experiences. An internship is most similar to work experience, but an apprenticeship can be worth an educational level equivalent.

You don’t need to worry if you’re unsure of which option will benefit you best. This article will show you the differences between an apprenticeship and an internship, and how to apply for either.

Are apprenticeships and internships the same thing?

While internships and apprenticeships are indeed similar, they aren’t the same thing by any means. The rewards of each option for students can vary greatly. For example, an apprenticeship is officially recognised as an education qualification, whereas an internship is not. There are 4 key differences, which you can find listed below:

  1. Length: Apprenticeships can take up to 1-5 years to complete depending on the level of qualification. The average internship is only 3-4 months long.
  2. Qualifications: An apprenticeship is an education qualification, with varying levels of qualifications. Internships, however, are mostly work experience.
  3. Pay: Apprenticeships involve paid work, internships do not.
  4. Post-completion options: Apprenticeships are more highly valued than internships. This means that students who complete apprenticeships have more post-completion options. Internships are limited to employment only.

Keep reading for more details into both apprenticeships and internships.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is the combination of studying and working. During an apprenticeship, you will continue your studies, but you will also be completing paid work. As an apprentice, you will be a student and an employee. There are 7 levels of apprenticeships, each equivalent to their own education level. You can see these below, or read this Think Student article for more:

Level of Apprenticeship Educational level equivalent
2 (Intermediate) GCSE qualification
3 (Advanced) A-Level qualification
4, 5 (Higher) Foundation degree
6, 7 (Degree) Bachelor’s or master’s degree

No matter the length of your apprenticeship, you will take away student- and job- specific skills that will help you in future employment. Your study time as an apprentice is typically 20% of your normal working hours. To learn about degree apprenticeships (level 6+) in more detail, visit this Think Student article.

What is an internship?

An internship is a skill-based professional experience. It is part-time or full-time unpaid work that includes less than 25% of jobs that need to be done. Internships are most likened to work experience; whilst you don’t get paid, they help students develop skills and goals to take into future employment.

An internship is not associated with levels of education. They require 120 hours a week of supervised learning experiences. They are valued greatly by employers. If you’d like to learn more about internships, this Think Student article has information for you.

Should you do an internship or apprenticeship?

The question of whether you should do an apprenticeship, or an internship is entirely up to you. If education isn’t your main focus, then an internship may be the best choice for you. Alternatively, if you are interested in attaining a formal qualification (and don’t want to attend sixth form, college or university), an apprenticeship is probably the best choice.

Generally, apprenticeships are regarded as more valuable than internships, but that doesn’t mean that an apprenticeship will be the right choice for you. The best thing you can do is compare both options side by side. You should check out this Think Student article for the pros and cons of apprenticeships, to help you with your decision.

How do you apply for an internship or apprenticeship?

The process of application for internships and apprenticeships is very different to that of university. Both can be challenging, so try not to worry if you feel overwhelmed by it all. This article aims to make the process as simple as possible for you, so keep reading to find out more.

To apply for an internship, you must have a resume, cover letter, portfolio and 2-3 references. These have to be submitted to your business of choice, usually through their own portal. Your business should have application guidelines on their website for you to follow. There will also be an application deadline, so you should check this beforehand.

To apply for an apprenticeship, you can submit your application to a company website or through UCAS. For the former option, this Think Student article has information on finding an apprenticeship employer. On the other hand, if you would like a guide on how to apply for an apprenticeship, you should visit this Think Student article.

Does an internship give you qualifications?

An internship does not provide you with an official qualification. This is one reason why students prefer an apprenticeship to an internship. However, not being a qualification does not make internships less valuable per se. If you are only interested in employment, an internship will be incredibly useful to you.

Employers treat internships as opportunities for students to gain invaluable employment-related skills. They can often help you secure a job in your field or make you significantly more desirable to other employers.

What qualifications does an apprenticeship give you?

As you will have read earlier in the article, an apprenticeship can offer several educational levels. If you are only seeking educational and employment skills, a Level 2 apprenticeship may be right for you. However, if you would like to pursue a degree and work alongside study, a Level 6 or 7 apprenticeship is probably the best choice.

Apprenticeships are more valued by students than internships. A significant factor in this is that an apprenticeship involves paid work; an internship is unpaid. An apprenticeship will give you a qualification no matter the level that you take.

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