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Externships are experiential learning opportunities, similar to internships but markedly less rigorous, provided by educational institutions to give students short practical experiences in their field of study. In medicine it may refer to a visiting physician who is not part of the regular staff. It is derived from Latin externus and from English -ship.

The term externship has a first known use date of 1945 in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.[1]

Externships are generally shorter than internships and often last for approximately a few weeks to months.


Due to the short duration, externships can be easily completed during a student’s spring and summer breaks or even during a January inter-session. Externships are often viewed as job shadowing, since externs are closely supervised by employee volunteers who agree to walk them through day-to-day routines at the company or organization.[2] The experience allows students to apply their coursework learning to a real life setting. Externships offer samples of career possibilities. It is a chance for students to observe and ask questions.[3] They can be viewed as external studies which combine classroom knowledge with real-world experience.[4] This knowledge prepares students for the transition from school to career.

Externships can lead to opportunities after students complete their studies. They can help pre-graduates get their foot in the door for possible job openings or even make them better candidates for aggressive internship opportunities. The goal of an extern is to become familiar with new professions and job fields. Externships are also a source of networking contacts once a profession is chosen.

Externships are not only conducted for the benefit of the extern, but for the host as well. Both parties get a chance to observe one another. Successful externships could lead to recruitment possibilities which would be based on a thoroughly informed decision.[5]


In general, since externships are less extensive than internships, they are not usually given any academic credit. Moreover, they are rarely, if ever, paid positions; conversely, internships are frequently salaried.


  1. ^ Externship | Definition of Externship by Merriam-Webster. Accessed: 2011-06-29. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/5zo6BhOOZ)
  2. ^ "University of Arkansas: Externships/Job Shadowing". Archived from the original on 2011-08-13. Retrieved 2 July 2009. 
  3. ^ "Pilot program allows second-years to shadow alumni in the workplace". 3 April 2003. Retrieved 2 July 2009. 
  4. ^ "University of Michigan Law School: Externships". Retrieved 2 July 2009. 
  5. ^ Muirhead, Gred. (29 April 1991). "Student externships aid recruitment". Supermarket News. 25. 

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