An internship is a system of on-the-job training that allows learners to gauge their interest in a chosen professional area. Internships also provide real-world experiences instead of second-hand experiences. For example, instead of studying farms in a book an internship may allow an individual the chance to actually get their hands dirty (so to speak) on a real organic farm while planting, harvesting, working with livestock and much more.
While people have different reasons for taking on an internship, the most common reasons are as follows:
- To gain insider knowledge in a field.
- To gain college credits.
- To fulfill a specific college major requirement.
- To decide if a specific career is the right path.
- To learn skills from someone experienced in a field.
- To gain more confidence in current abilities.
- To learn how to apply skills learned in books or a class.
- To meet others in a field.
- To enhance a resume or college application.
Some internships are paid (usually a small stipend), some are unpaid and others provide perks such as room and board but no monetary rewards. Some internships are short, lasting only a few weeks but others may be as long as a year.
Beyond skills and knowledge, internships may offer college students credits that count toward course completion, resume experience and references. Sometimes internships even translate into long-term work or a real career with a company.
The individual who is taking part in the internship provides labor, time and hopefully commitment to the field and help to the company or place they're interning for.
Once in a while the terms apprenticeship and internship are intermixed. That works in some cases, as an apprenticeship is also a system of on-the-job training training. However, one difference you sometimes see is that an apprentice and employer may work out an agreement where the apprentice works for said employer for an agreed amount of time, after the training period ends.
The U.S. Department of Labor maintains an Office of Apprenticeship website where you can learn more.