Externships: What They Are And Why They're Important

Similar to an apprenticeship or internship, an externship is typically a training program offered by educational institutions and private businesses that give students brief practical experiences in their field of study.
“It’s [usually] a short-term, unpaid ‘shadowing’ experience,” says Melissa Schultz, an associate director in Career Services at Lafayette College.

“The purpose of the externship is to gain first-hand insight into a career or industry of interest. Strictly a job shadowing program in the past, over the last few years we have added hosts in graduate and professional school, so that students can gain first-hand insight into these types of paths as well. For the host, the externship program provides an opportunity to support students, by sharing their time and talent. In many cases, through serving as hosts, alumni are able to ‘pay forward’ the support they received from other alumni during their time as a student.” She says some first-year students are familiar with the job shadow or externship concept through experiences they’ve had in high school–however, “this is a new concept for the majority of incoming students.”

Tiffany Kurzawa, an assistant director at the Center for Career Development at Gettysburg College, says the definition of an externship often varies by institution or organization. “If I had to speak generally, I would say that an externship is considered an opportunity for students to gain insight and knowledge in a particular career field of interest. Externships are valuable career learning experiences in that they provide the opportunity for students to see first-hand what the day-to-day work activities and responsibilities are in various professions and industries.” Kurzawa also believes that a majority of incoming freshman have never heard of an externship.

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Here are some highlights from Graduation on June 22nd.