What is the Difference Between an Internship and a Practicum?

If you’re on the tail end of your college career, your schedule is likely to contain either an internship or a practicum. While they are somewhat similar to each other and are both there to help train you for your future job by doing hands-on work, there are some differences.

Time and Responsibility

If you decide to go the practicum route, you won’t have as big of a commitment compared to students who do internships. Usually, practicums are only for a few hours each week – about the amount of time that you spend in a normal college class. You’ll also be heavily supervised while being taught about the duties that you’ll have to perform once you enter the workforce. If you work as an intern, you’ll end up working more hours per week and may end up working for a whole year instead of just a semester. As an intern, you’ll still be more heavily supervised than regular workers, but you’ll be able to be more independent than students doing practicums. Interns are also usually given more important duties than the ones that are given to students doing practicums.

Who’s the Boss?

Internships and practicums usually each have a different type of person to supervise students while they work. Because internships usually require more work and more responsibility than practicums, you’ll probably have a professional as a boss if you apply for internships. Since these professionals are in the line of work that you want to get into and have years of experience, they’ll be able to give you a feel for what your job will be like once you graduate and start working. Practicums, on the other hand, are often led by professors. Since individuals who are involved with practicums usually don’t work as many hours or have as much responsibility as they would working an internship, it makes sense that professors are capable of teaching students that are in practicums. Remember that professors have often held jobs outside of academia, so you can still gain a lot of wisdom by asking them questions about the job that you’re learning about.

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As a rule of thumb, students participating in practicums aren’t paid because they’re learning how to do a job in a heavily supervised setting instead of actually performing work duties all day long. These students also aren’t working for very many hours per week, so even if they were working instead of being taught how to do things, they still wouldn’t be as valuable as other workers. Interns may or may not be paid – it really just depends on the company. Since students are usually in charge of finding their own internships, you can choose to only apply to paid positions if you’re struggling financially or don’t feel comfortable with working without pay. Keep in mind, though, that most students prefer paid internships, so there will probably be more competition for paid internships. If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, be prepared to take a non-paying position.

Resource: What Are Some Good Internships for Psychology Students?

Whether you take a practicum course or find an internship, you’ll gain experience that will help you decide whether or not a certain field is for you and help you land your first job after you finish with your degree program.