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Externships include Traditional internship, Virtual internships and more.

Traditional internships - Practical training within an organization. The most typical example are the thousands of college students who spend a summer in Washington DC working on Capital Hill or in some government organization. Traditionally the interns are college students.
Traditional internships have expanded to include a great deal of variety but largely involve working on site in an organizations office and still often involve college students over the summer. Recent college graduates also take part in internships while trying to work their way into a career path.
Traditionally internships are unpaid though some do offer some pay or a stipend.
Recently colleges (and even high schools) have more frequently given academic credit for internships (often with requirements of writing a paper on the experience).

Virtual internships (also just called "externships" - by us anyway) - rather than requiring the interns physical presence in for example, Washington DC the intern works remotely. In the workplace the "telecommuting trend" continues to increase and externships offer the option of practical training in ways never possible before. Students, for example, could work remotely during the semester on externships. Those experiences could be given academic credit (depending on the school). Those experiences could continue in the summer (or not) and in the summer they could be remote or "on-site" experiences.
Another possibility, if an organization only has physical space for 2 summer on-site interns they could work with a handful of externs during the year and then offer the on-site opportunities to those that deserve it most. Elementally the requirement for on-site work enlarges the pool of possible candidates greatly. The largest downside is the loss of the experience of working in the office that an traditional intern gains. However, for many the choice is not between a traditional internship and a virtual one but the choice between nothing and a virtual experience.

Apprenticeship - most often associate with those learning a trade or art. Apprenticeships are used in occupations where practical experience is required. In general, an apprentice signs an agreement with a sponsor to work for a number of years. The explanation for why this is required is that the sponsor will have to spend significant resources training the apprentice and needs to have a period after the apprentice is skilled to recoup their investment. More information on apprenticeships and regulations that have been adopted over the years to reduce the risks associated with such contracts can be found at the Department of Labor web site.

What makes it a job or an internship or something else? - there does not seem to be a clear line that separate jobs from externships from internships form apprenticeship from vocational training and other similar categories. The blurry line is usually characterized by some function of:

  • pay - the less you get the more likely it is to be seen as an internship
  • learning - the more the experience contributes to the learning the more willing people are to see it as an internship
  • fixed length - in general internships are short term opportunities with end dates
  • law - there are legal definitions of what makes someone an employee that relate to some degree with what a rational person would expect (but of course being the law it can also add to the fuzziness of the line at times) - see an example
  • saving face - if job is low paying, calling it an internship elevates its status
You don't often hear doctors described as apprentices but they seem to fit that category fairly well. What are doctors called when they are learning the trade? Interns (also residents). Keep in mind, while using the web that you can't reliably determine how any site will choose to use these words.
From the Social Security Web Site:

A hospital which had formerly reported its resident physicians and interns as employees asserted that after June 30, 1970: 1) these individuals were independent contractors and not employees; 2) they were students whose services were excluded from coverage under the State's section 218 agreement with the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare; and 3) the amounts they received were scholarships or fellowships and not wages. Held, upon review the Commissioner of Social Security found that: 1) the resident physicians and interns were employees under the common-law rules; 2) these individuals were not excluded from coverage under the student exclusion; and 3) since they were employees of the hospital and were covered under its 218 agreement, the amounts paid constitute wages.

Go to the Social Security Administration web page for more of this text.

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