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What Is the Difference Between a Practicum and Internship?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
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Both a practicum and internship can offer hands-on experience for students, and one or both may be required before graduation. When students have access to both types of job training, it may be difficult to decide which one to participate in, because they seem similar. One major difference, though, is that an internship may be more demanding than a practicum, because an internship tends to be presided over by an employer rather than a professor. Interns usually are required to perform more duties on their own when compared to those participating in a practicum, so an internship has a higher chance of paying a salary than a practicum does. An additional difference between a practicum and internship is that the latter usually requires more time and dedication than a practicum.

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One of the ways in which a practicum and internship differ is that the former usually requires less responsibility than the latter. For example, a practicum is meant to allow students to apply what is taught in college courses to real life, but they usually are carefully presided over by professors during the experience. This means they may see firsthand how classroom teachings can apply, but they typically are not given a lot of responsibility. On the other hand, an internship usually requires students to work in a setting that is very similar to where they might work when they get a regular job. They usually are offered more responsibility and may be supervised and trained by professionals in the workplace rather than by professors.

This difference between a practicum and internship means students who decide to take the latter route often are paid. This is because an internship usually requires students to actually do the work — as opposed to just learning how to do it in a work setting — which tends to benefit the employer just as much as it does the student. On the other hand, students who undergo the learning experience of a practicum are rarely paid because they do not perform many duties. Any expenses associated with the practicum, however, are usually paid, and some students may earn letters of recommendation if their hard work is acknowledged by those presiding over this type of learning experience.

An additional detail that sets apart the average practicum and internship is that the latter usually requires more hours than the former. An internship can be part-time or full-time and can last anywhere from weeks to months. In most cases, though, internships last for a semester, a school year or a summer break, and students usually have to show up at least a few days a week to get the full benefit of this type of work placement. On the contrary, a practicum may only take up a few hours a week, because it is meant to give students a brief look at what they may be doing in the future after graduation. Students trying to decide between a practicum and internship may find that they can benefit from both, because an internship can follow a practicum once the basics are learned.

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