It is important to know the difference between internships and graduate programs so that you are able to make more informed decisions when navigating through your career goals (consider the top in-demand job skills) and aspirations (see the top emerging jobs).
What is the difference?
People often think the two are mutually exclusive but they are not. There are subtle differences between the two. Many employers require some sort of experience before hiring you for that first job so because many believe that studying alone is not sufficient to prepare you for the workplace. Whether you’re in high school or university – the time will come for you to make critical decisions about what is suitable for your career path. And when that time comes, it is important to differentiate between the two.
An internship is an opportunity to gain experience in their relevant field while still studying. Companies often offer internships to students from the first year to the last year of varsity. However, some internships are dependent on qualifications. Notably, employment after the internship is possible but not guaranteed. Some employers use internships as a way to screen possible candidates for graduate program intake. They can be paid or unpaid.
A few key considerations when choosing an internship are whether this internship will offer you tangible experience that is worth your time. The last thing you want is an internship where you are being sent around to make coffee for your colleagues and not gaining any practice at all. This is not to say that you will be managing big projects because chances are that you will not – especially if you’re an intern. However, the aim of an internship is to gain an introduction to the culture and norm of the working world whilst adding to your skills and CV.
On the other hand, graduate programs are brought into effect by large corporations. They invest thousands in recruiting graduates that have demonstrated outstanding academic results and have minimal to no working experience. Graduate programs are also a way of bridging the gap and imparting skills that will help the candidate join the company. They are a way to fast track leadership and growth in a structured program. Therefore, you can expect coaching and mentoring.
Most companies often give the graduates an opportunity to rotate various parts of the business before deciding the best business unit for the candidate to be placed. This is, of course, dependent on whether your performance during the grad program is successful. Graduate programs will often recruit while you’re still a student in your final year – so it is important to work extremely hard to get good marks. Due to the high volume of applications, recruitment can begin as early as a year earlier. If you’re lucky enough to know the company you want to work from the initial stage of your academic career – researching the grad program requirements of the company you would like to work for is highly advisable. This gives you adequate time to prepare and work on improving your marks.
It is common knowledge that most universities and colleges do not offer the practical training of the academic content to properly prepare students. It is often theory-based. Therefore, internships and graduate programs give you a sneak preview in order to prepare you for the real working environment. The duration of internships can range between a week and 6 months while graduate programs can last between a year and two years. This time is important as it is used to bridge the gap between theory and practicals. More importantly, this period is critical for building your confidence when you finally apply for that job.