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Apprenticeships vs. internships: What’s the difference?

Published April 16, 2024| minute read
Dhara Singh

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    If you’re a college student or a recent graduate looking to build up your professional experience, you may have more options than you may realize. Two to potentially explore are apprenticeships and internships.

    Apprenticeships usually last upwards of a year and typically provide on-the-job training in which you’ll work alongside real employees, get paid, and learn specific skills. In some cases, apprenticeships offer a pathway to full-time roles (although not always). If your desired career path requires specific certifications or on-the-job working hours to land full-time roles, apprenticeships may be a worthy option to explore.

    Internships, however, are designed to offer exposure to entry-level work. They typically last a couple of months, although that can vary, and participating in an internship typically doesn’t provide an obvious pathway to full-time employment.

    There’s a lot to consider when thinking about these two options. In this article, we’ll break down the differences between apprenticeships and internships so you can decide which one may be right for you.

    What are apprenticeships?

    The U.S. Department of Labor describes apprenticeships as an often lengthy (sometimes multi-year), hands-on work experience that may include a structured plan and mentorship focusing on building specific skills and fulfilling an employer’s needs.

    How old do you have to be to land an apprenticeship?

    Depending on the state you’re seeking an apprenticeship in, you must legally be between the ages of 16 to 18. The age requirements for individual apprenticeships, though, will vary. Some may require that you’re a high school or college graduate, while others may just have a specific age requirement.

    What industries offer apprenticeships?

    According to U.S. government data, as of February 2024, there are 641,044 apprenticeships offered across the U.S. Industries ranging from trades like plumbing and carpentry to information technology and sales provide apprenticeships. The most popular occupations with apprenticeship opportunities include electricians (12.7% of all registered apprentices) followed by carpenters (4.82%), according to 2024 apprenticeship data by the U.S. Department of Labor.

    While trade jobs tend to be the most associated with apprenticeships, there has been a growing movement to offer apprenticeships in a broader range of industries in recent years, including engineering and financial services.

    How to get an apprenticeship?

    There are multiple ways to find apprenticeships. For starters, you may consider looking at the U.S. government’s Apprenticeship Job Finder tool to see what opportunities are available.

    Other ways of finding an apprenticeship include:

    • Looking at online job boards
    • Looking at your state’s labor and workforce department website
    • Looking for individual companies who offer apprenticeships
    • Seeking out trade associations that may provide listings of apprenticeships

    Do you get paid in an apprenticeship?

    Apprenticeships do pay, though it tends to be less than what a full-time employee makes. While apprentices tend to be paid less than those in full-time roles, they may advance in pay as they advance in the apprenticeship.

    The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the average starting salary after an apprentice completes an apprenticeship program is $80,000.

    How long are apprenticeships?

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, apprenticeships can range from as little as one year all the way up to six years. As you weigh whether an apprenticeship program meets your needs and career goals, pay attention to the timing of it to make sure it will work for you.

    What’s an internship?

    Internships, as described by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (PDF), are short-term practical work experiences for students, recent graduates and people changing careers. Whereas apprenticeships are usually paid, internships may not always be. Internships in certain cases can be completed for college credit, and in those instances, you won’t be paid for the internship and may even need to pay your school tuition or fees to receive the credit.

    How do you find internships?

    Like apprenticeships, there are many ways you can land an internship. Here are few you may consider:

    • Asking your school’s career center for leads
    • Applying via online job boards
    • Looking at professional social media sites
    • Attending networking events
    • Sending cold emails to potential managers
    • Asking family and friends for leads
    • Searching and applying for company-specific internship programs

    Do you get paid in an internship?

    You may get paid in an internship, but not always. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that of the 2023 college grads who had internships, 59% of those were paid.

    How long are internships?

    Internships usually range from one to three months but may be longer depending on the specific internship.

    What’s are the pros and cons of internships vs. apprenticeships?

    If you’re deciding whether an internship or an apprenticeship is a better fit for you, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of both to help you make the decision. There’s not one right answer, only what will work better for you and your goals.

    Pros and cons of internships


    • May help to build your resume
    • May expose you to what it’s like to work in a particular industry or at a specific company
    • May lead to job leads or offers
    • May be paid or available for college credit
    • May be an opportunity to meet professionals and expand your network
    • There’s a vast range of internships in almost all industries to explore and apply for


    • Tend to only last for between one to three months, so they may not offer an in-depth experience
    • Some internships may be unpaid
    • Internships tend not to lead to any kind of credential
    • Tend not to provide a clear pathway to a full-time role

    Pros and cons of apprenticeships


    • May provide hands-on training and classroom training with a mentor
    • Many offer a specific credential or certification upon completion that you can add to your resume
    • Most of the time, apprenticeships are paid opportunities
    • Because many apprenticeship programs are a year and over, may provide specialized skill development opportunities


    • May offer less pay than that of full-time employees
    • The long length of some apprenticeships may be a downside for some
    • Not all industries and companies offer apprenticeships so there may be less access to this type of opportunity 

    Final thoughts

    Because there are no hard or fast rules if an apprenticeship or an internship is right for you, explore both opportunities to find the right option for your needs. It may also be helpful to talk to past participants of specific internship and apprenticeship programs to get honest opinions about specific programs.