Schools Training

Apprenticeship vs. Internship: What is the Difference and Which is Better?

23 MAY 2012
Career Path : Continuing Education

You’ve been hearing people talking about apprenticeships and internships, but are not exactly sure what they are and if you need either. Here are some quick facts to help you figure out what they are, the difference between them, and which is better.



·         Apprenticeship: A preliminary employment opportunity given to a person who is not yet qualified to work in a particular trade. An apprenticeship is made up of two parts: school and work. Apprentices will get hands-on experience with a certified employer while also completing academic courses at an affiliated college.  Typically, apprenticeships are paid.

·         Internship: A temporary employment opportunity given to a person who has an avid interest but little to no experience in a given trade or industry. Internships are usually for 3-6 months, and allow recent graduates or industry novices the chance to gain experience in their field of interest. Some employers will offer interns a minor stipend, but most internships are unpaid.



·         Apprenticeship programs are available at many colleges throughout Canada and can dip into almost any trade sector. From plumbing to social work, there really is no limit to the range of employers that accept apprentices onto their team.

·         Internships can take place in virtually any employment setting. 



·         Apprenticeship: A person must first find an employer that is willing to provide an apprenticeship, and then apply to an apprenticeship program at an affiliated college. The student’s time will be split between work and studies. 

·         Internship: While some academic institutions facilitate internship opportunities, most internships are offered independently by employers of all trades and industries. More often than not people will need to apply for an internship directly as if they were applying for a regular job.



·         Apprenticeships are ideal for those who are interested in specializing in a certain trade but have not yet earned official certification to practice. Students who opt for an apprenticeship program will be at an advantage because they will gain work experience while earning their diploma or certificate. Many trade employers prefer to hire candidates with previous experience, so having an apprentice under your belt will surely set you apart from other applicants. Also, although employers do not guarantee a permanent position once an apprenticeship is completed, the chance that an apprentice will be hired is pretty high.

·         Internships are a great way to gain first-hand job experience in a preferred industry. Although internships do not always led to full-time positions and offer no monetary compensation, they are still a great way to get a glimpse of what a position in a given field would entail.


One great factor that sets apprenticeships apart from internships is the Red Seal Program (RSP). The RSP ensures that, upon successful completion of an examination, apprenticeship graduates will be able to practice their trade anywhere across the country. This gives trade workers the liberty to work where they please without having to jump over any provincial hurdles. So, if you complete an apprenticeship in Ontario, you will be certified to work in any other province or territory without having to undergo any additional schooling. But, keep in mind that the RSP isn’t applicable to all trades. For example, some automotive apprenticeships offer the RSP program, while others do not. That said, if professional mobility is a priority in your career plans, you may want to research which trades have the RSP option before enrolling into a program.


The RSP does not mean that apprenticeships are better than internships. The question is not whether or not one is better than the other. What you need to ask is which one is right for you. At the end of the day, both aim to provide students or novices the opportunity to gain industry or trade experience in order to help them launch their career. And trust me, they help. Every employer prefers hiring someone with some experience under their belt, and apprenticeships and internships do exactly this. So. go see what’s out there and grab whichever suits you best.