Fellowship vs Internship: What’s the Difference and Which to Choose?

What is the difference between a fellowship vs internship? Read about internships and fellowships and discover which one is right for you!

As a college student or someone furthering your education, it’s important to start preparing your résumé for when you embrace your career. In a highly competitive workforce, just a college degree is simply not enough to get you a good job.

Improve your résumé with internships in fellowship opportunities during your academic studies. You’re able to increase your opportunities and hirable skills through these opportunities.

Many organizations have changed the structure of their internships in fellowships over the past year. Internships that typically required in-person attendance were converted to online and independent studies.

These changes have blurred the line even further between a fellowship vs internship. Keep reading to understand the difference between the two pre-professional opportunities.


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Why Pursue a Pre Professional Opportunity 

Pre-professional learning and career experience are valuable. These opportunities can get you used to the 9 to 5 routine. Interns learn organizational formats and garner relationships in the industry.

By seeking out an internship or fellowship, you’re able to expand your résumé but also your skillset. Both of these opportunities integrate you into the workforce in unique ways. It’s important to understand when you’re looking for a professional opportunity what will be best for you, an internship or a fellowship.

What Is an Internship? 

Internships are temporary onboarding opportunities for high school or college students. Typically these programs are designed for you to come in from an observation standpoint and learn rudimentary skills.

Internships allow you to explore the real-life dynamics of the workplace. These opportunities allow interns to build relationships with people within a company. This is helpful if you’re interested in returning when you’re looking for a full-time position.

In standard internship programs, you are being embedded into the workforce without receiving an active role to contribute outside of direction and observation. These are great opportunities if you want to learn more about an industry or profession.

Education Level 

Many companies allow high schoolers or college students to take part in their internship programs. When applying for an internship, they will explicitly state what level of education you require in order to be eligible. 

Internships give high schoolers or college students the chance to dip their toes into different fields of industry. Internships are designed to proactively give you an opportunity to explore a profession. This allows you to go back and change your major or career trajectory based on your satisfaction with your internship experience.

Related Read: Best First Jobs: 75+ First-Time Job Ideas for Teens & College Students

Compensation

Interns are typically brought in on an hourly basis. This means that they may receive an hourly wage or course credits for the work that they complete. If this is an unpaid internship, students can typically opt to receive course credit as their form of compensation.

Companies are able to bring on interns to help with major projects. This is because they come in temporarily and expand the workforce without the need to keep them on salary in the long term.

Application Process

When you’re applying for an internship, you want to prepare yourself as if you’re applying for a job. You’ll be submitting a résumé cover letter and possibly letters of recommendation.

For very competitive internships, it’s likely that your employer might require an interview depending on the number of applications. This will help them near the pool and see your communication skills in real-time.

Length of Position 

The duration of an internship typically coincides with the academic calendar. Internships can range from 1 to 3 months depending on the opportunity.

Internships are usually part-time positions during the fall or spring semesters. They can be a full-time schedule during the summer months. Many times they will work to fit with a student’s semester schedule.

Regardless of the length of your position, you should seek any opportunity that you have to speak to managers. You should work to build a strong report for them. I building these connections, you’ll be able to carry them into your academic studies and as you seek the job in the future.

Immersion Level 

At its core, what separates an internship from my fellowship is your immersion level. Internships focus on integrating you into the work environment as a training program.

You may gain full-time employment at the end of the company. The idea is for you to be in an observational position but integrate it into the workplace. By being a part of the staff in a temporary position, your focus is on observation.

Of course, the degree of active participation you can take varies based on the company that you are interning for. You should use all internship opportunities as a way to look at workplace dynamics and see what kind of company culture you’re looking for.

Related Read: How to Prepare for an Interview: 10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Big Day

What Is a Fellowship? 

As a fellowship candidate, you are going to set your own goals and create projects. Fellowships are specialized to help you independently create something.

As a fellow, you’re coming from a different perspective trying to bring something to an organization rather than continue regular operations. Fellowships require more specialized knowledge and skillset and are designed for fellows to innovate.

For a fellowship, he might often submit a project proposal that could be writing a book, conducting research, or developing a community-based initiative. The concept behind a fellowship is that in tandem with a company you will create something independently.

Education Level 

Fellowships typically do require a higher degree of education. Some may require the completion of your bachelor’s degree; however, some also require your master’s or doctoral degrees.

As a fellow, it’s necessary that you put your best foot forward on your academics as it may be a major factor in whether you were granted a fellowship or not.

Compensation

Fellows are often given a stipend or lump sum based on their project proposal. This would be how organizations would subsidize them for their work.

Because most fellowships are done on a stipend rather than an hourly basis, it’s very rare that follows will log their work hours on projects. Their funding comes from completion rather than hours put in.

Related Read: Co-op vs. Internship: What’s the Difference & Which Should You Choose?

Application Process

For most fellowships, you need to have a project proposal in mind during the application process. Companies are researchers who want to ensure that you have a track record that will ensure success in the future. That is why they may require additional paperwork.

It is not uncommon for your application to include your transcripts, writing samples, and an extensive set of letters of recommendation. If the company accepts your paperwork or your proposal, they may decide to move forward.

In a fellowship application, you are not only applying as an individual, but your project proposal is applying. Depending on the fellowship setup, a company may opt to amend your project proposal to align more with the organization or reject you on that sole basis.

Length of Position 

The length of a fellowship can truly depend on your project proposal. Although some companies offer a more structured program that is 2 to 3 months. Fellowships can often last up to a year because you are expected to complete your project.

Fellowships are learning opportunities but also opportunities for companies to expand. By bringing you on full-time, they’re able to integrate you into the company culture. This way, you can make calculated decisions for your project that align with the company.

Immersion Level 

Fellows are presented in the industry as equals to employees. Rather than being in an observational role, fellows are given responsibilities. Fellows are encouraged to take an active role in the workplace.

These positions may be temporary; however, it’s in the best interest of a company to integrate their fellows into their workforce. Ideally, a company’s fellows will seek full-time positions within their ranks, once they finish their degrees. This allows companies to save on onboarding costs and easily transition someone into their new role.

Fellowships may focus on professional development skills. From an industry perspective, it’s important to invest in your fellows so you may reap the benefits.

Related Read: Internship vs Job: What’s the Difference and Which One is Best for You?

So, Fellowship vs Internship: Which is Best? 

Now you understand the difference between an internship vs fellowship. You need to decide which will be more suitable for your academic pursuits and professional development.

These opportunities help you develop transferable skills and bolster your resume. Internships and fellowships offer a wide variety of opportunities before you enter the workforce.

To learn more in-depth on both jobs and internships, check out these great resources below:

Further Reading on Internships

Further Reading on Careers

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Goodwall Team
Written By Goodwall Team
This article was written by the Goodwall team or by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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