Job vs Career: What is the Difference Between a Job and a Career?

Jobs vs careers - what's the difference? In this quick post, we'll go over the differences between careers and jobs, as well as internships and work.

Jobs and careers— 

Many people use these terms interchangeably, though they have different meanings.

So, in this brief guide, we’re going to go over the differences between jobs and careers. And, just for good measure, we’ll throw a couple other terms into the mix so you can walk away with a clear understanding (hopefully!) of the differences between a career and a job.

Let’s start with jobs, first:

Jobs

What is a job, exactly?

Here’s the Dictionary.com definition of a job:

A post of employment; full-time or part-time position. Or, a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price.

Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition of job:

A regular remunerative position. Or, a specific duty, role, or function. Or, a piece of work, especially a small miscellaneous piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate.

So— 

A job is any task assigned to a person, whether from themselves or from an employer or client, usually paid for in return for successful completion.

(Looking for your first job? We’ve got a list of the best jobs for first-timers here.)

Now, let’s learn what a career is before sorting out the differences:

Careers

So, what is a career, then?

Here’s the Dictionary.com definition of a career:

An occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework. Or, a person’s progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking.

Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition of career:

A profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling. Or, a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement, especially in public, professional, or business life.

Basically, a career is your lifelong, or at least years-long, job or employment path. 

Job vs Career

A job is essentially something you do for money, whereas a career is a group of jobs in the same field done over a long period of time. 

When you’re in college and you work as a retail store sales rep part-time to earn some extra cash, that’s a job. But, if you plan to continue in the same industry after you finish university, perhaps earning promotions towards store management, then you have a career in retail.

Work

How about jobs vs work?

Here’s the Dictionary.com definition of work:

Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil. Or, productive or operative activity.

Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition of work:

An activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something. Or, one’s place of employment. Or, something produced or accomplished by effort, exertion, or exercise of skill.

Work is a broader term than job, as it can mean any task, paid or unpaid, you do to get something accomplished. 

(Ready to look for work? Check out our list of the best sites to look for jobs here.)

Internships

Is an internship a job?

Here’s the Dictionary.com definition of an internship:

Any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession. Or, any period of time during which a beginner acquires experience in an occupation, profession, or pursuit.

Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition of an intern:

An advanced student or graduate usually in a professional field (such as medicine or teaching) gaining supervised practical experience (as in a hospital or classroom).

So, an internship is always a job (which also makes it always work), as an intern is tasked with completing specific duties and responsibilities, whether paid or unpaid. 

However, one point to note is that when listing your internship on a resume or CV, you often should place it separately from regular, paid work experience.

Related Read: Internship Basics & Everything You Need to Know About Intern Programs

So, I hope that helped to clear things up! If you have any questions about the differences between a job and a career, a career and a passion, or whether you should list something on your resume, leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

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Christian Eilers
Written By Christian Eilers
Christian Eilers is a writer and expert on the topics of education, entrepreneurship, career advice, travel, and culture. At Goodwall, he covers topics including self-improvement, social impact, college preparation, career development, climate action, and more. Christian is originally from New York City and now resides in Warsaw, Poland. At his desk, you're sure to find Pickwick, his Devon Rex cat, either attacking his fingers as he types or the monitor as the mouse pointer moves around.

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