Recruiting the Best & the Brightest

Experiential Education Program Comparison

  Internship Co-Op Apprenticeship Externship Practicum
  • Experiential
  • Learning objectives
  • Part-time
Hands-on training Workforce training
  • Experiential
  • Job Shadowing
  • Observation
  • Job Practice
Timeframe 1+ semester 2+ semesters 2+ semesters 1 day – 2 weeks 1-3 days/week
Eligibility Secondary & Post-secondary Post-secondary Post-secondary Any student Graduate Level
Paid or Unpaid? Paid/Unpaid Paid Paid Unpaid Unpaid
Class Credit Varies by industry
Convert to Hire
Common Industry All Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Trades
  • Finance
  • Education
  • Nursing

Entry-Level Talent Pipeline Programs


An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.

To ensure that an experience — whether it is a traditional internship, or one conducted remotely or virtually — is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship, all the following criteria must be met:

  1. The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
  2. The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
  3. The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
  4. There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
  5. There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
  6. There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
  7. There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.

Adapted from the National Association of Colleges & Employers, Position Statement: U.S. Internships

Cooperative Education (Co-Op)

Cooperative education programs, or co-ops, provide students with multiple periods of work in which the work is related to the student’s major or career goal. The typical program plan is for students to alternate terms of full-time classroom study with terms of full-time, discipline-related employment. Since the program participation involves multiple work terms, the typical participant will work three or four work terms, thus gaining a year or more of career related work experience before graduation. Virtually all co-op positions are paid, and the vast majority involve some form of academic credit.

Adapted from the NACE 2018 Internship & Co-Op Survey Report


An Apprenticeship is an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway where employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction, and a portable, nationally recognized credential. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction to prepare workers for highly skilled careers. Workers benefit from apprenticeships by receiving a skills-based education that prepares them for good-paying jobs, while helping employers recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce.

Adapted from the United States Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship


Externships are experiential learning opportunities, similar to internships but generally shorter, provided by partnerships between educational institutions and employers to give students short, practical experiences in their field of study. Usually a one day to week-long experience, where the extern shadows a working professional to observe and get a preview of the day-to-day activities needed for the career.

Adapted from


A practicum, also known as work placement, is a course (often graduate level) focused on a specialized field of study, designed to give students supervised practical application of a previously or concurrently studied theory. In some cases, the practicum may be a part-time student teaching placement that occurs the semester before a student's full-time student placement.

Next Steps

So, you’ve identified your ideal experiential program…now what?

  • Begin to build out your program curriculum, expectations and structure.
  • Contact local Tampa Bay area secondary and post-secondary career centers to learn how you can partner to connect to top local talent.