Apprenticeships, Fellowships, Post-Grad Internships—What's the Difference and Are They Worth It?
When I made a career change two years ago, I felt like I had all the options in the world. There were so many things to consider, it was really overwhelming at times. I knew I wanted to be a writer, and there were a lot of avenues I could have taken to get to where I am today.
The problem for most people, especially if you’re anything like me, is that there are sometimes too many possibilities. And some of the most popular options are hard to differentiate. And when it comes to getting more experience as you attempt to switch fields, understanding the differences between an apprenticeship, a fellowship, and a post-grad internship can feel overly complicated. How could you not look at those words and think, “Geez, those all sound the same to me?”
So, to make your life a little bit easier, here are the differences between all those options—and a few tips on how to determine whether or not they’re worth your time.
What’s an Apprenticeship?
Much like an internship, an apprenticeship does not come with the promise of a full-time job. However, apprenticeships are a little more robust than a traditional internship and are geared toward people who are more certain of what they want to do with their careers. Often this means that while you’re in the apprenticeship program, your employer will entrust you with actual work, which you’ll do with the support of more senior members of your team. You occasionally might be asked to do a little bit of grunt work, but most of your time will be spent on projects that will have a profound impact on the entire company.
Is This Worth My Time?
If you’re uneasy about the possibility of having to search for work again after your apprenticeship is up, this is probably not the best avenue for you. However, if you’re open to this arrangement, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to roll up your sleeves and gain some practical experience. Not only could this lead to an excellent full-time job down the road, but apprentices are also typically paid fair market value for the duration of their time with the company.
OK, Then What’s a Post-Graduate Internship?
Wait, internship? I thought those were only for college students. Well, yes and no. Companies are always interested in people who already have professional experience under their belts, but are looking for additional hands-on training to equip them for a promotion or a career change. While this might seem like a step back at first glance, this can be an ideal arrangement for someone who doesn’t know how to transition into something new.
Is This Worth My Time?
Whether or not this is worth your time depends on your situation. If you’re currently unemployed and struggling through a difficult job search and have an opportunity to gain some additional experience in a post-graduate internship, this might be something you should consider.
However, you’ll need to think about all the ways this might impact your life. You need to ask yourself if taking a (potentially) unpaid job will make it too difficult to pay your rent? If so, don’t rush into this opportunity without doing two things. First, be open with the hiring manager about your situation. And secondly, if you need to shuffle your schedule to make time for additional revenue-generating money, be prepared to work extremely hard for the duration of your position.
With that said, there are plenty of companies who hire part-time post-grad interns, which could give you the opportunity to get that experience without leaving your full-time position. And that could be the safer choice if a job offer isn’t guaranteed after you complete the internship.
I Understand, Just One More Question: What Is a Fellowship?
Fellowships tend to have more academic connotations. Often the term serves as a broad way to describe national grants or scholarships that support research in the United States and sometimes abroad. In some cases, you might find a fellowship that allows you to write a book about a certain region for a year. In other cases, you might be granted one to continue a project you started in college. Although the focus might be more research-heavy, this doesn’t mean they’re only available to current undergraduate or graduate students. In fact, there are plenty available for professionals who are looking to make a career change.
Is it Worth My Time?
Mid-career professionals often turn to these to transition into teaching or public policy jobs. If you’re looking to make a drastic change, and aren’t able to take an entry-level role in the field of your choice, this is a good option to consider. However, fellowships tend to be competitive, so while you should feel empowered to apply, you should also plan carefully and think about all possibilities—whether that means taking a different option than you anticipated, or having a back-up plan in the event you’re not granted one.
It’s an exciting proposition to have a handful of options at your fingertips. And when you come across an interesting apprenticeship, fellowship, or post-graduate internship, use this help to guide your decision making. Just make sure to ask the hiring manager in any of these situations if there’s potential to be hired if you do well—that way you can go into the position knowing exactly what you’ll get out of it.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author