Apprenticeship or Internship - which one is right for you?

Apprenticeships and internships are both ways for aspiring or early-career Software Engineers to gain experience in the field.

Typically, apprenticeships are longer-term and include a training program.  The intent is that the apprentice will be hired full-time after successful completion of the program.

Internships are shorter-term and are about learning and practicing on the job.  Interns can experience the day-to-day as a Software Engineer and see if they emjoy it.

Differences between apprenticeships and internships

According to the US Department of Labor, there are six main differences.


Internships are short-term, generally 1-3 months.  Traditionally, in the US, interns are working during their summer break from college.

Apprenticeships are long-term, generally 1-3 years.


Internships are unstructured and focus on general, entry-level work experience.  In my experience, this often means that your responsibilities are the same as an entry-level Engineer.  You plug into the team and start picking up stories, pretty much from day one - asking questions and learning what you need to know to complete those specific tasks.

Apprenticeships include a structured training program or training plan, focused on mastering a specific set of skills.


Internships can sometimes include a mentorship, but often, they do not.  As you have questions or need help, you can lean on your co-workers or your manager for help.

Apprentices are often closely led through training programs with a designated mentor.  They often get individualized attention and support throughout the program.

Whether you are an intern or a mentor, I highly encourage you to seek out a mentor or a coach.  Learn more about mentorship and coaching.


Because interns spend most of their time learning, they can be unpaid.  Though, in my experience, Software Engineering Interns are usually paid.  They can sometimes lead to a full-time offer, but not always.

Apprentices are contributors, and as such, they are paid. Apprenticeships typically lead to a full-time offer after successful program completion.


Apprenticeships can lead to an industry-recognized credential - but I have not seen this in our industry. If you have seen this, please let me know, I'd love to learn more about it.

Internships do not lead to any kind of credential - they are often just work experience that you can add to your resume or CV.

College Credit

Both internships and apprenticeships may be credited by colleges or universities.  Paid internships or apprenticeships can often allow you to minimize or avoid debt altogether, making them very attractive.

Which one is right for you?

If you're an aspiring Software Engineer, but have little-to-no formal training, an apprenticeship could be a great fit.  From what I've seen, there are far fewer apprenticeship programs being offered than internships.  This means that acceptance into an apprenticeship program can be quite competitive - any experience you do have (even if self-taught) can give you an advantage.  Completion of a bootcamp program can be beneficial - and sometimes required.

If you have some formal training in software, such as some college or university experience toward a Computer Science (or similar) degree, an internship may be a better fit for you.  Completion of a bootcamp program is another path to being hired as an intern.