Difference between a Practicum and an Internship

By: | Updated: Feb-2, 2018
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A practicum and an internship are both designed to offer college students on-site training experiences. While both are integral for developing competency, there are significant differences between the two.

Summary Table

Practicum Internship
A supervised on-site experience that mainly requires a student to observe, record data, and assist professionals within a work setting A senior on-site experience that offers students an opportunity to work more independently
Supervised by professors Mainly supervised by on-site employees
Part-time working experience Full-time on-site experience that may require a student to work up to 40 hours a week
Unpaid May either be paid or unpaid
Lasts for a semester Lasts for up to 1 year



A practicum is an on-the-job training course designed to hone the skills and competency of students. It is a supervised application of studied theories. During a practicum, students can perform tasks under the supervision of staff and professors. However, their level of participation is limited to a certain extent.

Aside from assisting personnel within the work setting, students under a practicum can observe and record data. Also, they are required to complete tasks designated by their professors.

An internship, on the other hand, offers students hands-on experience within a real working environment. Typically, the student works under the supervision of an on-site personnel. This person delegates daily tasks and rates the student’s performance. Additionally, a program professor may monitor the student’s progress by making regular visits.

Essentially, an internship enables students to apply theories and work independently. Moreover, during an internship, students are expected to perform more advanced tasks.

Practicum vs Internship

So what’s the difference between a practicum and an internship? Even though they are both designed to develop the knowledge and skills of students, they have significant differences.

Firstly, their working hours and their extent of responsibility greatly vary. While practicums only last for a few hours within a regular school week, internships may extend up to 40 hours a week. Plus, in contrast to a practicum that ends within a semester, an internship can last for a year.

Since internships are senior field experiences, students under this program are given heavier responsibilities. Although interns receive more supervision than regular employees, they can work more independently than students completing their practicum. Additionally, the tasks delegated to interns are more advanced in nature.

For example, practicums for student nurses mainly involve observing senior nurses and charting vital signs, while nurse interns are expected to go beyond these duties. During an internship, students are expected to independently perform an evaluation of their patients.

In terms of supervision, students under an internship are handled by on-site professionals. Meanwhile, individuals completing their practicum are mainly supervised by professors.

Lastly, since a practicum is designed to help students gain more knowledge and skills, it is an unpaid on-site experience. An internship, on the other hand, may either be paid or unpaid.

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