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. In medicine it may refer to a visiting physician who is not part of the regular staff. In law, it usually refers to rigorous legal work opportunities undertaken by law students for law school credit, similar to that of a junior attorney. [1] It is derived from Latin externus and from English -ship.

The term externship has a first known use date of 1945 in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.[2]


Due to the short duration, externships can be easily completed during a student’s spring and summer breaks or even during a January inter-session. Externships are often viewed as job shadowing, since externs are closely supervised by employee volunteers who agree to walk them through day-to-day routines at the company or organization.[3] The experience allows students to apply their coursework learning to a real life setting. Externships offer samples of career possibilities. It is a chance for students to observe and ask questions.[4] They can be viewed as external studies which combine classroom knowledge with real-world experience.[5] This knowledge prepares students for the transition from school to career.

Externships can lead to opportunities after students complete their studies. They can help pre-graduates get their foot in the door for possible job openings or even make them better candidates for aggressive internship opportunities. The goal of an extern is to become familiar with new professions and job fields. Externships are also a source of networking contacts once a profession is chosen.

Externships are not only conducted for the benefit of the extern, but for the host as well. Both parties get a chance to observe one another. Successful externships could lead to recruitment possibilities which would be based on a thoroughly informed decision.[6]

Legal externships, unlike mere internships, can be taken for law school credit.[7] Because students receive school credit for the externship, the experience is regulated by the American Bar Association, the accreditation body responsible for setting and enforcing law school standards. ABA Standard 304(c) requires that such "field placement courses" engage students with work comparable to that of a junior level attorney. They must be "reasonably similar to the experience of a lawyer advising or representing a client ". [8] Schools discourage sponsors from using externs for menial tasks often associated with internships, like getting coffee and filing papers.

See also


  1. Externship | Definition of Externship by Merriam-Webster. Accessed: 2011-06-29. (Archived by WebCite® at https://www.webcitation.org/5zo6BhOOZ?url=http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/externship?show%3D0%26t%3D1309364335
  2. "University of Arkansas: Externships/Job Shadowing". Archived from the original on 2011-08-13. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  3. "Pilot program allows second-years to shadow alumni in the workplace". 3 April 2003. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  4. "University of Michigan Law School: Externships". Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  5. Muirhead, Gred. (29 April 1991). "Student externships aid recruitment". Supermarket News. 25.
  6. American Bar Association Rule 304(c)
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