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Career Services > Ways to get experience during college > Externships

On this page:

What is an externship experience?

What do students do in an externship?

What academic levels may do an externship?

When and where, geographically, does an externship occur?



What is a an externship experience?

An externship is an unpaid learning opportunity for students to spend time observing and shadowing a professional on the job for the purpose of investigating a career field.

Student goals:

  • Gain a better understanding of work environments and career fields.
  • Obtain information on which to base and clarify career goals.
  • Expand your professional network (if you make a good impression!).

Employer/sponsor goals:

  • Assist students in exploring and/or confirming a career path.
  • Identify a future intern or full-time employee.
  • See your organization from a fresh perspective by gathering student feedback.


What do students do in an externship?

This varies based on the organization and the career field.
In addition to shadowing your organizational sponsor, it could include:

  • Observing the work that is conducted in one or more departments.
  • Learning about professionalism, confidentiality and procedures that may apply in the workplace.
  • Conducting informational interviews to learn about the jobs of different individuals in various roles within the organization.
  • Assisting with basic office tasks.
  • Observing interactions with customers, guests, clients, patients, etc.
  • Sitting in on meetings.
  • Touring the facilities of the organization.


What academic level must students be to do an externship?

An externship can occur as early as high school and can be done throughout one's career.

Therefore Virginia Tech students of any major or academic level may take initiative to seek an externship experience that is related to a career field of interest.

An employer may have preferences or requirements related to academic level or prior experience. Students seeking externship experiences should ask employers their preferences and requirements.


When and where, geographically, do externships occur?

This can vary considerably depending on the circumstances and location of the student and the workplace sponsor, and the career field. Some examples:

  • A student might have a scheduled time weekly to spend in an externship in an office/work environment over the span of a summer, a semester, or much longer.
    This could occur in summer at a location where the student lives.
    This could occur during a student's enrollment at Virginia Tech if the workplace location were in commuting distance of campus.
  • During school breaks, the student might arrange a full work-day, or multi-day intensive externship experience that might span one to five days, or longer. This could be any location where the student could have access, such as your home/family location, near your campus location or elsewhere.