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Should I look for an internship or a traineeship?

After leaving school, most students either continue to study, or they enter into the world of work. If you’re one of those people who can’t wait to start working and become independent, then you might want to consider looking for internships or applying to a trainee programme.

Both options are great for school leavers and each has their advantages, but how do you really know whether an internship or a traineeship is for you? In this post, we explore both options to help you decide which is most suitable for your needs.

What is the difference between an internship and a traineeship exactly?

An internship is an organised, short term work placement, where you have the opportunity to learn some of the skills associated with that career. Sometimes, doing an internship involves working towards gaining a certification that will help you as your career develops. Some internships are paid, whereas others aren’t.

A traineeship on the other hand, is an official training programme, offered by employers to train up new staff for a specific role. Traineeships can last from a few months to a year and unlike internships, you’ll be paid for your time. Typically, traineeships are offered by larger companies but medium-sized businesses do sometimes advertise traineeship opportunities too.

Which is the right career move for me?

Students normally look for internships straight after school as a way of gaining experience in a certain industry. If your chosen career path is known for being competitive, then having the experience of working in a few different roles will definitely help improve your chances of securing a job in the future.

Because internships are often unpaid, they’re well-suited to students who have some money saved up or still live with their parents. If your priority is to gain work experience and learn the skills required to enter into a career, then an internship could be for you.

However, if you want to start earning straight away, then finding a traineeship programme is a smart career move. If you’re a motivated person with the desire to progress in your career, then a traineeship will offer you a good grounding for moving into other roles in the future. With a traineeship, you’ll learn how to manage your money sooner than you would with an internship and you’ll be able to gain your independence quicker too.

Which will improve my career prospects the most?

From an employer’s perspective, an internship shows commitment  to learning new skills. As some internships are unpaid, employers normally appreciate the dedication it takes to work for free and provides them with a good indication of your enthusiasm for potential job roles.

Many employers consider first-hand experience to be more important than qualifications, so having an internship to talk about on your CV can be impressive. In some cases, internships can lead to full-time jobs if there is a position available with the company. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that there’s no guarantee that completing an internship will end in a full-time job, so you should consider how quickly you’d be hoping to secure a position after leaving school.

In most cases, after completing a traineeship, the company will offer you a job. Generally speaking, it’s in their best interest to offer positions to people who they have already invested in through training . Traineeships are ideal for students who want to progress in their career, as development opportunities tend to come up regularly in larger companies.

Employers who offer traineeship programmes tend to have a strong focus on developing people, so if you make a good impression throughout your training, you could be headhunted for future positions

I still can’t decide what to do…help!

If you’re still unsure about whether an internship or a traineeship is best for you, then take the time to answer the following questions. They will help you gain a better understanding of your current situation and what you want from a future career.

  1. Will I need experience in my career before someone offers me a job?
  2. Do I need to start making money straight away?
  3. How competitive is my chosen industry?
  4. Would I be happy working for the same company for a long period?
  5. At this stage, do I want to keep my career options fairly open?
  6. Am I convinced this industry is the right career choice for me?

Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll have a better idea of whether you should be applying for internships or traineeships. Remember, no one option is better than the other and the right choice is the one that satisfies your needs.

How will you decide whether an internship or a traineeship is best for you? What advice would you give others who are facing this decision?

For more student careers advice, check out our student careers blog, where we provide useful hints and tips for finding work experience, jobs and advice on progressing in your career.

By Jamie Thomson