After completing your degree, you’ll see some of your friends move on to explore the corporate world, while others advance their careers in academia. Internships and fellowships are the gateways to each of these avenues.
Both options may sound similar, but they take you in very different directions. So, fellowship vs. internship: How do you know which one is right for you?
You may have a difficult time telling them apart. As a job seeker, both options can seem promising. But it is essential to determine which path is right for you. The question of fellowship vs. internship is a debate for every college student, and it is high time the score is settled.
There are nine pivotal questions that anybody asks when deciding between a fellowship vs. internship. We’ll answer each of those questions for you; and in return, you’ll have to answer one question each time.
1. Who is eligible?
Internship: Undergraduate college students (all years) and recent graduates are encouraged to apply. All you need is a willingness to learn and work. It helps if your field of study is in line with the kind of company and industry you’re interning at.
Fellowship: Only graduate, postgraduate, and Ph.D. candidates are allowed. Fellowships are merit-based and awarded for pursuing a doctoral degree. You have to be inclined towards higher education and possess specialized knowledge and skills.
Question to ask yourself: Fellowship vs. internship — which do I qualify for?
2. What’s the focus of this program?
Internship: You are essentially a trainee, learning the real-life working dynamics of the organization or industry. Candidates participate in a predefined program. It is a way of garnering work experience before applying for permanent employment.
Fellowship: Study and research in a specific academic field is your only objective. You design your experience. A fellow works under an institution to finish a project and make a long-lasting contribution to the academic discipline.
Question to ask yourself: Do I want to study a subject or topic in-depth, or do I want to apply my skills to practical work?
3. How difficult is the application and selection process?
Internship: Just click the apply button on the website and fill out an application. That’s all it takes to apply for an internship. The competition for acceptance depends on the company you’re applying for. Interning at Google will no doubt be tougher than interning at an unknown, up-and-coming tech startup.
Fellowship: The application process is quite elaborate. Expect to submit your resume, recommendation letter, transcript, sample work, written test, and project proposal. You will also likely have to participate in an interview.
Getting selected is pretty difficult as well, since you will be competing against other accomplished scholars. You must have some impressive accomplishments to surpass other applicants and land the fellowship. Most importantly, your academic interests and career plans should be well-formed in order to be considered a solid candidate. Fellowships are highly competitive and are not given to someone without clear and strong objectives.
Question to ask yourself: Fellowship vs. internship — how badly do I want it and how hard am I willing to try?
4. What is the work like?
Internship: Interns work according to strict guidelines under a supervisor to whom they report. The work is related to the company’s needs, and is mostly of an administrative nature. Working alongside other teams and witnessing the work process firsthand is one of the main perks.
Fellowship: The funding award has the benefit of limited or no work requirements. You have the liberty to choose your field of interest and expand your knowledge. Schedules, goals, and projects are all up to you. You are supposed to devote all of your time to your research. However, if your fellowship is offered by a university, there might be stipulated teaching requirements.
Question to ask yourself: Do I want autonomy over my work, or is learning the craft more important to me?
5. What kind of experience do you get out of it?
Internship: You get to put your theoretical knowledge into practice. Networking opportunities are another prime benefit. Witnessing and working with other professionals is a practical experience that no classroom or course can give you. It’s a chance to taste the real job world without all of the commitment. You might be disappointed, overwhelmed, or pleasantly surprised.
Fellowship: You complete the project you proposed or agreed to during your application. To do so, you are given access to labs, extensive academic libraries, and expert-level mentors. It leads to professional development, meaning you go from being a student to being a researcher. You essentially work alone to attain expertise on a topic.
Question to ask yourself: Do I want to explore different kinds of work, or have I already decided my path and want to work on professional development?
6. How long does it last?
Internship: Typically, internships last between one and three months, with a moderate workload. But, this varies from company to company. They may even last six months to a year and have full-time working hours. On the other hand, interns may only be required to work a few hours every day, or come in only a few days every week. Internships are available throughout the year.
Fellowship: This usually lasts for a year or more. But again, this varies depending on the type of fellowship and the rules of the granting institution. Fellowships can also be renewed after the duration is over if the fellow meets certain eligibility criteria and maintains a remarkable GPA. This can be repeated several times for the four to five years it takes to earn a Ph.D.
Question to ask yourself: How long can I afford to spend learning before I land a salaried job?
7. How much do you get paid?
Internship: Internships can be both paid and unpaid. Even if they are paid, it’s usually a small sum. The main advantage of internships is the work experience accrued and university credit earned.
Fellowship: Fellows get stipends. It is a fixed monetary allowance provided to support their academic pursuits. National and international fellowships pay more than those offered by a university. The money provided is compensation for sustenance during a critical time in the fellow’s academic development, when financial burdens could impede their progress. Insurance and loan repayment plans might also be included.
Question to ask yourself: What kind of payment arrangement am I more comfortable with?
8. What does your resume look like at the end of it?
Internship: The name of the company shines as brightly as your internship experience, if not more. It is common sense that a TedEd internship commands more respect within the education industry than any other internship at a lesser-known company would. It also gives you an edge over your peers who have just graduated, but have no work experience whatsoever. It gives you a head start.
Fellowship: In an academic job market, having a fellowship on your resume will set you apart. Your professional reputation as a scholar will be bolstered. Unlike internships, the value of a fellowship doesn’t decrease drastically with time. Being a Harvard fellow is going to be revered even 20 years down the line.
Question to ask yourself: Am I building my resume for an immediate job, or with a long-term professional goal in mind?
9. Do you finally get a job offer?
Internship: It is possible, but not guaranteed. An exceptionally talented and high-performing intern might be considered for a full-time entry-level role, but it is entirely up to the discretion of the company. Do your best and you might just get an offer. Even if you don’t, it’ll be easier to land a job with an internship under your belt than without one.
Fellowship: The fellow applies for the job they desire. It’s better to stay connected with potential employment opportunities before the fellowship ends, so as to smoothly transition to a job. It’s easier to advance in the academic discipline with the advantage and experience of a fellowship. Having your work published in journals during your fellowship is another surefire way to ensure a nice job.
Question to ask yourself: Do I want to navigate the vast job world, or advance my career in academia?
So, what’s the final verdict?
As you might have guessed by now, the final decision is yours. If you answered all of the questions genuinely, you already know the path you should take. Fellowship vs. internship—whatever you choose, we hope it takes you where you want to go.
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