Difference Between a Fellowship and an Internship

What's the Difference Between a Fellowship and an Internship?

The difference between a fellowship and an internship remains blurred in 2022. While both the terms are often interchangeably used, the two differ in quite a few key ways, including the application process, the target applicant, the experience itself, and, of course, the money.

Understanding these differences can help high school students identify which position can best help them gain experience as they start a career. In this article, we define fellowships and internships and discuss the key differences between the two.

What is a Fellowship?

A fellowship is a training program in which individuals perform research and develop skills to apply in a professional environment. Companies and organizations might offer these programs for graduate or post-graduate students who have studied subjects like data analytics, history, literature, medicine, or science. Organizations might sponsor programs to expand their presence in the field and discover innovative talent. 

What is an Internship?

An internship is a short-term job that allows the worker, or intern, to gain introductory experience in a specific profession. As an intern, you will work for a company or organization and gain the hands-on and practical experience you can use for future jobs. Some students may do internships to get a first-hand look at a specific career path to make a more informed decision on a job or major, while others may do an internship as part of their program requirement.

Now that we have established the basic definition of an internship and a fellowship, here are some key differences between a fellowship and an internship:

Focus (Professional Development Vs. Professional Experience)

The most prominent difference between an internship and a fellowship is that the former focuses on professional development while the latter will offer you a professional experience.

An internship is usually a trial period for a candidate before joining as a full-time employee at an organization, designed to challenge and train (mostly graduate) students and test their knowledge and skill. On the other hand, a fellowship offers an academic experience in a professional setting. 

Eligibility Requirements

Students are eligible to apply for internship opportunities at any stage of their education, including undergraduate and high school students. Meanwhile, full-time professional fellowships are for those people who have earned at least a Bachelor's degree. Many academic fellowship opportunities are available for graduate students and post-graduates, while some are only for graduate students working toward a Ph.D.

Specific Knowledge Vs General Know-How 

The most important difference between a fellowship and an internship is that an internship will require you to associate and collaborate with multiple departments of a company. The ultimate aim will be to achieve monthly targets, generate revenue, or boost organizational performance. On the other hand, a fellowship is taken up for a specific project that is closely related to your academic interests. This may be experimenting with a research theory project or exploring running tests and measuring observations over a time period.


 Fellows often receive a stipend based on their proposed projects and their estimated time to complete them. These stipends are specific amounts rather than an hourly wage because the amount of work they conduct can fluctuate on a day-to-day basis.

Interns, however, may receive either hourly wages or course credits for the work they do. 

Fellows are typically more independent and working on projects at an advanced level; whereas interns are typically assisting with entry-level operational and administrative tasks.


Another difference between a fellowship and an internship is the length of its duration. Companies offer fellowships for longer lengths of time than internships. A fellowship program is offered for a variety of programs and ranges from a few months to years and varies according to the needs of a department. An internship differs from one workplace to another but the duration typically ranges from one to three months. 

Application Process

Applying for an internship is much like applying for a job except that the employer might not require an interview, depending on the number of applications they receive. The application usually includes a cover letter and resume.

However, fellowship applications require more documentation than internship applications. In addition to the standard resume, fellowship applicants must propose a specific project that they intend to complete during their fellowship period. If the company accepts your paperwork and proposal, they may interview you one on one, with a panel, or in a group setting to assess your qualification for the fellowship.


Internships and fellowships alike can hold immeasurable value for your career trajectory both at the early and mid-career levels. 

While most people often use the two terms interchangeably, it is evident that they have so much uncommonness.

Knowing the difference between the two will not only help you craft a more thoughtful, targeted application to either but also help you make important decisions about which experiences will benefit you most.

Do you want to know more about making the right choice for your college and career?
Book a Free One-on-One consultation with a career expert.

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