Summer Jobs vs. Internships: What are the Differences?

5 min to read
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Summer is the perfect time for teenagers to get a job or seek an internship in a field that interests them. Either route can help prepare them for the future. As you help your teen explore their summer options, discuss these differences between a summer job vs. internship so that they can make an educated decision about what is best for them. 

Summer Job vs. Internship

Summer jobs and internships provide high school students opportunities to gain valuable work experience before heading out into the working world. While “internship” and “summer job” are often used interchangeably, there are differences that can impact a teen’s decision to choose one over the other. 

Summer Jobs

  • Summer jobs are always paid positions.

  • They are typically entry level positions.

  • Summer jobs generally have no time limit unless they are seasonal jobs. Students can work during the summer and scale back their hours when classes begin.

  • Summer jobs can be used to build soft skills like communication, time management, problem-solving, teamwork, etc. 


  • An internship is typically a temporary position that allows teenagers to gain practical work experience in a particular field.  

  • It typically lasts for a specific period. An end date is agreed upon beforehand so that both parties are on the same page. 

  • Internships can be either paid or unpaid. 

  • Internships are typically specialized in a field and can have more weight on a resume. 

  • They can be used for making connections and networking. 

Why Teens May Choose an Internship vs. a Job

As your teen looks at the pros and cons of internships, there are several reasons why they may choose an internship over a summer job.


A survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that internship experience was the most influential factor worth looking at when deciding who to hire. Having experience from an internship on your resume can show that you are eager to learn more about the profession and are dedicated, especially if the position was unpaid.

Hands-on Experience

Internships can provide hands-on experience. Teens will not only observe work being done but will also have a chance to experience it firsthand. By engaging with the day-to-day work for themselves, they can learn more about which parts of the industry they enjoy, and the experience can help them refine their goals when it comes time to pursue a career or higher education.  

Develop Professional Connections

Internships allow teens to develop professional connections that can lead to future mentoring opportunities and much more. Internships give teens the opportunity to get their foot in the door and make a good impression at a specific company or within a well-connected industry. Employers know that their interns are already familiar with the company culture and may also already have some experience. If they have a successful internship, they may find themselves at an advantage for open positions in the future. 

Develop Skills

Being interested in a field and being skilled in a field are two different things. During an internship, teens can use their interest to develop and hone the necessary skills to perform the job. They can ask questions, learn from mistakes, and discover what it means to be a valuable team player. 

A group of online school students research summer jobs vs internships.

Why Teens May Choose a Summer Job vs. an Internship

Some teens choose the summer job route over an internship because it better aligns with their needs and goals.

Earn Extra Money

If your teen is trying to earn extra money, they may opt for a summer job, especially if they’re unsure of exactly what career path they want to take. Earning a paycheck can also be a great tool to teach financial literacy topics such as budgeting, saving, and money management.

Opportunity for Future Employment

Many times, a summer job can lead to future employment during the school year. Statistics show that in 2022, nearly 20% of all teens ages 16-19 worked while they were enrolled in school. Getting in the door in the summer can help teens who want to keep a job when school starts, rather than have to look for a new opportunity while also balancing school obligations.

Gain Valuable Work Experience

Even if their summer job isn’t in the field they may want to pursue, a summer job shows future employers and universities work experience and commitment.  A summer job can also introduce your teen to people who may be able to help them develop their future career goals. When deciding whether your teen should look for a summer job vs. internship, have them evaluate their goals and look at where they stand in terms of career development. They can determine if they are simply looking to earn money during the summer or want to learn more about a field that interests them. For some career-minded students, online school programs can help students develop various career skills such as being a self-starter that could help them to stand out in a crowd of applicants, no matter what field they decide to pursue. 

The flexibility of online classes can help students develop vital time management and organizational skills, and they can also take advantage of the flexible class schedule to pursue internships and job opportunities during the school year. 

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