Shadowing Vs Internship - Difference between a Job Shadow and an Internship [Explained]

Shadowing Vs Internship - Difference between a Job Shadow and an Internship [Explained]

As a student, you need to understand the differences between job shadowing and internships and what they can offer. Both offer students the chance to improve their professional abilities and gain practical experience in their field of interest. Let us discuss more below.

What is Job Shadowing?

Job shadowing is a term used to describe the act of a student watching and learning from another person in their workplace about a particular skill or job. Job shadowing has been around for centuries and is still practiced today.

It can be carried out on a casual or formal basis and ranges from being a part of a worker's daily work to staying for a while at their workplace.

In most cases, shadowing involves working in the client's office as well as going out to clients' offices and meeting with clients' staff and clients. Although the intern will be required to fill out a set of hours and work a set amount of time, their employer can often make changes to their work schedule. For example, if an intern's starting salary is only $10 an hour, they may be asked to cover more than the usual hours (since they are doing more than just on-call).

What is an internship?

An internship is a term used to refer to unpaid or contractual work done by students, trainees, or recent graduates that do not have much experience in the field. Internships typically involve working for free and usually last for only one year or less. Internship positions are usually advertised through newspapers, job boards, classified ads, and word of mouth, among other sources. 

The goal of an internship is to gain valuable experience on a broader level in order to support future academic or career aspirations. Students who are looking at taking jobs that involve significant travel may choose to take a summer internship instead. This allows them to gain the necessary experience with their prior school and then transfer to another school, potentially before the fall semester begins.

View top internship companies in US

Main Differences between Job Shadowing and Internship

A shadow and intern differ in terms of professional background, duration, workload, and timings - 

shadowing internship
Shorter durations Longer Durations
Can be applied for
at any stage (during
graduation, during job,
Can be applied for
only in final or pre
final year of graduation
Limited professions
allow shadowing
Many professions are
open to internship program
Certificate of completion
is usually not provided
Certificate is provided
Involves more learning
and less hands-on work
Involves more hands-on
work and less learning.

1. Duration

The duration of shadowing is calculated in units of hours. For example, most medical schools recommend 100-120 hours of shadowing. Hence, the duration of shadowing is shorter. It is a fantastic method to gain the of how a business operates. It is a one-on-one experience with employees, which gives you the opportunity to inquire about their work and discover precisely what you need to learn about the work. 

Internships are typically longer durations. They last between 3 months to a year.

2. Execution (Workload)

Job shadowing is an opportunity to observe how different people function in different settings. You are given the opportunity to discover a particular field. It could range from working as an intern for an organization or company or participating in gatherings that help you learn new skills and gain know-how. Hence, there is much to learn and watch, and the execution or hands-on part is not required.


Internships are a type of work experience where you're developing new skills. This could involve creating reports, presenting, and participating in training classes. The work may be related to the skills you already have. Hence, there is less to learn and more to execute in an internship.

3. Timing

Job shadowing is available at any level, from internships to job interviews and everything in between. You can apply for shadowing anytime and at any level. 

There is no such flexibility with internships. Most companies hire interns for summer or fall programs. Also, most companies hire students who are in their final or pre-final years as interns.

4. Profession

Job shadowing is a method of learning a particular job by being involved in the actual work. The idea is to learn by working. Some examples of jobs that require job shadowing are Financial analyst, Software Designer, IT Project Manager, Engineering Manager, etc. Not every profession or career path has the option of shadowing. 

Some jobs aren't suitable for shadowing due to the sensitive nature of the work and issues around health, confidentiality, and safety. For example, it may not be possible to shadow all professionals in healthcare, law, property and construction, social care and science, and pharmaceuticals. 

On the flip side, internships are open for a wide array of career paths and studies. 

5. Salary

Job shadowing is unpaid. Internships can be paid or unpaid depending on your role and department. 

Also Read: Why internships are important 

Benefits of Shadowing Jobs

The benefits of shadowing jobs include learning more about which career you are best suited to and helping you decide the type of job you would like to pursue later on, gaining knowledge of the different career options available in your local area, and boosting self-confidence by showing initiative and becoming involved with colleagues at work.

The first step is to discover the daily tasks in your chosen area of study. This includes but isn't limited to office procedures, meetings, and everyday tasks. This will help you become aware of the responsibilities involved in working in that field and helps you determine whether this field would be interesting enough to take on more education or further training.


Q: Is shadowing an internship?

As discussed above, shadowing does not count as an internship. There are significant differences between them. 

I hope that the difference between a job shadow and an internship is now clear to you. Both are a way for you to find out whether or not you really like your chosen field or if it's just something that appeals to your ego. Once you decide that it's something that interests you, the next step is finding out how you can make a successful career in this field.

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