What’s the difference between a practicum and an internship?

Practicums, Internships and Projects
What's the Difference?

Experiential Learning in Kinesiology

By understanding the differences between a practicum, internship and project, you have the advantage of being better prepared to navigate the kinesiology experiential learning offerings.

These experiences allow you to practice and demonstrate your developing skills and knowledge. And while they have some similarities, their purpose and scope are quite different.

The practicum experience

Practicums are field experiences that allow you to observe and document how working professionals perform their job responsibilities.  

You will have limited participation in performing tasks under supervision by program professors and/or on-site staff.  

The expectations associated with a practicum vary according to the career.  

For example, a practicum in teaching may require assisting the teacher with implementing small group instruction, whereas a practicum in nursing may entail recording vital signs for one or two patients under supervision.

General characteristics of practicums could include:

  • Shadowing one or more assigned employees who will guide the on-site experience.
  • Observing and associating practices in the field with theories and methods previously studied in class.
  • Recording data or assisting with tasks as directed by on-site personnel.
  • Completing practicum course assignments.

Participation at the practicum site is typically two or three times per week for a few hours per session.

No compensation is expected for a practicum (e.g., students cannot receive pay for a practicum), but it does qualify for academic credit.

The internship experience

As compared to practicums, internships take on the characteristics of a real job focusing on application of skills and theoretical knowledge in the work setting.  

You’ll work with on-site professionals who manage your workload and oversee your performance, similar to manager in an actual employment setting.

The experiential learning coordinator communicates with the on-site professional during the course of the internship to evaluate your progress and performance. On occasion, a pre-arranged on-site visit may occur.

Internships are usually considered full-time experiences, following the work schedule of the assigned placement. You will receive academic credit, and in some cases, may be provide a stipend for services rendered.

What’s the difference between a practicum and an internship?

A major difference between a practicum and an internship involves the degree of expected involvement in hands-on work.

Let’s take another look at the examples from the education and medical fields.

Compared to a practicum student, student teaching interns would not only assist with lesson planning but also collaborate with their supervising teachers to create and instruct whole-group lessons independently.

In a similar fashion, nursing interns would go beyond charting of vital signs. They would be expected to understand and independently perform evaluation procedures on multiple patients, then accurately record their results and consult with their nursing supervisor about them.

The project experience

If you choose to do a project (KIN 306/406), you will engage in design or development of a project related to kinesiology under the supervision of a site or the experiential learning coordinator.  

This may involve working with an organization to research an issue and create a solution, design programming or take part in a program’s work.  

Other potential projects include College of Health's:

Preparing you for your future career

Practicum, internship experiences and projects are valuable tools for learning.  

You’ll have opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and practice your skills in real world settings, and be better prepared for the realities of the workplace.