Fellowships vs. Internships


Fellowships usually focus on professional development and/or academic research, rather than professional experience.

An internship can basically be thought of as an opportunity to gain experience working for a company or organization that otherwise only hires more advanced professionals. Sometimes internships are “trial periods” for students seeking jobs in the company after college, and sometimes they are completed as part of a degree or training program requirement. Fellowships, on the other hand, carry a more academic or scholarly undertone. Fellowships typically involve less day-to-day structure and emphasize the completion of some sort of project that will help participants succeed in their respective fields.


Fellowships are typically for those at the graduate and post-graduate levels.

While this certainly does not apply to all fellowships, many fellowships require at least a bachelor’s degree, and some even require a master’s or doctoral degree. Full-time professional fellowships are for those who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. There are also many academic fellowships that are for graduate students and post-graduates. Some are only for graduate students working toward a Ph.D., such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which are called “pre-doctoral fellowships.” Fellowships for those who have already completed a Ph.D. are referred to as “post-doctoral fellowships.” Internships, on the other hand, are more often open to undergraduate or even high school students.

Fellowships provide financial assistance to an individual for their personal research, teaching, scholarship, or training.  Fellowships benefit the fellow, therefore they may or may not run through an institution.  Often times fellowships are awarded directly to an individual, which means there are tax implications for the fellow.  Fellowships may or may not have deliverables and reporting requirements.  Administration of a fellowship depends on the award terms and conditions. 


Fellowships applications typically require applicants to propose a specific project to complete during the fellowship period.

Internship applications are often quite similar to entry-level job applications – you have to submit your resume, answer a few brief questions or submit a cover letter about why you want the position and why you are qualified for it, and you may have to provide contact information for professional references. For many fellowships, because of the nature of the experience, applicants must write at length about specific research or projects that they will use the fellowship time and funding to complete.


Fellowships typically carry a set stipend, while many internships offer hourly wages – more like a typical job.

In most cases, fellowships carry fixed-amount stipends, rather than hourly wages. This is partially due to the decreased day-to-day structure of most fellowships – many fellowships do not require fellows to log a certain number of hours or clock in or out when they are working on their projects. 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.


Internships are more likely to be unpaid or provide college credits in lieu of monetary compensation.

This key difference is likely related to the fact that many fellowships are reserved for post-college students or professionals, but nonetheless: fellowships are a lot less likely to come with course credit payments or no payments at all. This is important to keep in mind when choosing internships; while the experience may very well be worth working for free all summer, doing so is not feasible for everyone. On the other hand, working for credit may be appealing to students who are hoping to graduate early.






Focuses on developing a student by offering them to study in a specific field with a range of activities like research, graduate studies etc.…

Provided to students or trainees interested in exploring and gaining more work experience n a particular area of expertise


Meant for graduate or post graduate students willing to excel in any discipline of their choice

Usually for students in their final year or fresh graduates


A fellowship can go for between a few months up to a year or a short period

Last between several weeks to a month(s)


Most are paid in terms of a stipend or an allowance

Can be paid or unpaid depending on the type of industry.





Summer Research Program

Post Bac program

A fellowship is typically a

merit-based scholarship for advanced study of an academic subject. When people say "fellowship," they are referring to a stipend or monetary award given to a scholar (student) to pay for their academic pursuits.

An internship is an official program offered by a company to potential employees. Internships are for CURRENT students and may or may not pay. Interns work either part-time or full-time at a company for a certain period of time. Internships are most popular with undergraduates or graduate students who work between one to four months and have a goal to gain practical work or research related experience.

A summer undergraduate research program (SRP) or research experience for undergraduates (REU) is an 8-10 week science research experience designed to train undergraduate students in scientific research. Each program typically consists of research under a principal investigator, professional development workshops, and a research presentation at the end of the program.

Example: NIH STEP-UP

Postbaccalaureate or post-bac programs are programs for US citizens and Permanent Residents who have achieved sound pre-doctoral academic performance in the biological and physical sciences, or who have received a masters degree in public health or in a related social science, but who seek to enhance their academic preparedness and research experience prior to embarking on a graduate program such as a PhD or MD.