Volunteerism Vs. Internship - Volunteers Initiative Nepal
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Volunteerism Vs. Internship

Volunteerism Vs Internship

You might be looking at places or countries to provide free service and you got caught while filling the online form – choosing between internship and volunteerism.Do not worry, you are not alone, most people get confused between volunteerism and internship. We are asked this quite often: What is the difference between volunteerism and internship? Or, are they interchangeable terms?

Basically, an internship is something that a student chooses to do in order to develop their experience and skills in a professional qualification. An internship can sometimes be for small pay and many times for free. Whereas, volunteering is simply the act of “voluntarily” donating your time, energy and skill, especially in community services, without expecting any return.

Let’s have a look from close up, there are some similarities and differences in the meaning between it.


Gain Professional qualification

As mentioned above Internship is done primarily to gain a professional qualification and develop specs for future. Internship can also be classed as trainee ship. Volunteerism can also serve the purpose. Many Universities and companies, give credits for volunteering. As a volunteer, you can get a close insight into what it takes to run an organization and its managed by building a close network with the team.

No replacement for the job

Both interns and volunteers aren’t hired in the replacement for the job. No legal contract binds an organization to provide full-time job to interns nor volunteers. But sometimes interns may pursue their career in the same organization if they are eligible for the vacancy requirements.

Value their time

Volunteers value their time and want to benefit as many beneficiaries as possible with their services without expecting something in return. Whereas interns value their time spent to sharpen their professional skills in order to get the job easily in their interested field.

Direct involvement

Even if the responsibility of intern and volunteer is very different, both are directly involved with the organization. Intern and volunteer have equal impact on the workflow of the organization. With an internship there is an organizational obligation to add to the knowledge and experience of the intern. Whereas, with a volunteer, organizational responsibility is the place the volunteer’s efforts, knowledge and experience to the best use towards a cause or community service.


In general terms, volunteering means simply giving your time and energy for the social cause in order to make someone’s life better without expecting something in return. People who are driven with the pure humanity and also who want to develop some interesting skills look for volunteering programs. While, interning mean to provide the service for the professional and career development. Some interns are paid and some aren’t. Many Universities are implying the internship program as a part of the assignment for the students’ learning experience to enhance the efficiency for their career development.

Age group

There is a particular age group in the internship. The internship starts after the high school but volunteering can be done at any point of the time. When a person wants to take the break from their work or after their retirement or free time, they normally look for the volunteering program in different domestic and international places for the self-exposure and community development at the same time. Mostly developing countries are designing such a volunteering program in order to develop the marginal communities and remote places.


Interns are usually treated like a staff. They are pre-assigned for their respective works with deadlines. From working hours to dress code- Interns are supposed to follow the rules and ethics sets for an employee. Whereas, volunteers often have more flexibility when it comes to negotiating projects they want to work in and also time scheduling. As a volunteer you are treated as more of a helpful visitor who is committed to ‘do good’.


Interns are guided and trained in the supervision of the well-experienced staff of the organization. They are assigned to do some particular tasks. Interns are monitored and evaluated according to their performances. In most cases, the college provides the grade according to the evaluation report from the working organization. Volunteers only need support and coordination

of the staff members of the organization. They are not limited by a strict-top to bottom supervision. Volunteer positions are usually easier to get and require less of a commitment but whole lot of passion.


In an internship, the one who benefits are the intern and their host organization. While volunteering is all about benefiting community. Most of the volunteers are directly involved in the community development. For example, the volunteers get the placement according to their interest area; the volunteer can experience and observe the way of living of local women while supporting the women empowerment projects.

Written by

Priti Thapa

Senior Program Officer proposalsforNGOs, a project in Partnership with VIN

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