What’s the difference between a junior and an intern?

So you have decided that you need to hire a team member, you may have immediately thought of a junior, however, have been told the role could be undertaken by an intern, so what do you do and who do you choose?

With the noun “junior” defined as:

  • A person who is a specified number of years younger than someone else
  • A person with a low rank or status compared with others

And the noun “intern” defined as:

  • A student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or to satisfy requirements for a qualification.

It is important for you take time to visit both options before making the final decision. Over the years I have employed juniors and, more recently, I hired an intern for a specific social media role that needed to be filled.

As a business owner, the key is in understanding clearly what the tasks are that this person will need to undertake, as well as the longevity of their employment.

As stated in the definition, in many cases an intern is employed for a specific time period to gain work experience as part of a qualification. There are also further employment opportunities in the future, whether it is as a summer casual or even in a full-time role on completion of their studies.

It’s important to note that even though an intern may be slightly older than a junior, both need guidance and supervision while in the workplace and cannot be left alone, no matter what their age. In the case of an intern, workplace supervision may also be a requirement by the College that they are attending.


Ten Tips on choosing the right candidate for you and your business, whether it is an intern or a junior:

  1. Job description with defined role responsibilities
  2. Research government incentives for hiring Juniors and Interns
  3. Legal responsibilities for both while on your premises
  4. Contract of employment or internship
  5. Clear understanding of your expectations
  6. Opportunities for growth in the business – working their way up the ladder (so to speak)
  7. Who is going to supervise them in the workplace?
  8. Hours of employment per week: is it a set number of hours that need to be completed for an intern, or is it a part-time/full-time position for a junior? How does this work best for your business?
  9. Make them feel part of the team. Induction is critical, getting to know who is in the business, who are the suppliers and who are the clients is so important when bringing someone new on board, especially if it is a young person who has had little experience in the workforce.
  10. Be there for them and develop them professionally and personally. Encourage and support.


What roles will they fulfil?

A junior role is seen as starting at the bottom, undertaking tasks such as postal duties and filing and then overtime progressing to answering the telephone, typing, ordering, and stocktaking, while being supervised. Many juniors may also be studying a Certificate III or IV part-time, that relates to their role. Over time they may progress their studies to a Diploma or even a Degree as their status in the business becomes more involved and they move up the ladder to a senior role. The role is very much about “learning while on the job”.

The role of an intern in a business is to bring in a skill set required for a specific project that the business may not have, or it needs extra help for a project, for instance Research Internships. In my case we employed an Intern to handle our social media to increase awareness of my new book, The VIP Principle, to our existing clients through channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Having another set of eyes to look at this area of our business also allowed us to improve the design of our newsletters, increase awareness of the company and to review our social media connections.

Do I have to pay them?

A junior’s wages are bound, like all other employees, by legislation and laws. However, with an intern there can be the option of no payment for their time. This is rationalised by the fact that they are receiving training and experience. Personally, I believe that if a person is providing a service (even though they are there to learn as well) and that service will increase your business productivity, they should be paid. It is about respect, fairness and care.

It is very rewarding to bring someone into the team and see them develop their skills and abilities over time. As a business owner I love it when my team use their initiative or put forward great ideas. It shows that they are committed to the business and want to see it grow, as well as develop their own ability.

Consider your needs and the options that are available to you. What is clear is that whether you hire an intern or a junior, you will see growth in your business and feel a great sense of pride in encouraging and developing others.