I am looking to translate the expression

travailler en alternance

into English.

I have found several answers on the internet but none seems to match my use case.

I am still at school and I am working part time on school project to learn and part time for a company. The French phrase expresses this arrangement of part-time work and part-time study. I am looking for a professional word that can be used in formal text.

edit: Sorry, my English is far from good so the question was not clear. I will try to clarify it a little. I think there is some kind of misunderstanding for the meaning of the expression "formation en alternance".

In the French school system there is a type of course that need you to find a company and work but you still go to school from time to time.

Exemple: One week at the company followed by one week at school.

This is why I dont think internship would fit here because we can translate it with the French word "Stage" which mean

A long period during which the student will work for a company frequently during vacations time or at the end of his course.

opposed to a course en alternance in which the student will really spend half of his time at the company and the other half at school.

Sample text: I have been (travailler en alternance) throughout my course. It has given me an appreciation for the profession beyond the purely academic.

  • 1
    Please have a look at the tag info in the translation tag, particularly the part in bold. At the moment, the question is unclear to those who don't understand French.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 8 '19 at 15:14
  • @Lawrence I formatted the text without changing the intention. Hopefully that emphasizes the meaning the OP is looking for (part time work, part time study)
    – Mitch
    Jul 8 '19 at 15:42
  • Thanks @Mitch. I've pushed it a little further to help clarify the question. Louis - please feel free to roll back the changes, especially if they don't reflect what you're looking for, or edit further. You can access the edit trail from the 'edited <some time> ago' link below the question.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 8 '19 at 15:53
  • You need to edit the question and give a description of what the phrase means (aside from part time, which, obviously, isn't what you want). I could look it up, but I shouldn't have to—plus, if the translations don't match what you think it means, we need to know what that is. Jul 8 '19 at 22:21
  • 1
    When I went to engineering school in the late 60s/early 70s I was on the "co-op" program for 3 years, alternating semesters in school and on a job. But this term has largely been supplanted by "intern"/"internship", though these terms have a slightly vaguer meaning.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 9 '19 at 11:34

Though cultures don't always match perfectly well (and words don't), it turns out that the match is most likely (in American English):

travailler en alternance - 'has an internship' or 'has a co-op position'

In French it seems to be literally 'to work in alternation' (presumably alternating between work for a few months and study for a few months, as opposed to working and studying in the same day or week). For example,

"What are you doing this summer?"

"I got a co-op position (or "I have an internship...") at Raytheon but it lasts through fall semester, so I'll be back at school next spring."

'Co-op' is much more informal; 'internship' is how you'd refer to it on a CV or resume or cover letter.

In American higher education/work culture, it is often the case that a student will work for a company over the summer or take a semester off in their field of study, either for a practical university credit or for pay (it's real world practical experience good for your resume, often considered a 'foot in the door' for later permanent employment) once you graduate.

The word 'co-op', very familiar in engineering situations, comes from cooperative education which frankly is a mouthful that I had never known until I just looked for it. It's always been 'co-op' to me. 'Internship' is the more common term outside of engineering and is a little looser, it may not be so closely connected with your field of study. An "internship" is also the term used for when you have graduated and get a deliberately temporary position (and are no longer going back to school). There may be a hope that it'll turn into something permanent, but it is definitely considered temporary.

One might also call the corresponding situation a

temporary position

as opposed to a permanent position, but those terms apply to a much much wider set of situations than just the student getting a little bit of work experience in their field.

Something that might be parallel to the French meaning of the phrase is:

work-study program

which means that you're working and studying at the same time usually for financial reasons (the American system is to pay for the university education), and 'work-study' is usually a program officially through a university where they place you in jobs around campus. But this situation might be a bit foreign. Sure one might work during one's undergraduate university education but not as part of financial aid.

  • I find the site linguee very helpful in figuring out nuances between French and English. They give lots of examples. As with any thing, you may have to try different parts of speech or alternate spellings.
    – Mitch
    Jul 8 '19 at 15:28
  • 4
    The British equivalent is a 'sandwich course' allaboutcareers.com/careers-advice/work-placements/… , but I don't think this would apply to someone still at school. Jul 8 '19 at 16:54
  • @KateBunting Is that course 'work'? What is that sandwiched between...more work?
    – Mitch
    Jul 8 '19 at 17:02
  • As the website explains, it's a work placement sandwiched between two sections of the course of study. Jul 8 '19 at 19:46
  • @KateBunting OK. So I read your statement, 'between two sections of the course of study' as implying that the person is still 'at achool' which sounds different than your first comment.
    – Mitch
    Jul 8 '19 at 19:55

Study Part Time or Part Time Study

In England this is quite common, many jobs you work 4 days a week, go to college 1 day to learn the theory of the job you are doing, or even do a degree in an unrelated subject.

There is also an Apprenticeship this has traditionally been for trades people, so plumbers, builders, gardeners etc. But the govt. has expanded it into all sorts of jobs.


In British English, there is the term day release:

A system of allowing employees days off work to go on educational courses.

‘she goes to college on day release’

– Oxford via Lexico

Note that this is predicated on days off work to go to college to learn the academic part of the job. However, a "week on, week off" system is rare-to-non-existent in Britain.


The issue with what you're asking is that education programs can differ a lot from country to country, and travailler en alternance isn't a common work arrangement in the US. That said, there are English expressions for analogues to travailler en alternance.

One analogue is a dual education system. This is popular in countries like Germany. Students will spend part of their time working for a company and part of their time attending classes at a vocational school. As the German Academic Institute claims,

It combines apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school in one course.

Indeed, the English Wikipedia page for dual education system points out that dual education is done in France:

In France, dual education (formation en alternance) has gained a lot of popularity since the 1990s, with information technology being the greatest draw.


In France, the same amount of time is spent in practical training and theory, with the following possible systems:

  • 2.5 days in a company, 2.5 days at school,
  • one week in a company, one week at school,
  • six months in a company, six months at school.

"One week in a company followed by one week of school" exactly matches this expectation.

Furthermore, over in French Wikipédia, formation par alternance (the equivalent of travailler par alternance - in either case one is alternating work and education) is described thus:

La formation par alternance ou formation duale désigne un système de formation qui intègre une expérience de travail où la personne concernée [...] se forme alternativement en entreprise privée ou publique et dans un établissement d'enseignement comme, en France, un lycée professionnel, un centre de formation d'apprentis, un établissement public local d’enseignement et de formation professionnelle agricole, une maison familiale rurale, une école d'ingénieur ou une université.

[Education by alternation or dual education means an education system that combines work experience where the person concerned […] trains alternatively in a private or public company and in an educational institution like, in France, a vocational high school, an apprentice training center, a local public educational and agricultural vocational school, a rural family house, an engineering school, or a university.]

So I would use dual education with one caution: if you apply to a country without such a program, you may need to explain what this means. For example, to tailor your sample sentence:

I have been in dual education coursework. By alternating practical job experience and in-class learning, I have gained an appreciation for the profession beyond the purely academic.

  • You seem to have translated a French or German term into one which does not exist in English. A literal translation is not always a good thing.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 9 '19 at 16:56
  • Which term are you referring to? If you mean the main answer, I didn't invent dual education. If it's in my amateur translation, let me know so I can improve it. Jul 9 '19 at 17:00
  • 2
    OK, Wikipedia coined the term, based on Duale Hochschule. But that doesn't alter the fact that the term does not exist in English. Trying to use a term which doesn't exist to explain a methodology which doesn't exist is not helpful. I've no idea why this answer was accepted, because dual education simply will not be understood in Britain or the US, which is what was asked about.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 9 '19 at 17:15
  • The term does exist in English. It has been in research literature since the 1990s, and has been more well-known in education research in the past decade or so. Also, I'm clear in my answer that the concept is less familiar to audiences in the US. That's why I caution them to explain the usage. Jul 9 '19 at 17:27

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