Are there higher status (or at least 'better-sounding', more CV-ready) alternatives to the word 'intern'? At least in the UK, being an intern is perceived as low status, with connotations of being the person who makes the coffee. It also looks less impressive on a CV.

(The context which I'm searching in is that the charities I work for are offering internships of two to ten months. We provide accommodation and food/travel expenses, but this is closer to volunteering than employment. Many of our 'interns' have just graduated from elite universities, and they do relatively high-level and interesting work such as research. So it would be nice to call them something other than 'interns'.)


Intern is a pretty nondescript job rôle. If they are volunteers, call them volunteers. It is just as descriptive, and has the added bonus of being a net gain in the game of social climbing. (Interns are there for themselves, volunteers are there to help others.)

If your volunteers will have particular rôles then call them "volunteer X", e.g. "volunteer barista". Otherwise, there's only so many ways to put lipstick on a pig.


The job title does not have to reflect the salary they do or don't take, just give them a title of assistant of some kind.

I would still use Intern in the job advert (because it appears that is what the job is), but when they start working, and you don't want them to face unfair discrimination, then change the job title.

  • 4
    I agree with what Billy Moon says. If this is an internship, then call it an internship. If you're worried about preconceived notions of interns, and convinced that your opportunities are truly better than those preconceptions, then mention that fact in your ad. You could always say something like: Not your average internship! Our interns don't make coffee or fetch donuts. This will be a challenging position, and you will be a real member of the team. In other words, address your concern directly, instead of hoping that a different job title will somehow communicate the difference. – J.R. Nov 23 '12 at 9:26

I'm sure this is a bit late, but in my work we use the word "fellow," as in a fellowship. From my experience managing interns, they have a terrible time getting people to call them back when they have the "intern" title.

  • Useful, thanks. What do your interns - er, fellows - do? – tog22 Feb 2 '13 at 11:08

It's a bit of an old-fashioned word, but how about "apprentice?" This implies the person has aptitude and is in the hands of someone who will help the person realize underlying potential.

  • This is probably the best answer so far. The only way that it could be better, is it had a dictionary link as well. – Tristan r Mar 6 '14 at 16:06
  • @Tristanr hint taken :) – DeeDee Mar 6 '14 at 16:18

In American English, it is difficult to find an alternative to 'intern'. The most effective and common way elevate the status of such a position is to add descriptors to the position title ahead of the word 'intern'. For example, "Research Intern" or "Operations Management Intern". These at least show that the organization put some thought into the position, and so probably expected something more from the individual than coffee.


Call them as you'd call the 'normal people' at your place.

The only difference to them is the interns are not being paid and being temporary. Consultant. Or external contractor might work too. Contracts don't always imply payment.


This is highly specialized but our high finance interns are called Mountbattens. They come from the best universities and work in this role for 6 months to a year after graduating.

  • I don't see anything at your link that shows how the term is used outside of the so-called "Mountbatten Institute". – Canis Lupus Mar 6 '14 at 15:09
  • @Jim Every corporation that uses them calls them Mountbattens and it has become a normal term in financial industry. – RyeɃreḁd Mar 6 '14 at 16:05
  • That may be true, but I'm just saying that your link doesn't define what a Mountbatten is and it doesn't support your assertion. My wife has been in the financial industry for many years. I've never heard the term from her or her colleagues. A google search didn't help me either. The burden should be on you to point the reader in the right direction to understand your answer, don't you think?. – Canis Lupus Mar 6 '14 at 16:47

Well, calling an intern as an intern is the best available option. In countries like India, "Intern" does have a higher value than 'fellow' or 'assistant'. Applying global thoughts here, it would be best to have the right word before intern.

An example, if a student from a reputed institute is doing an internship, in his/her area of interest say statistics, one may use "Research intern specialized in Data Analysis" or any other 'flowery' term that emphasizes the field of interest.

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