Illustration: Daniel Zender

The Coding Bootcamp Trap

Recent grads are being lured into ‘indentured servitude’ by a training program that costs $36,500 to quit

Emma Rindlisbacher
Published in
10 min readJan 26, 2021

Despite graduating college with a degree in engineering, James could only find employment in the service industry. While continuing to search for technical positions, he noticed job postings for a company called Revature. The company, which calls itself the “largest employer of entry level software engineers,” advertises positions in states like Kansas and Alabama, as well as in Texas where James was living at the time.

“One day someone is going to ask you where you got your start,” read one Revature job posting. “This is IT!”

As James — who asked that his real name not be used in this article due to the confidentiality clauses in his contract — looked more closely at Revature, he realized the company wasn’t recruiting for a typical job. Instead, it was recruiting college graduates from all over the country to participate in a three-month training program, which prior to the pandemic was held in person at one of Revature’s six campuses. During this training period, Revature provided associates housing and paid them $8 an hour — although housing costs were deducted from that wage. After students completed the program, successful graduates were placed on a tech project for a Revature client. The idea was that if all went well, that client may hire the Revature associate to a full-time position.

For James, participating in Revature’s program felt like a last resort. “I was looking for somewhere I could start working immediately,” he told OneZero. He applied, and after a quick interview process, received notice he’d been accepted.

James’ trepidation came from the legal contract Revature requires all of its associates to sign. Documents obtained by OneZero, as well as interviews with 13 associates and three instructors, show that Revature requires associates to commit to work for a client for a two-year period after training. The associates don’t have a say in which clients they work for: Revature chooses the client, the location, and can require associates to move across the country. If the associates choose to quit within two years after the training, they could be on the hook for a $36,500 quitting fee…