Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free.

I'm a recent college graduate, and I recently had a interview with a company for an entry-level programming job. The company told me that they require two months of unpaid training for all entry level programmers.

The reason given was that since they are providing free training, there wouldn't be any compensation.

Is this normal?

Update For other junior developers looking at this:

Don't go for these type of scams. This was my first interview. I interviewed with 10 other companies around the area and got about 9 job offers from them. I worked for a fortune 50 company for 9 months with good pay and recently found a better opportunity for even better pay and better work. I guess moral is to be patient and have confidence in yourself.

share|improve this question

migrated from stackoverflow.com Apr 26 '11 at 0:53

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

Find another job. –  YXD Apr 26 '11 at 0:27
I'd expect their training will be mandatory, include doing some project work for them / their clients, and then you'll find out you've failed the course once they've had the free work. –  Phil Lello Apr 26 '11 at 1:46
When asking questions like this, it's a really good idea to specify at least what country you are in. –  Carson63000 Apr 26 '11 at 2:03
Do NOT accept their offer. –  Jas Apr 26 '11 at 5:29
I normally would not suggest this, but maybe you should post the name of the company. Regardless of whether or not this practice is legal, they should probably be publicly shamed into discontinuing this unpaid training. –  Erik Apr 26 '11 at 5:42

13 Answers 13

up vote 34 down vote accepted

Sounds like a scam, not a job. Nigerian job offer? heh. I have never worked at, nor know anyone who has worked at a place that would require something of the likes of that in the field of software development in over 12 years of experience from startups to gov't to edu to fortune top 20. Keep looking - it will only get worse.

share|improve this answer
Its a local company in my city in US. So, I am not sure what to think of this. I told them that I will meet them again later this week and I will discuss this with them. –  user23838 Apr 26 '11 at 2:36
@user23838 - that was a bad move. A basic pressure sales technique - if you can't make the sale immediately, get a commitment so you can put the pressure on again. But not fatal, so long as you can get through an hour or so of pressure sales techniques that make them sound so reasonable and make you feel antisocial and evil for even thinking of turning them down. Probably you can just not turn up, without any negative consequences, though personally having made that commitment I'd go. Just make sure you know how to say no. –  Steve314 Apr 26 '11 at 4:35
@user23838 - just remember the basic rules for this kind of con. You'll be doing work for free, you'll be dropped as soon as you demand fair pay, any experience you get won't be valuable, and no-one will respect you for allowing yourself to be conned. –  Steve314 Apr 26 '11 at 4:43
They will tell you that "your are pricing yourself out of the market", etc. Been there, heard the BS. A very good tactic to unsettle their spin is to wait for them to finish and stay silent for a prolonged period. It will make them nervous. –  quant_dev Apr 26 '11 at 7:40
Uh, you don't have to go. Just email them and say: "Thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself to your company. I regretfully must decline your offer of employment as I have found something that more closely aligns with my skills. Most sincerely, Me" and then never contact them again. You're not lying either. You didn't say you got another job. Couch the decision as yours and don't say anything negative about them. –  Christopher Mahan Apr 27 '11 at 19:58

The previous responder [edc] gives his age as 19 on his profile, which limits his experience with the job market. I'm old enough to be your guys' father, and, no, it isn't normal and it may not even be legal. (It's legal if they are doing nothing but teaching you. It's a violation of typical Wages and Hours Acts once you start coding for them.)

The job market is pretty good for coders right now. If you have a good degree you can do better.

share|improve this answer
@Andrew Lazarus: "previous" doesn't mean much when the answer order changes based user preferences. You might want to fix your reference to the other answer. –  S.Lott Apr 26 '11 at 1:08
I am graduating with a Computer Science degree from a good university. I am still looking, I will tell them that I can't afford not to get paid for 2 months. And If they can't pay me, I can find some other place. –  user23838 Apr 26 '11 at 2:38
I'm not sure it's illegal? Volunteer work for example? I dunno. –  jmo21 Apr 26 '11 at 11:08
@james: That's a question for a lawyer, but I don't think volunteer and employee status are necessarily compatible. Except in some fields, you do need to pay minimum wage for work performed. Requiring volunteer work on top of that would undermine minimum wage laws, and is likely illegal. –  David Thornley Apr 27 '11 at 19:49
@james. You're technically not allowed to do unpaid internships if you materially contribute to the company. See nytimes.com/2010/04/03/business/03intern.html and page 8 of wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEGL/TEGL12-09acc.pdf . Pay close attention to the last paragraph of the NYT article. –  Christopher Mahan Apr 27 '11 at 20:09

Absolutely not.

I am also in the beginning of my career. I graduated from a fairly good US public university with CS degree in December 2009. I got good, but not excpeptional, grades. I kill it on any coding tests I've been given but had zero professional experience upon graduating. No internships, no open source, no significant research. I live in the Northeast USA. The way you speak of your college, it sounds like you are at least as well positioned as I was.

Since then I have successfully obtained 6 job offers, the least of which was at $45k with a good benefits package. Nothing resembling unpaid training at all.

Furthermore, I have a not-insignificant criminal record. This disqualifies me from a good portion of the job market, including just about anything even tangentially finance related. Despite this, I have received 6 job offers that stuck and several others that were last-minute revoked due to my past. I currently work at a job I enjoy at $65k yearly. Your position seems better than mine was, so you should be able to do at least as well.

I can't overemphasize that you can do better than this. We are an in demand field. Make sure you've got updated resumes/profiles on Monster.com, CareerBuilder, StackOverflow Careers, CyberCoders, etc. Most (if not all) of the jobs that panned out for me DID NOT come from me applying. They came from companies or recruiters contacting me after seeing my resume on some of the above sites.

Good luck and don't sell yourself short.

share|improve this answer
hope this helped. needless to say this probably the only time i'll be using this name as ive shared more than i generally care to. just wanted to underscore that you can do much better. hope everything works out for you, ill be reading the thread. –  user23844 Apr 26 '11 at 5:56
Thanks for the advise. I am still looking for jobs, I have not graduated yet, I will will be graduating next month. So, I have some time. I guess I just need to be a lil patient. –  user23838 Apr 26 '11 at 14:02

Doesn't sound normal from my experience. Sounds like they want to test you out before having you officially start and not have to pay unemployment if you don't work out. Not very legal. The real question is, do you have other options and can you afford those two months without pay, also can you risk them dropping you after the training?

share|improve this answer
Ya,looks like the company is trying to be cheap or something! Should I tell them that I won't work for them unless they pay me though the training process. Otherwise, I can find some other place to work. –  user23838 Apr 26 '11 at 2:34
@user23838 - sounds like a good idea. –  sevenseacat Apr 26 '11 at 6:50

It happens, atleast here in India. I cant really put a quantity to it but it is not unknown. However, to the best of my knowledge, it is rare for the big , trusted IT companines to do such this. I strongly feel that a company that does not pay during training period cannot be trusted. Traning freshers is a cost that is balanced against an oportunity. It will be recovered from a client sooner or later. Some companies (read cheap or low on budget) may feel it is justified to not pay trainees during the learning period but it ignores the fact that the trainees have expenses to meet. At least a stipend of 50% of promised salary is in order, if not the full pay. Other companies justify it saying that trainees may drop off or leave after training for another job which means that the organization does not recover the cost. If you have a bond then there is no justification for not paying you.

share|improve this answer
@AdityaGameProgrammer: There's risks on both sides. However, a business is usually in a much better position to absorb the risk. A junior developer who goes without pay for two months and then is let go is in for a tough time. –  David Thornley Apr 27 '11 at 20:04
@David I have seen that happen too.I am not saying it is right or supporting the actions of such company's in anyway.I was merely stating the justification they put forth to the junior programmer to not pay them.A good While ago When i faced a similar situation i just walked out. –  Aditya P Apr 28 '11 at 2:13

I've seen similar stuff happen, but never zero pay.

Check the credentials of the company. If they are reputable, then investigate some more. Some reputable companies might take you in on a small retainer for training, not a full wage, and give you full wages when you have completed training.

But like others have said it must be 100% training. If you produce any work, then you should be paid for it. This can be the smallest legal salary, but there must be some pay to justify you working for them.

share|improve this answer
Required professional training is by definition work and you should receive no less than you full salary legally. –  HLGEM Apr 27 '11 at 20:14

There are 3 fundamental questions here:

  1. Are there written records of these conversations with the company/their offer that mentions the going unpaid thing?
  2. How much does the training cost and can the company justify the cost equal to 2 months of your salary?
  3. Are you the 1st person in this scheme or all employees in this company go through similar training?

Frankly I have never heard of something like this. At the very least you should be provided some stipend that covers your living + travel costs.

share|improve this answer

Only time I've ever seen no-pay contracts was for interns needing a few months of work experience as part of their university courses. In those cases the company serves as a training ground, and gets some work done in payment.

share|improve this answer

A well-run company doesn't require two months of training, paid or not, for new hires. If there are industry- or company-specific skills they need their employees to have, that's understandable, but it shouldn't take two months to teach those skills, and it definitely shouldn't be unpaid, especially if the training is specific to that company - it would do you no good anywhere else, so it does you no good to waste two months waiting for them to decide whether or not they'll keep you. (Two months of, say, certified Oracle training might give you something marketable, so you might get value out of it, but it still doesn't make up for two months without a paycheck.)

A well-run company that expects you to be trained in something prior to paying you for working for them will not hire you until you have that training.

Working for a poorly-run company can be tolerable if you're getting paid well enough: it's not as good as working for a good company and making good money, but it's a start, and it may help you figure out what you want at your next job. Working for a poorly-run company for no money is a bad idea.

share|improve this answer
It's not unheard of for new hires being expected to be unproductive for over a year, although that's certainly extreme. I can easily see an employer wanting to train new employees for two months, but as you mentioned that's often company specific, and legit companies will pay an employee while training. –  David Thornley Apr 27 '11 at 19:54

Based on your description, this sounds like a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

From the Department of Labor's website:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.


All 6 must be true for an unpaid internship to be legal.

NT Times article on the subject.

share|improve this answer
  • Either the company is trying to be cheap or too careful.What does this tell you about they way they would treat you and pay you if and when you are actually hired?
  • If they are not in a position to pay you even a stipend during the training.They are probably in a big financial mess and you can expect things like delay in pay or no pay due to improper fund allocation might.
  • It would not be surprising if you found this company amongst the blacklisted ones.
  • I am sure you search you can find background information regarding this.
  • It Is Illegal In Most countries. As John aptly said Sounds like a scam, not a job. Nigerian job offer?
share|improve this answer

Under no circumstances would I accept a job like that! Training is work and you are entitled to be paid while doing it. This would be a very poor company to work for.

share|improve this answer

Company should count with fact, that newcommers need some training first. And companies should pay that and take it as an investment. Because more knowledge of employee = more value from him. Just keep looking for another job if you can.

If you can't you can still give it a try (if no other options, or you just want) because on the other side.. that training might be valuable for you (depends on quality of training). You can take designers, webdevelopers etc. for example.. many of them start doing things for free and they are building their portfolios with it, which they will later use to sell themselves for some real (and not cheap) cash.

Different situation would be, if you were senior with years of experience of course, but given, that you are jut leaving school...

I don't know if it's normal or legal in your country, but I have already heard about similar offers if I remember correctly.

share|improve this answer
No, it's not normal and he should not "give it a try." Even co-op students make a living wage. –  user16764 Apr 26 '11 at 4:29

protected by gnat Apr 11 at 21:56

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.