We Just Hired 200 Instructors to Teach More Students to Code

By Chevas Balloun

Last Updated: January 30th 2023

Nucamp Coding Bootcamp Instructor

Meeting the continuing demand for coding education.

Gig Economy Challenges

In case you didn’t know, Nucamp has employed hundreds of part-time instructors as independent contractors for several years.

That means that the majority of them have other, full-time jobs, most of which are in the coding industry.

This industry experience is integral to what makes Nucamp different. Having an instructor with on-the-ground, industry experience that stays relevant is invaluable to our students.

But there have been some drawbacks to this model, especially now with the public scrutiny around the gig economy.

One of its main issues is that it lacks definition. A common trade-off for lowering the cost to do business is employers can’t treat contractors like employees in terms of the support they provide to them.

What this meant for Nucamp was having our hands tied when wanting to offer Instructors more guidance on how to best do their work. As an example, we could not formalize clear guidelines for grading assignments (grading rubrics), because contractors are expected to own how they deliver their service. This resulted in instructors left needing to reinvent the wheel and self-organize to fill in those gaps.

This creates ambiguity around workers’ rights and gig workers can be left with the short end of the stick.

In addition, there’s often a lack of incentives offered by employers to their contractors and a lack of commitment from both sides.

At Nucamp, we’ve always given a lot of flexibility to our instructors with the understanding that most of them have full-time jobs, which is what we prefer.

At the same time, our relationship with them isn’t casual — they are a huge piece of our identity.

And that’s key to this change.

Increasing Commitment from Both Sides

While we understand that instructors will be primarily invested in their full-time jobs, we also want them to be invested at Nucamp and we believe that should mean being officially recognized as part of the Nucamp team and maintaining cooperative flexibility.

With the transition to becoming W2 employees, Nucamp now offers a number of new benefits to them, which includes more protections under the law, social security coverage, and more opportunities for cohesion, shared goals, more opportunities to teach, and personal development.

We’re committed to hosting quarterly regular calls to build that cohesion, gain feedback to improve our instructor platform, highlight awards, and milestones, and recognize star performance.

We’re also starting a program that will offer 1 on 1 coaching, regularly scheduled observation and feedback, and instructor workshops covering time management, communication, leadership, and subject matter expert development.

In terms of incentives, we are now offering a 10% bonus when 80% of active student completion is achieved at the end of the class.

The top request we get from our instructors is to implement an additional workshop timeslot so that those who desire to can teach more than one course at a time, thus increasing their earning power with Nucamp.

Under the old model with its regulations and staffing challenges, we were unable to do this, but now we can, and starting in Q1 we’re opening up a second workshop timeslot.

At the end of last year, we announced our partnership with Google Cloud and its integration with our Front End Web & Mobile Development, Full Stack Web & Mobile Development, and The Complete Software Engineering bootcamps.

Because of that partnership, we’re also offering Nucamp Instructors exclusive access to Google Cloud Skill Badges and the Google Cloud Certification Path at no cost.

What About Compensation?

With such a significant change, there have been some challenges, specifically around transitioning to a new payroll system and communicating the compensation changes.

To meet employment requirements, Nucamp is now responsible for collecting state and local payroll taxes. This meant having to set up accounts with all the state and local tax agencies so that we could file taxes on the instructors’ behalf.

Since our instructors are spread out across the US, that meant setting up accounts with 38 different states—and counting.

In addition, it was important for the transition to coincide with IRS requirements for income reporting to limit the administrative burden on our instructors. That meant processing the transition at the end of the year at the same time other end-of-year operations were taking place. As contractors, the dollar amount for each payout was more than an official employee’s wages at the same rate because taxes were not deducted and so instructors were still responsible for paying 15.3% in quarterly estimates as freelancers.

For some, that has felt like a measurable pay cut.

But as employees, Nucamp pays 7.65% (FICA), and the remaining taxes the employees owe are automatically deducted.

What’s the net result?

“An employee will earn ~$20 less per payout after taxes are accounted for, with some variation depending on each individual’s deductions. For some, it’s felt more.”

“ My after-tax pay is significantly less than when I was a 1099.”
—Eric Burt, SQL & Python Instructor at Nucamp

Covering the increased costs came down to either 1) increasing prices for students, for no tangible benefit, 2) letting instructors carry the cost, or 3) Nucamp carrying it.

By implementing a 10% bonus based on their performance, an instructor’s compensation can exceed the take-home amount they previously received under the contractor model. This incentive creates an added benefit to students that Nucamp is happy to pay for.

When we asked our instructors in an internal survey what benefits and drawbacks they saw, or expected to see with the change, many said “not having to figure out taxes” was a benefit and it was also the most common response overall.

“[I] don't have to worry about taking taxes out of my pay myself.”
— Kayla Miller, NodeJS and Web Development Fundamentals Instructor at Nucamp

“The benefit is that I do not have to estimate taxes and change my W4 with my full-time employer. W-2 part time is actually better for me because it is easier to file taxes.”
— Jose Zenteno, Python and SQL Instructor at Nucamp

Meeting the demand for coding education

Recent news has reported layoffs in the tech industry which brings into question the demand for coding education.

However, what we’re seeing is a post-pandemic market correction where instead of experiencing meteoric growth in the tech industry, it’s “cooled” to 20% growth, which is still strong for any industry.

If we look at Amazon, for example, we get a clearer picture of what the correction means.

Amazon announced in January 2023 that it would be laying off 18,000 workers. At the end of 2019 before the pandemic, they reported having 798,000 employees. By the end of 2022, they reported having over 1.5 million employees—almost double.

That means over the course of 2 years, they increased their workforce by 88%, and then in January of 2023, they reduced it by 1%.

Despite 18,000 layoffs, the majority of the new roles Amazon added are still intact.

This example may be an outlier in terms of magnitude, but the average growth for the tech industry is still expected to be 20%, which means demand for developers will continue to rise.

“We've run out of ways to describe how much the demand for software engineers is increasing.”
— Hired.com's 2022 State of Software Engineers Report.

Nucamp’s mission is to meet this demand and do it in a way that makes it affordable and accessible for anyone to learn to code and bringing our instructors on as employees helps us achieve this.


Chevas Balloun

Director of Marketing & Brand

Chevas has spent over 15 years inventing brands, designing interfaces, and driving engagement for companies like Microsoft. He is a practiced writer, a productivity app inventor, board game designer, and has a builder-mentality drives entrepreneurship.