Looking for job security? Try Cobol

As long as there are mainframes, there will be Cobol. Learn the language and the culture and you might land a job that that lasts until retirement

A career as a Cobol programmer might not be as sexy as slinging Java code or scripting in Ruby, but if you buckle down and learn hoary old Cobol, you could land one of the safest, most secure jobs in IT.

Analyst reports indicate that Cobol salaries are on the upswing. The language is easy to learn, there's a healthy demand for the skills, and offshore Cobol programmers are in short supply -- plus, the language itself holds the promise of longevity. All that loose talk about mainframes going away has subsided, and companies committed to big iron need Cobol pros to give them love.


Tolearn about other skills in high-demand during tight times, read " Recession-proof IT jobs."

In a troubled economy, with analysts forecasting IT spending slowdowns, secure IT positions could quickly become scarcer than they are today. Seasoned Cobol programmers, in contrast, "should be in pretty good shape job-wise. If they have a position at an organization that intends to keep its legacy Cobol apps, then they are probably set for life," says industry analyst Jeff Gould, director of research at Interop Systems. "Many mainframe customers with large mission-critical Cobol apps are locked into the mainframe platform. Often there is no equivalent packaged app, and it proves to be just too expensive to port the legacy Cobol to newer platforms like Intel or AMD servers."

Why Cobol is alive and well

William Conner, a senior manager in Deloitte's technology integration practice, comments that "salaries for Cobol programmers have been rising in recent years due to a lack of supply. Demand is outstripping supply because many Cobol programmers are reaching retirement age and college leavers tend to focus on Java, XML, and other modern languages."

Deloitte also found that three-fifths of respondents are actually developing new and strategic Cobol-based applications. Yes, right here in 2008.

Retired Cobol programmer William C. Kees, who coded in Cobol for 25 years, says that the language is easy to learn and that he mastered it without taking any classes. Another career Cobol programmer requesting anonymity seconds that sentiment: "It's easy to learn, read, and follow. After looking at code for .Net or VisualBasic, give me Cobol any day. At least it's readable."

What's more, Cobol programmers are not as prone to having their job outsourced, according to Brian Keane, CEO for Dextrys, an outsourcing company based in China and the United States. "The Chinese don't have mainframe experience. Because Chinese computer science graduates have come late to the technology table they are starting with the latest architectures and systems and don't have the experience with legacy languages and systems," he says.

Latin American countries are in a situation similar to that of the United States, according to Gabriel Rozman, executive vice president for emerging markets at Tata Consultancy Services. "Many Latin countries are still stuck with legacy mainframes where Cobol is a common skill," says Rozman, "so that anyone who has [that and] the latest Java skills, for example, would be sought after."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags programmingcareers

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Sullivan

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?