COBOL represents one of the original languages used to program computers. As business technology has grown, some companies moved to technology using newer computer languages, rendering COBOL knowledge inadequate. Still, COBOL remains a prominent language used in many companies. Companies still require the services of COBOL programmers, choosing to recruit and hire these individuals.
A COBOL programmer works behind the scenes designing computer processes which allow the computer system to meet the company’s needs. The programmer meets with managers to determine what they want to gain from using the system. This might include allowing the user to run reports, gather multiple types of data or perform calculations. After the programmer understands the needs, she reviews the current COBOL programming to identify what changes need to occur. She copies the system to a practice environment, revises the current programming, tests the changes and restores the system to the live environment.
A COBOL programmer typically holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information systems. Some companies hire programmers who hold an associate degree. COBOL programmers need to maintain their skills to remain competitive in the job market. They often attend classes at local colleges or online and review technology publications. Some programmers pursue certification to demonstrate their ability to work with various software packages, to troubleshoot programming issues or to prove their proficiency after attending classroom training.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the job outlook to remain strong for computer programmers. The overall number of jobs is expected to decline, but job openings will result from employee retirement or job transfers. COBOL programmers need to maintain their skills and expand on them to remain competitive.
COBOL programmers earned a median salary ranging from $67,790 to $104,870 in May 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Individuals with higher degrees and additional certifications earned salaries at the higher end of the pay scale.