COBOL, like Star Trek, needs a new generation

I was discussing the current and future state with Ed Airey, a Product Marketing Director with Micro Focus. Because of the nature of his job, he has his finger on the pulse of everything COBOL.

We discussed COBOL from the perspective of current and future career opportunities for those who now program in it, those who previously programmed in it, and those who have never programmed but would like to get a foothold within the IT profession.

For those currently programming in COBOL, there is every expectation that the large COBOL installations will continue to exist, particularly within government and financial services. These applications are too big and work too well to consider replacement. Certainly everyone should keep an eye on what’s going on with your particular application, but overall, the prognosis is good. Regarding expanding your knowledge and skill set, there are versions of Micro Focus COBOL running on windows, UNIX, and Linux. I’m not suggesting that entirely new applications on these platforms are being written in COBOL, but instead COBOL shops are using it to create off-host interfaces for existing applications. They are trying to move these applications as-written to other platforms. The advantage is that this provides the opportunity to work on and learn these other operating systems as a way to expand your marketability.

For those who have previously programmed in COBOL and have either left the profession or have moved to other technologies and are having trouble finding work, COBOL could be your answer for finding new and long-lasting employment.

Over the years, COBOL has generally been thought of more and more as an old-style technology and is generally not taught in colleges and IT training programs. The problem is that the baby boomers maintaining these systems are retiring en mass and IT organizations are having big trouble finding people to replace them. This is where you come in. Many IT organizations would be ready and willing to help you bring your COBOL skills back up to speed if you are willing to step back into your previous vocation.

For those who have never been in IT, but would like to, and don’t feel the great need to work on the latest technologies, COBOL could be your answer. It’s not as sexy as the newer technologies, but the competition for these jobs is less formidable, and as the older baby boomers continue to retire, more and more jobs will become available.

If you wish to update your previous COBOL skills in the hope of once again programming in this great language or you wish to learn COBOL for the first time, the Micro Focus website has free resources for your use. The Micro Focus Bridge the Skills Gap site has free tutorials, downloadable programming environments, forums, and other valuable features.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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