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How Do I Become a COBOL Programmer?

By K. Reynolds
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) is the second oldest programming language and has been around for over 60 years; therefore, large numbers of legacy programs and code are available to anyone looking to become a COBOL programmer. A person looking to become a COBOL programmer can choose to learn the language through independent study, but most aspiring programmers opt to learn the language through a formal education in computer science or other programming curriculum. Those looking to become a COBOL programmer for a technology company will need to have a bachelor's degree from a technical field in order to compete in the job market.

In order to become a COBOL programmer, one will need to understand data and control structures as they are the foundation of any programming language. This can be done fairly easily as there are numerous free online COBOL courses that will assist anyone who is looking to become a COBOL programmer. In addition to free online courses, many experienced COBOL programmers interact with one another in a variety of online forums. These forums can assist individuals looking to become a COBOL programmer in a variety of ways including reviewing code structure and syntax, or helping to debug a program.

Those who are serious about the opportunity to become a COBOL programmer can become certified in the language, which will demonstrate proficiency to potential clients and employers. The certification is administered by the Institute for Data Center Professionals and is widely respected throughout the industry. Individuals taking the certification exam are tested on the basics of COBOL programming, which include the use of structured programming techniques and the programmers’ proficiency in the designing, coding, and testing of COBOL programs. Advance COBOL programming concepts are also covered within the certification test, including array processing techniques and transaction processing.

After becoming proficient in the language, those looking to become a COBOL programmer will need to decide whether or not to offer their programming services as independent consultants, or acquire a COBOL programming position at a company. Independent consultants are able to work on a variety of projects from the comfort of their homes. Although this option offers an abundance of freedom and flexibility, the income and workload can vary dramatically. It is because of this that many individuals looking to become a COBOL programmer will begin their careers by obtaining a job as an on-staff COBOL programmer.

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Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On Jan 29, 2014

I'd wager that becoming a COBOL programmer is just like becoming fluent in any computer language -- grab a good compiler, a handy book that teaches COBOL and dive right in.

Of course, there are COBOL classes given in computer science departments all over the place. But, you've got to start somewhere, right? Most of the best programmers I know started out as hobbyists who were fascinated with learning a programming language so they could make computers do what they told them.

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