What Does a COBOL Programmer Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL) programmer analyzes systems to determine information technology needs and then updates, replaces, or designs custom software. This programming language has been in use since the end of the 1950s, and has played an especially big role in government and business applications. Programmers who work in this field may maintain older systems built on a COBOL base, assist with transitions between programming languages, and generate new COBOL systems. Many are familiar with multiple programming languages so they can be more useful to their employers.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Companies with ongoing information technology needs may hire their own programmers to maintain the systems they use. In addition, their programmers can update their software and design new applications as needed. Another option for a COBOL programmer can be employment with a consulting organization making programmers available to clients as needed. For example, a defense contractor might retain a COBOL programmer to work with various computer systems and to design new systems for government clients.

This work requires a careful attention to detail. Programmers meet with clients to discuss the given constraints and concerns in a situation, including what they need programs to do. They can start to develop proposals, based on this meeting and research to find out more about standards and practices. Clients review these proposals to select the options they want, and the COBOL programmer devises the code, tests it, and delivers a finished package to the client.

As software programs are used, the COBOL programmer can respond to reports of problems. This may require periodic patches and updates, as well as new version releases to meet ongoing needs. Usage of software typically shifts over time, which means it needs to change to adapt in order to continue being useful. Evaluating how people use software, the programmer can attempt to stay on track to keep updating it in a timely and efficient problem so users feel like it doesn’t lag behind their requirements. At the same time, the programmer generates documentation for users and other programmers so they understand the changes.

It can be helpful for a COBOL programmer to know multiple programming languages. Various languages can be better suited to different functions, and the ability to select the right one can be valuable. This skill can also be useful when business plan to transition between systems. The programmer can act as a consultant to assist with determining which program would be most suitable, and may participate in the transition, including migrating data and testing functions.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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