Mainframe Programmer: Job Description & Salary

If you're interested in computer programming, you may want to consider a career as a mainframe programmer. Keep reading for more information on what these professionals do and how much they typically earn.

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Career Description of a Mainframe Programmer

Mainframe programmers are computer experts who perform a variety of functions related to coding, scripting, and maintaining software. These professionals work across all industries and interact with a variety of different programming languages.

Educational Requirements High school diploma
Job Skills Expert knowledge of programming languages, interpersonal communication, problem-solving, data analysis
Median Salary (2018)* $74,180
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** -7% (all computer programmers)

Source: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Despite the highly-skilled nature of a mainframe programmer's job, a college degree is rarely a requirement for job postings. For the majority of mainframe programmer job postings, a candidate's work experience and professional skills are more important than a college degree.

Candidates looking to build skills can pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. These programs teach programming languages and other important skills that are critical to a mainframe programmer's job.

Although a degree is not a requirement, what you learn in a college program can help you gain experience. Candidates with a degree will have demonstrated experience in the field, which may give them a slight advantage over comparable applicants who do not have any post-secondary education.

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Required Skills

As previously mentioned, relevant skills are much more important than formal education for mainframe programmers. Knowledge of computer programming is the most important talent in a programmer's repertoire, but employers do not tend to be picky about how candidates acquire this knowledge and experience.

Programmers will need to have knowledge of various programming languages, with the exact language varying depending on the industry and specific requirements of the job in question. Writing scripts, running installation jobs, and integration testing are just a few of the technical duties that programmers will be asked to carry out on the job.

Such a quantitative position requires an excessive amount of analytical skills. Decision-making, problem solving, and organization are all required on a regular basis as programmers navigate the daily challenges of the position.

Another necessity involves communicating high-level concepts to clients and supervisors who may not have the same expertise. Mainframe programmers will frequently need to speak with others and provide explanations that can be understood by one who is not a programmer, meaning interpersonal communication skills are a vital component of the job.

Career Outlook and Salary

Despite the increasingly digital nature of the modern world, mainframe programmers in the US face a job outlook that is not exactly promising. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a seven percent decline from 2016 to 2026 for all computer programmers, a category into which mainframe programmers fall.

The BLS states that this decline stems from the fact that programming work can be done from anywhere in the world, which allows companies to outsource their work to countries where wages are lower.

Wages in the U.S., however, remain strong for mainframe programmers. PayScale.com reported a median salary of $74,180 for all individuals working in this profession in 2018, with an overall salary range of $64,352- $133,951.

Related Careers

If being a mainframe programmer seems like an appealing profession for you, take a look at these other similar careers, which use the same skills and feature related responsibilities:

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