Mainframe Programmer: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a mainframe programmer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Computer Programming degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Mainframe Programmer?

Mainframe programmers are responsible for programming the central computer processor, also called a mainframe, which supports computers across a network. Mainframe programmers' tasks include writing, updating, and testing programs. They need to be able to use a variety of computer languages, like Java and C++. They also will create, simplify, and test computer coding. The table below lists some career facts for mainframe programmers.

Degree Required Associate or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Programming or computer science
Key Responsibilities Operate and maintain a mainframe computer, run diagnostic tests, write and update programs, analyze and fix system errors
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -8% for all computer programmers
Median Salary (2015)* $79,530 for all computer programmers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is the Job Description of a Mainframe Programmer?

While working as a mainframe programmer, your main job duty is to operate the mainframe computer and ensure it is working properly. You may run tests, write new programs and install networks. Analyzing system errors, updating programs and making modifications to a computer may also be part of your job. You must also catch and fix serious technical problems, such as viruses, before they damage the entire network.

Mainframe programmers often work as part of a team. You may work under the direction of a software engineer. Engineers may give you directions on how to fix problems or tell you what program needs to be written. You may also work with system analysts to determine and identify issues within the mainframe.

What Education and Training is Required?

Employers may require a certificate, associate degree or bachelor's degree in programming or computer science. Topics covered in a programming or computer science program may include networking concepts, programming fundamentals, Web design and operating systems. Most programs also cover programming languages, such as Java and C++.

You must be able to write, understand and manage computer programs. It's important to understand how computers work and be able to recognize common programming errors. Experience is important to employers, because they want to ensure you have the proper programming knowledge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many programmers gain experience through internships or entry-level jobs in the programming field (www.bls.gov).

Due to the constant changes within the computer industry, continuing education is usually required. Continuing education courses help you refresh your skills and gain new ones. You may be introduced to new technology or concepts through these classes.

How Much Can I Earn and What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the BLS, computer programmers, including mainframe programmers, earned a median salary of $79,530, as of May 2015. The BLS also reported that in 2015, about 289,420 jobs were held by all computer programmers. The number of jobs available for all computer programmers was expected to decline by 8% between 2014 and 2024.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Like computer programmers, software developers design and create computer programs. They may work on the system software, the background programs that run networks and devices for computers, or on applications, or tools, that computer users access. Network architects are also designers and creators, but they work with communication networks between computers. They might create an intranet only available within a few offices, or a complete online infrastructure that can be accessed by any authorized computer in a number of facilities. Like computer programmers, both of these careers require a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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