Next move: what are the options for a Cobol expert?

What can a Cobol expert do to expand their career options?

The question: what are the options for a Cobol expert?

I returned to IT a year ago after a 10-year absence. I am an analyst programmer with Cobol and RPG experience, and I was lucky enough to get a trainee position with a small local firm using Cobol/Unix. Unfortunately, the IT department is going to be made redundant on 30 November. Can you recommend a course of action?

The solution: broaden your skills to target larger firms

There has been an upturn in demand for Cobol experience, but demand is still relatively low in real terms, and salaries have topped out at about £30,000.

Programming skills in general are very much in demand at the moment. Employers are looking for candidates with business and technological expertise, so your experience will stand you in good stead. It would be worth thinking about widening your skill set to open up more opportunities.

If you want to market yourself to bigger companies, it would be worth considering honing your skills in Microsoft programs, as many employers will expect you to hold a relevant qualification. There are various ways to go about this, so you need to look at the options.

The most obvious additional qualifications to look into would be the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist .net or .net 2.0, based on Visual Studio 2005. This would allow you to stay in programming.

Moving up the career ladder should not be a problem. Average salaries for those with .net skills are about £40,000, and there are good opportunities within a wide range of companies.

Solution by Rob Chapman, chief executive at Firebrand Training

The panel: Computer People, Hudson, No Limits Coaching, Firebrand Training, Wreay Group

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)