by Sarah K. White

9 legacy programming skills still in demand

Dec 20, 2017
CareersIT SkillsStaff Management

Tech may change quickly, but companies still need to uphold legacy systems and networks. Here are the top nine legacy programming languages companies still hire for and support.

Gartner reports that organizations are faced with a new challenge as baby boomers retire amid a growing skills gap. It’s creating a new demand for legacy skills as businesses face the option of updating older technology or hiring talent with disappearing skills. Updating old technology can be a resource drain, and as more seasoned employees cycle out of the workforce, companies might find themselves lacking skills that are now viewed as outdated.

A survey from Computerworld found that, while 65 percent of businesses aren’t looking for legacy skills, 35 percent still seek workers with legacy programming skills to support critical legacy systems. While you might not want to go out of your way to learn these nine skills, if you already have the experience, it can make you a uniquely qualified candidate for the right role.


The origins of DB2 go back to IBM in the ’70s, where it has a storied history of evolution that eventually resulted in the 1983 release of DB2 (IBM Database 2). DB2 was originally developed by IBM to be a platform-specific for IBM’s operating systems, but in the 1990s IBM opened up DB2 with common code. Today, it works across multiple platforms, including Linux, Unix and Windows, helping businesses manage on-site and cloud storage.

It’s one of the more popular legacy programming languages for businesses, with 13 percent saying they still support DB2 platforms and hire for DB2 skills. Database administrators, software engineers, programmers and software developers are the most likely candidates with DB2 experience.


One of the most recognized programming languages, C is a general-purpose imperative computer programming language that dates to 1969. It became standardized in 1989 by the American National Standards Institute and by the International Organization for Standardization. Designed as a straight-forward, low-level programming language that works across platforms, it’s still a flexible and widely usable programming language.

As a result, it’s embedded into a wide range of hardware and software — everything from microcontrollers to supercomputers. It has spawned several languages, including C++, Java, JavaScript, C#, Perl, Python, Swift and many others. Software engineers, electrical engineers, developers and programmers are the most likely to have C skills; 10 percent of businesses said they still need support for C platforms and still hire for C skills.


Cobol stands for “common business-oriented language,” and is a computer programming language specifically designed for businesses. Created in 1959, Cobol is written into a wide array of legacy systems, and while it’s slowly being replaced by newer, modern programming languages, there’s still a need to maintain legacy systems. It’s originally based off programming language work completed by Grace Hopper, who is referred to in the industry as “the grandmother of Cobol.”

Developed in part as a portable programming language for the U.S. Department of Defense to process data, the organization pushed computer manufacturers to provide the language, which helped perpetuate the language over the years. Today, it’s most commonly found in the financial industry, government sector and in administrative corporate systems. Cobol skills are most common with programmers and developers — 9 percent of businesses still say they have a need for Cobol.

Assembly language

Assembly language — sometimes referred to as an assembler language — is a language that is typically specific to a piece of hardware of software. As a low-level programming language, it’s one of the most basic programming languages available, and isn’t portable across devices. It’s typically used when high-level languages aren’t possible or when speed is a key factor.

The survey found that 8 percent of businesses still need to support assembly, so there’s a chance you can still emphasize this legacy skill in your job search. It’s one of the first programming languages to use text, so including it on your resume can also show you’ve learned foundational languages on top of modern languages.


Perl is a family of open source, general-use programming languages that resemble the C language, but are typically faster than structured languages like C and C++. It was developed in 1987 but the most recent release came in May 2017, with Perl 5 — which was first released in umbrella. There’s also a Perl 6, but it operates separately from Perl 5, despite falling under the Perl family.

Perl still has a decent hold in the market, as far as legacy programming languages go — the report found that 5 percent of businesses still support and hire for this skillset. You might not find a ton of jobs that call for Perl, but it can give you a foot in the door at any business looking for this legacy skill. Software engineers, design verification engineers, software developers, system administrators and programmers are the most likely to have Perl skills on their resumes.

Delphi and Object Pascal

Delphi and Object Pascal are closely linked — Delphi uses the Pascal-based programming language. Object Pascal is a high-level programming language that is easy to use, whereas Pascal is intended to be an all-purpose, low-level programming language. It was developed in the ’90s and released in 1995 for Windows 3.1, spawning multiple versions, iterations and separate languages in the years following.

Only 3 percent of respondents said they still support and hire for Delphi and Object Pascal skills. You’ll find Delphi skills are most common with software developers, engineers and programmers.


Fortran — which stands for Formula Translation — is designed for scientific algorithms and most often used by engineers and mathematicians for aerospace, mechanical and software engineering. The oldest programming language on this list, Fortran was developed in the 1950s by IBM and, for decades, was the dominant programming languages for weather prediction, computational physics and other high-performance computing tasks.

Only 3 percent of respondents said they still support and hire for Fortran skills, but that might change as more experienced IT workers change jobs or retire. You might still want to include this skill on your resume or LinkedIn profile, just in case businesses are searching for candidates with specific legacy skills. Software engineers, aerospace engineers and mechanical engineers are the mostly likely candidates to have Fortran skills on their resumes.


Restructured Extended Executor (REXX) was developed between 1979 and 1982 by an IBM employee as a structured, high-level interpreted programming language designed to be easy to learn and read. It’s most often used as a scripting and macro language, processing data and text, or generating reports. The language is intended to be easy to learn so that even non-programmers can learn and use the language, which makes it a popular option for businesses.

It’s not the most in-demand legacy skill, with only 3 percent of respondents saying they still support and hire for this skill. You’ll find this skill is most commonly associated with computer programmers, software engineers, applications systems analysts and mainframe programmers. 


Developed in the late 1960s, Pascal is an imperative and procedural programming language that was originally designed for teaching programming languages. Today, it’s been mostly replaced by C, C++ and Java, but it’s still used as an introduction to programming. Used for structured programming, which requires a strong attention to detail, it’s become a popular language to teach new students — however, it’s less popular in the enterprise.

Only 2 percent of businesses said they still support and hire for Pascal — while it’s rare, it also makes anyone with Pascal skills valuable. Software engineers and software developers are the most likely candidates for Pascal skills.  

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