What is Master the Mainframe?

Master the Mainframe is a fun way to learn, earn digital badges and experience hands-on mainframe technology with no prior knowledge required!

Master the Mainframe’s Learning System is open to anyone year-round for technology training and earning IBM digital badges.

Yearly, the IBM Z Academic Initiative sponsors a Master the Mainframe global contest where academic students can learn while vying to win prizes. New challenges are posted each September.

Who can participate?

Learning System

This experience is open to anyone looking to learn and earn IBM Digital Badges. Simply register for the Master the Mainframe Learning System.


To compete for the prizes in the annual contest, you must be an academic student attending an accredited learning institution. 

The benefits

Master the Mainframe introduces all participants to enterprise systems and inspires interest in mainframe technology.


  • Gain unique skills required for enterprise systems
  • Learn how to code and build innovations using the mainframe
  • Earn Digital Badges
  • Find employment opportunities


  • Take advantage of a graded, turnkey, hands-on project that is easily incorporated into curriculums
  • Get additional educator resources including curriculum, access to systems, e-learning, and more through the the IBM Z Academic Initiative


  • Connect with talented students who have earned Master the Mainframe Digital Badges using Talent Match and the job board 
  • Upskill and reskill your employees using the Learning System to introduce the mainframe

Why mainframes?

  • In early 2018, Glassdoor listed over 6,380 U.S. "mainframe" jobs and Indeed listed 9,675 jobs in mainframe, COBOL, z/OS, JCL, CICS, IMS.
  • Based on current growth patterns, IBM predicts that approximately 37,200 new mainframe administration positions will emerge worldwide by 2020.
  • The mainframe platform enables you to work on networking, analytics, databases, deep programming languages, APIs — the full 360 degrees of IT.

Hear from participants

IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest enabled Visa to recruit students with mainframe computing skills - a critical success factor in extending the reach and capabilities of our network while at the same time enhancing the security of payments and maintaining high volume / high availability.

Jeff Gill, Senior Director, Switching Systems, Visa Inc