What is Master the Mainframe?

Master the Mainframe is a fun way to get hands-on experience across a variety of technologies, to develop valuable skills, and to earn digital badges – with no prior knowledge required!

  • Part 1:  Learn the basics of navigation, files and programs.
  • Part 2: Practice programming languages, operating systems and technologies.
  • Part 3: Participate in real-world challenges.

The Student Contest and the Learning System are available worldwide.

Mainframe global map

One great experience, two ways to get started

Learning System

Anyone can register to use the Learning System and earn IBM Digital Badges. Take on the same challenges, but no prizes are awarded. The system is open year-round.

The Student Contest
Students attending any accredited institution can register for the global virtual contest, compete for prizes, and earn badges. The contest is open September 14, 2020 through January 17, 2021.

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 curricula, access to systems, e-learning, and more– through 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, and IMS.
  • The mainframe platform enables you to work on networking, analytics, databases, deep programming languages, and APIs — the full 360 degrees of IT.

The community

Master the Mainframe started as a contest and has grown into a community of participants, employers and fans collaborating on new skills and career development. Learn more about the contest and ask questions in the Master the Mainframe User Group.