5 Most Frequently Asked Questions When Learning SAS

Neha Shitut

SAS is one of the most extensively used programming languages in Business Analytics. As a subject matter expert, I have trained more than 500 students in the last three years. My students are mostly beginners in analytics and therefore, in SAS. There are lot of curious questions they pose and over the years, I have noticed some of these questions are asked by almost all the students. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1. Is there a free version of SAS that I can download?

One of the disadvantages of SAS is that the licensing is very expensive as compared to the open source technologies available in the market today. SAS learners often ask this question if they can download a less costlier SAS version on their computers. There are two free versions available. There is a SAS Academic License and a SAS University Edition. The one that I often use is ‘SAS OnDemand’ which you can download here – https://odamid.oda.sas.com/SASODARegistration/

It requires you to register but is free. This is a good resource for learning SAS but may not work well for running live business analytics projects.

2. Which books can I refer to for learning SAS ?

The most popular book for learning SAS is “The Little SAS Book” available online. However my recommendation  would be to create business problems from a sample dataset and then try to address them using SAS. This I have found is the best way to learn a programming language. Try to search for syntax and its options on google or SAS support.

One thing to remember while searching for SAS syntax online is to make sure you are searching for commands that are compatible with the module you are working with. Supposing you are trying to find a syntax for concatenate function – catx or pipe operator can be used only in Base SAS. But you may also find functions like concat etc. which are compatible with other SAS modules.

3. Do I need to have a Base SAS certification?

Though Base SAS certification is not a requirement, it definitely is an added advantage. There are many roles in an analytics organisation. For the role of a Business Analyst, recruiters look for a basic understanding of tools, statistics and statistical techniques, and their application in analytics. Base SAS certification may help in setting up or improving an existing process but isn’t a necessary requirement for an analyst’s role.

My recommendation would be to get a fair understanding of application of various tools like SAS, R, Python in Analytics than focusing on SAS programming alone.

Head to our Data Science Specialization to not only master SAS, but also to become a full stack Data Scientist. 

4. Will R take over SAS or recently – will Python take over R and SAS?

It is not a question of R taking over SAS or Python taking over R or Julia taking over SAS, R and Python. We have multiple tools available in the industry today. Companies will use these tools as per specific project requirements. It’s the question about have SAS and R not SAS or R. SAS is a robust Statistical programming language and a lot of research and code has already been written for processes across various analytics business.

In the long run R maybe used in conjunction with SAS, it will still be a long time before it can replace R.

5. Can I use files from Oracle and such other databases in SAS?

Yes. You can use many databases in SAS. Whichever database is used, you will have to import the dataset in a SAS readable format (sas7bdat) and then use for manipulation.

From my experience, these are the top 5 questions that a lot of students ask. Do you have any questions that you have about when learning SAS?

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