Zero to SAS Certified Base Programmer in 3 months (Part 1)

I'm happy to report that I have achieved my SAS Certified Base Programmer credential. w00t!. I took my first SAS programming course on March 10th and passed my exam on June 18th (so I guess a more accurate title would say 3 months and 8 days!).

I thought I would share a couple notes from my experience. But first, I should point out that there are other great perspectives on certification preparation techniques. First, there is 10 year SAS programming vet Gongwei Chen's SAS Global Forum paper describing his 4 months of preparation for Base and Advanced SAS programming credentials. There is also the PROC CERTIFY project from SAS Publishing employees Stacey Hamilton and Christine Kjellberg, two self-affirmed non-techies tackling certification with the assistance of SAS Publishing books such as the Certification Prep Guide.

So, what's my background? I have a degree in engineering. I'm a veteran of the telecom industry with more than a dozen years spent in network engineering and technical education. I've achieved data networking certification in the form of Cisco's CCNA. I consider myself a techie, dabbling in computers, web, and database technologies. I'm not a programmer, but I have programmed, learning FORTRAN in college and then C and VBA afterward. So in terms of technical/SAS background, I guess I'm somewhere on the continuum between Gongwei on one side and Stacey and Christine on the other.

Why did I seek SAS certification? Two reasons. First, I'm new to SAS and, being a bit of a techie, really wanted to learn SAS programming. Second, I work on the certification team here at SAS and wanted to experience SAS certification first hand. Ethically, I would have to do this quickly so that I achieved my certification before I did any work on the Base Programming exam. Wouldn't really be fair to see the exam before taking the exam, now would it?

How did I prepare? Although I am a long-time fan of self-paced learning, I thought I would do something different this time and give classroom training a try. Specifically, I took the Programming 1 and Programming 2 courses, did a bunch of studying, wrote a bunch of programs, and then used the Certification e-Practice exam to ensure that I was ready to sit for the exam. These component courses may also be available to you at a discount via a Best Value Bundle, depending on your location.

Who do I think can benefit from my perspective? Maybe you would like to make a career change and take advantage of the 1000+ SAS related job postings on the major job boards. Maybe you already work with SAS code and would like to become more efficient with your coding time and gain some recognition of your SAS programming skills. Or maybe you just got your first SAS programming job and need to ramp-up quickly.

In my next post, I'll share more specifics about how I studied and prepared for the exam. I hope you will find my perspective helpful.

tags: certification, how to learn sas


  1. Ginger
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I'm so jealous! I really want to get certified, but the expense and the time required have remained an obstacle.

  2. Nishant Dsouza
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a motivational write up Mr. Mark... Started digging SAS a week back and hope to get certified soon. Thanks

  3. Abhijit Choudhary
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I am interested in getting advise on how to preparee for the Base SAS Certification. Please advise me as much as `possible.

    • Siddharth Saini
      Posted August 6, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Take Class room training. Read SAS Certification Prep guide for Base SAS and Use E-Learning option. I am doing the Same.

  4. Abhijit Choudhary
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Dan says:
    September 6, 2007 at 10:35 pm
    I liked the below post from other link:

    I passed the SAS Base Cert at the begining of last year (90%) and foud it very simple. However, i’ve been using it for 5+yrs and have a computer science degree. I purchased the cert prep book and the practice questions from SAS. I think that passing this exam is about three things 1) knowing the stuff; 2) getting used to the way they ask the questions; and 3) whether you are the type of person who does well in tests. I found that for approx 30% of the questions i needed to examine all possible answers – so i didn’t fall victim to the ‘gotcha’.

    I don’t consider those that fail the test to have lesser knowledge or ability.

    • Ashish Sharma
      Posted December 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Hello Abhijit,

      I am thinking of doing the SAS Certification, but seeing the amount for the certification I need to know if its worth spending or not. What are the future prospects once I get SAS Certified.

      You help would be very valuable and helpful. Please guide me.

      Thank you :)
      Ashish Sharma

  5. Posted June 10, 2013 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    Hello Mark,
    Thanks for sharing your personal experience in becoming Base SAS programmer(certified). It has really boost me up with a strong dtermination and confidence

  6. Jyotsana
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I heard that SAS market is really hot now a days & I want to get certified SAS. But I'm not a programmer, in fact I never did programming in my life. So I'm little scared.I really don't know how to prepare for the SAS certification. I need your advice.


    • Mark Stevens Mark
      Posted June 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      If you have no programming experience and you want to learn SAS, then I recommend that you seek out some SAS Training.

  7. vit
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I am preparing for my Base SAS exam.
    I am expecting the experienced and already passed candidates who can show the path to pass the exam.

  8. kushal thakral
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks Mark for the guidance
    can you also share some preparation material so that we can go through that and make an attempt for the certification
    i have already read base sas cert guide, and base sas by examples book
    please guide

    • Mark Stevens Mark Stevens
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Those are both great preparation materials. The Certification Prep Guide is the primaryself-study resource because it aligns with the exam objectives. Other resources, such as 'The Little SAS Book' or 'Learning SAS by Example' can augment preparation but should not be used exclusively. There is also a practice exam available from SAS training.

  9. Andy
    Posted October 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I am new to SAS, I really wish to get SAS certified. I am confused with which sort of book to refer for. Can anyone help me with this? I did have a glance at "sas certification prep guide base programming sas 9" and it looks good to me.

    • Kolby Patrick
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      That appears to be the only game in town. There are other books, but they seem to be pretty lousy based on the reviews from Amazon.

  10. Raghvendra
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    I am new to SAS. Currently am working in telecom industry but i was thinking cert. for SAS plz suggest me . Thank You

  11. Suba
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mark,

    I am currently studying for SAS Base, would you be able to point me to some exercises that may be available for use on internet? It will be nice to have some answers, but its ok so long as I have some exercises to work with. Many thanks!

  12. Nsaikila Melaine
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Mark for your info.
    For those who have no prior background in programming, you just need 3 to 4 months of classes and you'll be good. I am economics major and fell in love with SAS because economics students use a lot of data. So after taking SAS as a course, I went on to prepare for an additional month, took the exam and passed. I am presently studying to take the advanced certification. SAS is fun especially when you have to deal with large data sets.


  13. Syed Arif
    Posted August 19, 2015 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I am from non-programming background. I am very much interested in SAS. Can anybody advice me if it is easy or difficult for professionals from non programming background.

  14. aditya
    Posted December 25, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Hi, am an MBA with more than 5yr Supply Chain Background,Job profiles like Distribution,stock allocation, Ordering kind of in particularly Retail also a pure non technical person.Can any one please guide me how SAS certification will help me for career development in same Supply chain background.??


    • Mark Stevens Mark Stevens
      Posted January 4, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Analytics play an important role in supply chain management, from demand planning and forecasting to quality assurance and even reducing aftermarket service costs. If you were interested in developing your technical skills, studying and practicing for a SAS certification exam can provide you with some fundamental SAS analytics skills. Combining your supply chain subject matter expertise, your MBA, and newly added SAS skills would prepare you for a variety of new opportunities at companies that value data driven decisions in their supply chain operations.

  15. Saroj
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Hey Mark,

    Good to know a lot on SAS certification. I know SQL and I wan to go for the SAS base certification. Will SQL help in any ways in SAS programming. I have no idea of what prog. language is used in SAS. And secondly where can I practice the programs in SAS, I don't have the software at home. Is it possible to practice it without the software? Please advise.

    • Maggie Miller Maggie Miller
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Hi Saroj,
      I can't answer your question about SQL, but I can help you with access to software for practice. SAS University Edition is available for anyone who wants to learn SAS – it runs in the cloud and all you need is a browser and an Internet connection. Here's the webpage where you can learn more and download:

  16. sayyedz
    Posted June 10, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    In SAS base programming certification exam , do candidate have access to SAS ?

    • Mark Stevens Mark
      Posted June 13, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      No, the Base Programming exam as it exists today is not a practical exam.

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