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.


About Author

Mark Stevens

SR Certification Specialist

Mark Stevens is a Certification Specialist for SAS Global Certification and has been working in training and certification since 2004. A SAS Certified Base Programmer since 2010, Mark enjoys every opportunity to dive into new SAS products and features. When he isn’t working on the next SAS certification, he can be found digging in the gardens in his back yard.


  1. Hi Mark!
    I know it is years after this thread has started, so I wanted to know if you are still responding :)
    I work in Public Health, I have a MPH, but no programming background. I am going to get started on learning SAS, programming 1 and 2, but do you suggest I do anything prior to the two BASE courses since I have no background in statistics or programming? I have been reviewing the videos and free online resources on the SAS site, and it has been suggested that I purchase the latest edition of "The Little SAS Book." Any tips are appreciated. Thank you!

    • Programming 1 and 2 are sufficient courses for Base Programming. There are other resources too, such as Little SAS Book, which is great, but would be extra. The most important thing to do in addition to studying/reading is to spend time programming is SAS to apply and reinforce what you have learned. Experience is critical.

  2. I am website developer but i wanted to do sas base programming certification but i do not have any college degree.if i certify is it possible to get job in sas field.

  3. Hi
    I have my master's degree in Public health with major concentration of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I would like to learn SAS program for my future career. Could you please guide me whether i can learn online or classroom training for SAS. I am basically a science student and how much time it requires for me to learn the SAS program.

  4. I am a Medical Doctor and also have a degree in Public Health.
    Las year it took me about 4 weeks (less than a month) to prepare for SAS Base programmer certification exam.

    What did I do?
    -Purchased the official SAS Base Programmer preparation guide, went over the book, played with some datasets from the sasuser library and got certified.
    -No preparation tests, no additional resources at all.

    After a month:
    -I got the Statistical Business Analyst: Regression and Modeling certification, again, just about a month of preparation.
    -Did the Statistic 1 FREE SAS course, and read the Statistics 2 course notes.

    I passed both exam with about 90% scores with sections over 95%.

    Tomorrow: I am writing my Advanced Programmer certification exam, and I have put 5 week of preparation for it.

    • Mark Stevens
      Mark Stevens on

      Congrats Fernando and thanks for the note! Note to prospective candidates, your results may differ. Be sure to put in the time, effort and practice in preparation for the exam.

    • Just a quick update, I took my Advanced Programmer Certification exam yesterday and successfully obtained the certification.
      5 weeks of overall studying (last 2 were more intensive), I studied the whole official SAS preparation guide + retrieved some information from SAS' web page about a couple points from the exam content which were not covered in the book which are very few.

      My score was a bit lower than for the previous 2, but I guess that translates the fact that this exam might have been harder. Having very extensive codes to read and understand before answering the questions might have contributed to that.

      If you ask me I think the key point about SAS certifications is about testing how well you understand the logic and how SAS processes everything you type on the screen. There is some memorization needed (of course, some things you must know). If you know how it works translating that knowledge into a program is much easier. I would certainly recommend coding and running programs while you are studying rather than just studying the theory.

      I honestly hope my store will motivate those who have struggled with the certifications at a point. Remember I have no background in computer programming and all I have learned about SAS has been mainly based on self education and training (with the aid of some published material of course), so if I could, anyone with the right preparation will too.


  5. hello Mr. Mark !!!
    am studying the sas material from last two months !!
    but now am very scarred to sit in the exam ! because i did my all practice on university edition of SAS
    please guide me !!
    if i did wrong !! :(

    • mark stevens on

      It does not matter which SAS programming interface that you used. You will see code and code output in the exam questions, but it is presented in a manner that is independent of the different SAS interfaces.

  6. 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 on

      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:

  7. 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.??


    • 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Nsaikila Melaine on

    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.


  10. 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!

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

  12. Pingback: Top 10 SAS Training Post blogs of 2013 | The SAS Training Post

  13. 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.

    • 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.

  14. kushal thakral on

    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

    • 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.


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

  17. Abhijit Choudhary on

    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.

    • 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

  18. Abhijit Choudhary on

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

    • Siddharth Saini on

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

  19. Nishant Dsouza on

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

  20. Pingback: Zero to SAS Certified Base Programmer in 3 months (Part II) - The SAS Training Post

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

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