How can I learn SAS?


42-46618917What would come to mind if you were told that you have to attend a SAS training course? Perhaps, you have a vision of an instructor sitting at the front of a classroom, endlessly reading PowerPoint slides verbatim in a monotonous voice while you sit there baffled, wondering what is going on and are counting the minutes to the next break? For some, particularly SAS newbies, being told to learn code or a technical interface isn’t exciting and it can be daunting to learn a new skill.

When I started to use SAS (prior to joining SAS), I learned, like most “on the job”. My colleagues shared their knowledge, I studied their programs, I searched the internet and I referenced SAS books. My skills grew but so did my adoption of their interpretation of how the syntax worked and their coding habits. (Looking back, their interpretation wasn’t always accurate and their habits not always good.) Still, back then I thought I was the next best SAS programmer.

Then I joined SAS and on my second day attended SAS Programming 1: Essentials (now a free e-Learning course). I actually thought to myself when I was told that I would be attending the course, “why do I need to attend, I know all this already”. True, I did recognize the majority of the syntax but the explanations around how SAS works, the syntax rules and how code is processed, gave me numerous epiphany moments “so that’s why that would always go wrong”, “I wish I had known this before now” and so on.

Fast forward approximately 10 years and I am (hopefully) one of those instructors, like the ones that first taught me, who inspire course attendees to be enthused with and utilize their SAS products to get the most out of them. It was for me back when I started at SAS and still is today, the enthusiasm and explanations of the instructors that bring those PowerPoints to life, engage you and help to make it seem easy to learn. You may or may not already be familiar with SAS classroom training but in either case, did you know that there are also now a variety of other training formats to develop your SAS skills?

  • Traditional Classroom Training: You attend a SAS course delivered by a SAS instructor in a dedicated technical classroom over a short period of time (usually a few consecutive days). Over the years, I have seen a huge transformation in the course materials. Previously, a course comprised of numerous PowerPoint slides with little hands on practice. Now, there are streamlined slides, interactive quizzes, polls, and multiple levels of exercises to cater for all attendees. Most importantly, the instructor is free from the race against time to cover 5000 slides and can spend more time adapting to help coach the attendees. Plus, in a classroom, the instructor has time before and after class and during breaks to further assist with your learning.
  • Live Web Training: You attend a SAS course delivered by a SAS instructor in a virtual classroom from the comfort of your office (or sofa) over a short period of time (usually a few consecutive mornings or afternoons). Live Web training has been around for a while for SAS in the US but is now emerging around the rest of the world. The same content as a traditional classroom course is delivered but there is no requirement for you to commute to a SAS classroom. As the delivery is a series of half day sessions, it can be more flexible for those who are unable to leave the office for consecutive days or prefer to have more consolidation time to review the topics as they learn. All you need is a computer, internet connection and a set of headphones.
  • Mentoring: A SAS instructor comes to you and helps you learn by coaching you at your desk to use SAS to assist with your immediate tasks at hand. The instructor can assist you in transferring what you learned in class to apply it to your own data. Alternatively, the instructor can teach you privately the topics that you want the most. This is great for dedicated one on one development. No worrying about other people in the class, the mentoring is focused on you and your SAS and data task needs.
  • Self-Paced e-Learning: You access recorded training delivered by a SAS instructor. You have unlimited access for one year and you can access it anywhere, anytime. This learning method, suits those that like to self-learn and/or need a longer period of time to develop their SAS skills. The recording is engaging with moving visuals along with a voiceover, it isn’t a recording of a classroom training. As mentioned before SAS Programming 1: Essentials is now free, as is SAS Statistics 1: Introduction to ANOVA, Regression and Logistic Regression. You can also review these courses to see if you enjoy the learning format before committing to some other e-Learning.

In addition there are free online SAS tutorials and you can review as many tutorials that you wish. These are not complete SAS courses, more of a small component of a SAS course section, simply put, a short overview of one small topic. Useful if you have either one small area you need clarification on or you have 10 minutes and wonder what else you can learn. Never forget, that online SAS documentation is available for you to access when needed. There are detailed syntax references, user guides, examples and a large amount of other useful information. There are no videos or instructors but pure text documentation. It is a fantastic resource base and the search facility within the documentation makes it easy to navigate.

Lastly, we all learn in different ways, at different speeds, have different constraints on our time and different knowledge requirements. If you are considering developing your SAS skills, I hope you can make use of the information above. Please review the free resources listed and if you need further SAS education, I hope one of the training delivery methods will suit your learning style and situation. If you are unsure of which SAS course to choose, look out for my next blog “Which SAS course should I choose?”.


About Author

Samantha Rowland

SAS Education Instructor

Samantha is an Education Instructor for SAS Australia and has been working for SAS Education since joining SAS UK in 2007. Prior to joining SAS, she was employed as an Engineer and holds a Masters of Civil Engineering. Since working with SAS software, she has become certified in SAS Programming, SAS Business Intelligence and SAS Visual Analytics. Aside from ensuring customers have the optimum learning experience from SAS Education, Samantha is busy running after her son.

Related Posts


  1. Pingback: Which SAS course should I choose? - SAS Learning Post

  2. Such a helpful post, Samantha! My experience was exactly the same... I was a self-taught programmer, then took the SAS Programming 2 course many years ago. Although I was familiar with most of the syntax, there were so many "ah-ha" moments in the class, that I felt like FINALLY I was able to think like SAS! As an instructor myself now, I love watching my students have similar revelations in class :)

  3. Hi Samantha, great article, I have been supporting a SAS product for the last 3 years but more on the admin side. I have been meaning to take the self paced trainings but as you mentioned, you learn most on the job but my present responsibility will not allow me to move.
    Do you think self learning along with the SAS courses is enough to make one proficient enough to move to SAS programming as a career?

    • Samantha Rowland on

      Hi Abhirup
      Thanks for the feedback on the article!
      I think overall to be proficient in SAS, like anything, it takes a combination of learning as well as practice. SAS courses and e-Learning provide the fundamentals and some application examples, which will certainly stand an individual in good stead for a SAS career. Completing all the class exercises will provide some practice to reinforce the concepts but to become increasingly capable with SAS, it is also the ongoing use of what is learnt while experiencing many different data situations. It is important to note as well that individuals learn and reinforce concepts in different ways.
      Kind regards

Leave A Reply

Back to Top