How to become a top SAS programmer

Daniel Gray23 March 2016

Daniel  Gray

Having recently graduated and returned from travelling Southeast Asia and wanted to embark on a long-term career, where my strong work ethic would be rewarded. I’ve always been money-motivated and from my research I’d narrowed my options down to the recruitment industry as having the best rewards and financial prospects. Joining Optimus Search is the best decision I’ve ever made. At the age of 25 I already find myself jumping on the mortgage ladder and attribute that to the progression I’ve had at the company.

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SAS programmers are experts in all things computer-related, using Statistical Analysis System (SAS) software products to design and maintain computer programmes. SAS’ potential is enormous and can be used to do everything from mining and analysing data through to making business forecasts and managing projects, so it’s no wonder that SAS programmers are in constant demand across a range of industries. But what does it take to stand out and develop into one of the best programmers in the industry?

Step one: Get educated

A bachelor’s degree is a standard level of formal education for an SAS programmer to hold, although Master’s degrees are also common. Fields of study include statistics, information systems, computer programming and computer science, after which candidates can enrol in the SAS Global Certificate program. There is a range of credentials offered through the program, so once you’ve completed your SAS 9 Foundation course you can undertake other certifications, depending on which area you want to specialise in.

Step two: Choose your field

Specialising in a particular area of SAS programming is one key way to rise up the ranks. If you’re eyeing up a certain organisation or industry, find out which programs and systems are most utilised and arm yourself with as much knowledge of these as possible. SAS programmers in the clinical industry, for instance, will likely have a different skillset to those in the finance sector. By mastering the area that will be of most use to you and your employers, you make yourself indispensable.

If you’re not sure which area of SAS programming you want to focus on, consider what interests you most and what you’re best at. You could specialise in data cleansing, big data analysis, predictive modelling, building SAS applications or something else entirely - there will likely be a SAS course to help you develop your skills and cement your knowledge. From there, read any conference papers, research reports and industry coverage you can on the topic, contributing to forums or discussions when you can to help build up your profile as an industry expert.

Step three: Practice your craft

In the same vein, mastering SAS programming language could make all the difference when it comes to furthering your career. Master the tools of your trade, from DATA step programming and SAS macro programming through to SQL and whatever areas are most relevant to your specialisation. Become as entrenched in your company’s data as you can, positioning yourself as the go-to person for any programming or SAS queries. It’s also important to stay current with new programming information and updated SAS versions.

Step four: Be a team player

It can be tempting for programmers to write messy and complicated programmes, taking shortcuts to get the desired result. While this can be quicker and easier for programmers, it can lead to issues when other team members try to interpret or amend the code at a later stage. Keep your work clear and simple, and be open to communicating your findings and suggestions with others in the business.

Think you’ve got what it takes to become an expert SAS programmer? Take a look at our SAS programmer job openings here.