If you want to learn SAS programming, you have to know where to look. There are tons of free learning materials online and offline. Books, blogs, websites etc. Some of them good, some of them not so good. Here, I present the best learning materials that have taught, and still teaches me, SAS programming.
SAS University Edition
First of all, if you don’t have an Editor, get one. As a begginner, I suggest that you download University Edition. A free SAS programming tool, that supports all the procedures and functions you want as a beginner such as Base, STAT, IML, ACCESS and some of the features from ETS. Follow this link to download SAS University Edition.
For the absolute beginner at this programming language, the very first thing you should do is watch the Programming 1 course. This free e-learning course teaches the very basics of the programming language. It covers the SAS framework, the basic syntax, how a program is structured etc. Also, it teaches how a data step is compiled and executed, which is one of the most fundamental tools in SAS. All in an absolute beginners pace. The course provides example data, so you can code along yourself, while watching the course online.
If you want to learn about statistical modelling in SAS and you have familiarized yourself with the syntax, SAS also provides a free e-learning statistics course Statistics 1. This online course covers the basic concepts in descriptive and inferential statistics. It covers the most universal statistical procedures in SAS such as the PROC MEANS, PROC UNIVARIATE and PROC GLM.
As a beginner in the language, you should already start to acquire good programming habits, such as using a Standard Header and Indenting your SAS Code. Last but not least, you should start teaching yourself how to use the Online Documentation. SAS provides extremely well written documentation for the functions and procedures in the programming language. Take the time and learn how the documentation is structured with Overview, Syntax and Examples. At some point, this will be your most important source of information in SAS programming. The most important free and online resource that exists.
The intermediate programmer knows the basic syntax of the programming language. He knows how the data step processes and he is familiar with dozens of procedures and functions. Finally, he knows how to gain knowledge of the procedures and functions he is not yet familiar with, using their documentation.
If you are an intermediate user, now is the time to specialize yourself towards the subjects you like the most in SAS. There are many great sources of knowledge out there in forms of books, blogs, articles and communities.
There are dozens of learning books out there. Some are great, some are not. In my opinion, a good rule of thumb is that if you stick to the SAS Press you will not go wrong. Check out what books are available at the SAS Press Website. You can also take a sneak peak of What Books Are on my Shelf.
There are many great blogs out there, but the best ones are provided by SAS Institute themselves. Here, SAS employees write about new features, old overlooked features, beginner tips and nuggets of gold for the beginner, intermediate and advanced programmers. There is something for everyone. Below, I have listed a few blogs that I follow every week. Remember, this is all free.
I like statistics and data visualization. Therefore I follow the Do Loop Blog and the Graphically Speaking Blog closely. The Do Loop Blog is written by Rick Wicklin, who is also the author of the books Simulating Data with SAS and Statistical Programming with SAS/IML Software. If you are interested in statistical programming and analysis, this is an absolute must to follow. Graphically Speaking is authored primarily by Warren F. Kuhfeld and Sanjay Matange, who is also the author of Statistical Graphics Procedures by Example: Effective Graphs Using SAS. The SAS Dummy and The Learning Post are general SAS Programming Blogs with tips and tricks for all SAS users.
If you ask an experienced programmer “What is the best place to find SAS articles online?”, 9 out of 10 will answer lexjansen.com. Consequently, this will be my only recommendation on how to find SAS articles. Go to the site and search for what interests you. It would surprise me if you do not find something you like. Always up to date and all free.
Communities are great if you want to learn. At SAS programming communities, SAS users can post questions for other users to answer. Though many communities exist, I find that the best ones for SAS purposes are sasCommunity.org and Communities.sas.com. I visit both of these daily, to be inspired by other peoples solutions and their ways of thinking, and to contribute and answer posted questions. Both of these communities require that you create a profile and I highly recommend that you do so.
- Communities.sas.com – If you want your questions answered by experts, post it here. Browse the link with the different communities and learn from other peoples problems and solutions. Furthermore a lot of SAS employees are active community members, e.g. the authors from the blogs above.
It will amaze you how much knowledge and information you can gather using the Communities. On how to write a good question in the communities, check out my blog post Stuck on a Problem? Ask for Help!
The advanced programmer has several years of experience in the SAS programming language. He knows the Documentation like his own back pocket and how to structure a well designed program. Furthermore, he knows many procedures and functions, and if the encounters one he is not familiar with, he knows how to get familiar with it.
I consider myself to be in the field between an intermediate and an advanced programmer. But I keep learning, which is of the things I like the most about SAS. There is always new things to learn and to get better at.
My best advice for the advanced programmer, who still wants to get better, is to keep using the books and blogs available to keep adding tools to your SAS toolkit. Furthermore, I highly recommend using the SAS Communities and start to contribute and answer some of the posted questions. This is great training in using the SAS Documentation because often you will face a question and think: “I am not sure about this, but I can definitely use the Documentation to find out”. This will vastly sharpen your skills in using the Documentation correctly.
As you can see, there are tons of learning material out there, just waiting for you to pick it up. But be patient and do not jump to more advanced stuff before you have the basics down. And get out of your comfort zone. Way too often I see programmers do things “because that is the way they have always done it”. Everyone has their own programming habits, but do not let a habit get so stuck that you can not see the alternatives.
Do you know any great learning material that should be on this list? If so, reach out though the Contact Form or at SASnrd@SASnrd.com.