BookmarkSubscribeRSS Feed
Calcite | Level 5

Do you need to know a programming language in order to use the SAS software?...if so, which language?

Lapis Lazuli | Level 10

it depends on how much you want to do. If you want to do some basic stats you'll be fine without being acquainted with another programming language. If you want to do eg data simulations, arrays etc then it would help if you knew eg matlab (which you're likely familiar with if you have an engineering background). R programmers could move to sas easily i guess. Someone has a blog showing how tasks can be performed in both sas and R

Super User

@kmcwhite wrote:

Do you need to know a programming language in order to use the SAS software?...if so, which language?

Not a need but if you are going to do much data manipulation (SAS Data step coding) or macros it helps to have some formal training.


For most things in SAS such as data step code then something like BASIC or PASCAL would be sufficient. You would not need an "object oriented language" for most SAS stuff so far.


SAS Proc SQL implements most ANSI standard functionality of the diverse SQL language world for manipulations of database tables in sets of records instead of row order that a data step does. So SQL might help but be aware that every version has different non-stardard elements, including SAS, and examples or code does not always transfer easily.

Super User
SAS has it's own proprietary language but also has GUI interfaces to manipulate and analyze data. I find the GUI tools take more steps and usually get you about 90% there. That last 10% though requires coding. The good thing is, SAS Studio also generates the code so that you can see it. So if you're not sure how to get started you can use the GUI and then copy and paste the code out, or at least get it started.
Super User

For basic work, you don't, as the GUI interfaces can get you a long way for most simple tasks. But as soon as you encounter the first issue where the GUI wizard is not enough, you'll need to know the SAS language so you can manipulate/create code on your own (the GUI interfaces are just code generators).

What's more important than previous knowledge of any programming language is the mindset of a programmer:

  • thinking in structured ways, being able to deal with formulaic constructs
  • being able to find the work pattern in something that's done, and/or identify the rules underlying such
  • boolean algebra (know what and, or and not mean)
  • ability and willingness to write code in a clean, structured way that reflects the underlying logic
  • ability to detect patterns in code, logs and data
  • ability and willingness to draw required information from documentation, and being able to write such documentation yourself

Note that this list is far from complete, insofar as any list like that can ever be complete.

As soon as you start with SAS code, have a look at the Maxims. You might find useful hints in there.


Super User

The short answer is no. The long answer is that it depends heavily on what you want to do.


Tools like SAS Enterprise Guise supports several point and click features. However, learning the actual code lets you do much more complicated tasks.



Registration is open! SAS is returning to Vegas for an AI and analytics experience like no other! Whether you're an executive, manager, end user or SAS partner, SAS Innovate is designed for everyone on your team. Register for just $495 by 12/31/2023.

If you are interested in speaking, there is still time to submit a session idea. More details are posted on the website. 

Register now!

Discussion stats
  • 6 replies
  • 7 in conversation