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TheresaM
Obsidian | Level 7

Hi all,

I recently passed the Base SAS Certification exam, yay!!  While studying and taking practice exams, I posted several times to this board, and found everyone extremely helpful (thank you!) with regard to answering my questions and overall encouragement.  Now that I'm job hunting, I have another question.

 

I have a limited background in programming (took college courses in C and Java, self-taught in a few other languages) but have no professional experience in programming other than now having the Base SAS certification.  With that being said, I feel like I've found the career path I've long-been searching for, and I'm excited to dive right into the field.  

 

It'd be great to hear any thoughts people have on how to pivot oneself as a new-to-the-field SAS programmer.  I am applying to one position that offers "a comprehensive training program to expand their SAS and Linux competencies, acquire hands-on experience under the direction of skilled programmers" and have my fingers crossed that they might overlook my 0 years of professional experience.  The application requires sample code written exclusively by me, so I downloaded some publicly available datasets related to the position and wrote code that cleans up, merges datasets, and creates a few tables. 

 

How have others gone from "no professional experience" to "enough" experience for prospective employers?

8 REPLIES 8
Quentin
Super User

My advice would be to think about what field you want to work in.  SAS is used everywhere there is data (healthcare, finance, power companies .... ).  So instead of looking for a SAS job, look for an entry-level job in a field you want to work in which will involve using SAS.  My first job using SAS was in a company that did public policy research, and the role was "analyst" or "research assistant."  I applied because I was interested in public health and public policy, not because I was looking for a SAS job.  Some people coming into the role had prior SAS experience, so did not. Some people in the role used SAS, other people did not.

 

I think if you focus on a field, it's much easier to plan your job search. There are some fields (like pharma) where it can be very hard to get your first SAS job, and other fields (like working in a university) where they may be more open to hiring a smart energetic person with little experience. Advice as to *how* to find the first job will vary a lot depending on which field you target.

 

Congrats on passing the Base SAS certification exam. That should help your resume get attention.

 

Good luck! 

BASUG is hosting free webinars Next up: Mark Keintz presenting History Carried Forward, Future Carried Back: Mixing Time Series of Differing Frequencies on May 8. Register now at the Boston Area SAS Users Group event page: https://www.basug.org/events.
TheresaM
Obsidian | Level 7

Thank you @Quentin. I was thinking along those same lines, and would be happy to start in a different yet still SAS-related role. I'm attempting to use my grad degree in psychology as a foot in the door at companies that use SAS. My initial interest is in pharma, but I understand that it'll take a while, plus a lot more hands-on experience, before I can get a foothold in that field.  Higher education seems most promising, based on my background. I appreciate your feedback, and taking the time to respond!

Quentin
Super User

I was a psych undergrad, and started an MPH in behavioral health but didn't finish it.  

 

I think with a graduate background in psych, pursuing a staff statistical programmer job in a research group at a university would make sense. I worked in a stats center that did cancer imaging clinical trials (funded by US National Cancer Institute).  So it wasn't pharma, but some folks who worked there for a few years as programmers transferred into pharma/CRO on the basis of having some clinical trial experience, even if it wasn't for FDA submissions.

 

Another thought is to look at CRO's or other pharma-adjacent companies that specialize in measuring quality of life, or other psych-adjacent stuff.  For example, this company specializes in developing QOL questionnaires.  https://www.qualitymetric.com/ 

 

And if you want to do another SAS certification, there is one for clinical trials programming, which might help.

BASUG is hosting free webinars Next up: Mark Keintz presenting History Carried Forward, Future Carried Back: Mixing Time Series of Differing Frequencies on May 8. Register now at the Boston Area SAS Users Group event page: https://www.basug.org/events.
TheresaM
Obsidian | Level 7

Thank you, @Quentin , for your additional thoughts.  I am broadening my job search to include the other types of organizations, as you suggest. I'm hopeful that my willingness to start from the ground up will open a door at one of these organizations. 

 

Also, I'm happy to see the clinical trials SAS certification ... while I'll still be minus the professional experience, I'm optimistic that having shown some determination to learn the skill will help.

 

And, finally, I'm glad you have a link to the BASUG event in your signature!  I hadn't realized there was one, and have happily signed up for the event on the 23.  Looking forward to meeting more SAS people in the area!

Quentin
Super User

@TheresaM wrote:

And, finally, I'm glad you have a link to the BASUG event in your signature!  I hadn't realized there was one, and have happily signed up for the event on the 23.  Looking forward to meeting more SAS people in the area!


That makes my day!  Didn't realize you were in the Boston area. The meeting will actually be perfect for you. It will feature a panel discussion targeted on starting your SAS career, which will include two hiring managers (one from pharma), a rep from the SAS Academic group, and a recent graduate from the Stonehill College grad program.  There should be plenty of time for Q&A during the panel, and also time during breaks and lunch to grab folks to ask for advice.

 

Definitely grab me and say hello.  I'll be the tall, awkward guy nervously hosting the meeting (along with BASUG's president,  Elizabeth Axelrod). We've been doing webinars for 3 years.  Very excited for to be returning to in-person!

BASUG is hosting free webinars Next up: Mark Keintz presenting History Carried Forward, Future Carried Back: Mixing Time Series of Differing Frequencies on May 8. Register now at the Boston Area SAS Users Group event page: https://www.basug.org/events.
TheresaM
Obsidian | Level 7

That is great!! Very much looking forward to the meeting, and now won't feel awkward to approach and say hello!  Thanks again, @Quentin 😁

SASKiwi
PROC Star

Congratulations on taking the first step to a career involving SAS. I did the same thing back in the early 1980s. It wasn't a conscious decision by me back then, simply SAS arrived at the company I was working at back then and I took it upon myself to learn SAS from a SAS manual (one of those things made of paper bound into a book - not sure if you have come across one of these...). Over 40 years later I'm still actively using SAS in a dream job. Who have have thought? Definitely not me!

 

I'd like to just point out that SAS, or other computer-related knowledge is really no more than 30% of what employers look for in prospective employees.  Another third is industry knowledge. In my case I have over 25 years banking experience and that is in some cases more important to employers than the programming skills, which can be learnt on the job. The final third is personal attributes: personality type, communication and collaboration skills, ability to get along with others and so on. If you can score highly on the personal side, employers will often choose on that basis and not be put off by limited experience.

 

Best of luck!

TheresaM
Obsidian | Level 7

Thanks, @SASKiwi! I love to hear stories like yours. 🙂 I'm starting this all a bit later in life, but hope to be saying similar 40 years from now, still going SAS-strong at 88 😄.

 

I'm usually the resident computer-guru wherever I work, and would have loved if any of my companies had been oriented towards bringing SAS in so that I could have been tasked with learning SAS for the company.  Having left the corporate world in 2021 to start a restaurant (it actually went well!), I'm now working my way back into that world.

 

I don't currently have prior industry knowledge.  But, I do very much believe in what you're saying, and so I'm going to go in strong with the other two-thirds -- my beginner's SAS knowledge and superb personal attributes! 😊

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