The Cheapskate’s Guide to SAS Certification

We’re all setting our APOs right now and thinking about our goals for the coming year. For many of us, our professional goals include increasing our SAS knowledge and possibly even getting SAS certified. If you’re new to SAS and want the full training package from scratch, you may have googled the closest SAS training facility and created a wish list that looks something like this:

Training for Base Programming Exam:
SAS Programming I: Essentials: $1500
SAS Programming II: Data Manipulation Techniques: $1800
SAS Certification Review: Base Programming for SAS 9 (if you’re more advanced and would just like a review): $1000
base practice exam: $52
base certification exam: $180

Training for Advanced Programming Exam:
SAS Programming III: Advanced Techniques and Efficiencies: $1800
SAS Macro Language I: Essentials: $1200
SAS SQL I: Essentials $1200
advanced practice exam: $52
advanced certification exam: $180

SAS does offer certification packages which include practice exams and exam vouchers in addition to classroom-based training courses, which can help you save on your total cost. If you’re willing to substitute online courses for live classroom training, you’ll save even more.

But let’s say you want the deluxe classroom experience, and you’re doing the whole thing a la carte. For Base training plus certification, your total cost could be as much as $3532. For Advanced training plus certification, you could spend $4432. For both, that’s $7964, which is close to the yearly tuition reimbursement cap that my employer offers for grad school.

So what happens if you take your list to your manager, and she says it’s not in the budget for this year? You have two options:

1. Throw up your hands and use this as an excuse not to learn SAS.
2. Decide to find another way to learn SAS.

If you go with option 2, you’re going to have to foot the costs yourself, so you’re going to want to find the most cost-effective way possible to do this. It’s going to take more work on your part, but you can do this for free with a little creativity and the willpower to self-study.

Step 1: Get Free Training

My employer’s intranet site offers a link to Books 24×7 which allows employees to access all kinds of free training materials; check to see if your employer offers a similar resource. Books 24×7 includes both SAS Certification Prep Guides:

SAS Certification Prep Guide: Base Programming for SAS 9
SAS Certification Prep Guide: Advanced Programming for SAS 9

This is a great value to you since each prep guide has a list price of $129. If you insist on having a paper copy, look for deals on eBay,, or Amazon. Do the practice quizzes at the end of each chapter and open up your code editor window in SAS and practice using different functions and procedures on your own.

You can supplement these guides with other free SAS reference materials on (huge library of pdf files) or books 24×7. If manuals aren’t enough for you, take advantage of your local SAS user group meetings and explore the online SAS community. However, it is completely possible to use these techniques and pass your certification test without having to pay for any classroom instruction.

Step 2: Take the Exam

Each certification exam costs $180 at the time of this posting. If you’ve learned SAS through self-study, you’ve already saved your department a lot of money and made yourself a more valuable employee. You might not be able to get $4000 out of your department’s training budget, but you might be able to get the $180 exam fee reimbursed if you ask nicely.

If you can’t get your department to fork out the $180 for each exam, you can either choose to forgo certification (although I find having a concrete goal at the end of the learning process helps me to stay motivated), or you can pay it yourself and still get certified for a fraction of the original $7964.