Nestled in the hills of North Carolina, on the cusp of the Research Triangle, you’ll find a mid-sized community by the name of Cary, which just happens to contain the corporate headquarters of a modest-sized company with global influence — the SAS Institute, Inc.
Founded in 1976, SAS has roots that go back to 1966 when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a grant to the University Statisticians Southern Experiment Stations consortium to develop statistical software to assist in analyzing data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The consortium consisted of eight different universities, all of whom had a heavy dependency on the USDA grants to fund their research programs. Because of their powerful mainframe, North Carolina State University (NCSU) eventually became the primary project lead on the research program.
The research grant resulted in the development of the Statistical Analysis System (SAS) which the consortium maintained until 1972, when the NIH discontinued funding for the research grant. Recognizing the need for the type of statistical analysis that the SAS software provided, the membership of SAS took matters into their own hands, and provided funding (each member contributed $5,000 of their personal money) to continue ongoing SAS development and maintenance.
Over the course of the project, two clear research project leaders emerged: Jim Barr and Jim Goodnight, both faculty members at NCSU. Jim Goodnight created the initial SAS architecture, while Jim Barr created features that extended SAS functionality and capabilities. NCSU’s Jan Helwig later joined the team as a document writer, along with John Sall, who was a graduate student and a programmer at the time.
These four formed the “core” leadership of what became the SAS Institute and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1976, SAS leadership formally launched the SAS Institute. At the time of incorporation, SAS software was already popular in multiple business sectors including banking, academia and pharmaceuticals, with almost 100 established SAS customers.
Since its humble beginnings as a research project for the USDA, the SAS Institute has grown exponentially. It’s now recognized as a Fortune 500 company with almost 14,000 employees and revenues in 2014 alone in excess of $3 billion. SAS also boasts a strong customer base — more than 75,000 customers (in multiple industry sectors) in 139 countries.
Since its inception, SAS has become recognized internationally as a leader in the field of business analytics and analysis. In essence, they were the leaders in statistics and analytics before SAS was SAS. While other companies have certainly tried to enter the area, SAS remains at the top of the game. This has been accomplished in large part through their ongoing commitment to certification, education and training (which certainly is in keeping with their original roots in academia).
SAS offers nine different certifications in topics ranging from foundational skills, to administration to advanced analytics and more. Current credentials include:
SAS Foundation Tools — Includes SAS certified base, advanced, and clinical trials programmer credentials; SAS certifications target data managers, analysts, and programmers as well as anyone who needs to write SAS programs or access, manage, query or analyze data.
SAS Advanced Analytics — Includes credentials for predictive analytics, regression and modeling; credentials target professionals using SAS or STAT software to conduct predictive modeling or perform statistical analysis to solve complex business-related problems.
SAS Business Intelligence and Analytics — Credentials are available for both business intelligence and visual analytic content developers. These certs target professionals creating and customizing SAS interfaces and create data reports and summaries.
SAS Data Management — One credential available targeting those who collect, store and sanitize data using SAS business analytics.
SAS Administration — Includes one credential for SAS business analytics platform administrators.
In addition to its certification programs, SAS remains committed to education on multiple levels and has an established Global Academic Program which includes a variety of resources ranging from workshops, teacher resources, books, grants, research, and assistance in creating degree programs. Age is no barrier to learning SAS technology as SAS offers two SAS programming courses for high school students along with multiple summer workshops in programming and AP statistics. SAS also offers online interactive learning resources through its SAS Curriculum Pathways.
SAS’ focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is well-placed. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, IT professionals with analytical skills will experience a shortage between 140,000-190,000 persons possessing the analytical skills necessary to meet the growing needs of the job market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that computer and information research science jobs are expected to experience growth of more than 15 percent between 2012 and 2022 while the field of market research analysts is expected to grow more than 32 percent.
Further, according to SAS, we can expect growth in the sciences and engineering fields in the US at more than four times the national average over the next decade. For those possessing the right credentials, the median pay could be in excess of $100,000.
Based on projected job growth, the demand for SAS professionals is likely to remain high. A quick search of several popular job boards reported no shortage of employers looking for SAS professionals. Justtechjobs.com had almost 7,000 SAS jobs listed while Indeed.com had more than 15,000 SAS jobs available!
If you’re looking at IT as a career, SAS and SAS technology is definitely worth consideration.