Certification program validates SAS users

SAS programmers worldwide can now earn industry-recognized credentials signifying their knowledge of the software, thanks to a new global certification program.

Feedback from a SAS survey late last year showed that users wanted a way to measure their software knowledge and show their value to employers, said Marje Fecht, national education manager at Toronto-based SAS Institute (Canada) Inc.

The program is comprised of four computer-based exams, which can be taken at more than 3,000 Sylvan Prometric testing centres all over the world, including 85 in Canada. The tests cover various areas of SAS skills: data management, business intelligence, reporting and application development. The first test, which would give users a SAS Certified Professional Version 6 designation, must be passed prior to taking any of the others. Additional designations are given with each subsequent test, which can be taken in any order, said Fecht.

“If you do pass all four, then you become a SAS Certified Professional Developer, so there is a specific designation for passing all four.”

The exams test users’ knowledge of SAS software and their ability to apply the software to business problems, she explained.

“We have indicated on the Web what the basic skills are that you should have before pursuing certification. But we do not require that the folks take any sort of training classes. We instead let them know what classes would help them, but we also tell them what books they could read, and so forth.”

According to Fecht, many SAS partners had expressed interest in how they can accurately evaluate skills that potential employees may have.

“So basically a lot of the partners are very pro the certification program, so they can have a better way to assess the skills, a better understanding about what potential employees know and also a better way to differentiate (between them),” she said.

“I’ve got quite a few companies I’ve been working with over the last two years who are very eager to send their employees for certification. For example, a department at Ernst & Young is very excited about the certification program, because they’d like to be able to advertise that those in that group are certified.”

Because certification implies keeping current, it may make programmers more employable, said Pat Cicala, research director in the software asset management service of Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

“Programmers in general would rather have a lot of activities around certification and recertification. They feel it keeps them up to date and it gives them the comfort that the vendor is constantly improving and changing, not only the methodologies but the software itself.”

Bruce Densmore, a technical specialist at Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia, works in a department full of Microsoft Certified Engineers (MSCEs), and has wanted a SAS certification program for years so he could prove to his boss that he is of equal value but with a different skill set.

“It will give me a vehicle to show my management that I know what I am talking about. I don’t think they question that, but it will give me something,” he said.

“The thing that I run up against a lot is dealing with people who have only known the Microsoft world and think the MSCE is the best thing since sliced bread. And they tend to have this perception that the mainframe is old technology. I am forever living with ‘The mainframe is dead, the PC is the latest technology’ and I’m saying, ‘No, sorry.'”

Densmore, who beta-tested the program, likes the fact that it was run by a third-party company like Sylvan.

“This is not SAS Institute evaluating me on their product. This is an outside agency that’s going to administer a test, just like the MSCE is not done by Microsoft. It’s an independent way of someone assessing what I think I really know.”

More information on the SAS Institute’s certification program can be found at www.sas.com/service/edu/certify/intro.html.