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If R and Python are better, why do so many job ads still seek SAS?

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R and Python are open-source and free. Unlike SAS you can install, use, update, clone and modify R and Python. SAS is expensive and requires waiting for updates from the SAS Institute. Why then are there more jobs asking for SAS skills on Indeed.com than for R or Python?

Legacy Code

SAS has been in use since the 1970’s. A company’s existing infrastructure and accumulated production code would take years to change and rewrite into R. Of course, the resulting code would be more flexible, efficient and transparent, and easier and cheaper to maintain but not many are YET ready to pay for those changes.

Cover Your A**

When you have quality production code in SAS, known to do the job, why would you risk changing? You have professionals with years of experience in your company and in SAS, and they are producing excellent analysis. If you convert to R or Python, you run the risk of being responsible for any glitches, delays and problems that will occur. You could also lose those experienced, valuable employees who know your data and your business.

Distrust of Freeware

How can something that is free be as good as something that costs lots of money? In this comparison, free can be just as good but it flies in the face of common biases. Who would drop a professional software for something created by a group of volunteers?

Historical Success

With the long track record of SAS across many industries and applications, the SAS user doesn’t have to worry about the provenance of the code or independently validating it. Many, many for-profit companies have vetted the code and shown it works well time-and-time again.

Big Data

SAS is better at sequential processing. You only need 4 GB Ram to process 15 years of data in SAS but you need a much larger machine with R.

Customer Support

If SAS breaks, you call SAS Institute. If R or Python breaks, whom do you call? SAS has better documentation and a massive infrastructure of books and resources for users. Of course, the user community of R and Python are passionate about these products and their online availability gives you a plethora of responses and ideas….just not one answer.

Regulatory Environment

The most SAS jobs are posted on Indeed.com by larger, regulated organizations like pharmaceutical, banking and government. At least that’s the reason often given, but in reality it isn’t a problem. The FDA is an internal user of R. SAS created the data submission method for the FDA but it is now an open standard. Government typically doesn’t lead the way in software development, and banking is a victim of their copious amounts of legacy data and experienced SAS users versus their regulatory environment.

The Data Science and Analytics Recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates will encourage you to learn Python and R to guarantee your future career marketability, but there are still positions available for good ol’ SAS users. Visit our openings at jobs.smithhanley.com, or give us a call.

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