A 70% pass rate for SAS certification

The specific support put in place by the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) is yielding results

SAS certification is a definite asset in the labor market, as data scientists are increasingly in demand by companies looking to capitalize on their data. The Louvain School of Statistics, Biostatistics and Actuarial Sciences (LSBA) provides specific support, combining theory with practical work, to UCL students sitting the exam. And successfully so: more than 70% of registered students obtain basic certification.

Students are mentored very closely. After classes in theory, they participate in various types of practical work and also have access to an online platform which enables them to advance at their own pace.

Céline Bugli
Statistician and coordinator of seminars on data management

The Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) and SAS are longstanding partners. SAS, the specialist in analytical tools, provides software as well as input on content on an as needed basis for classes.

Close mentoring of students

It makes sense that within UCL, LSBA (which trains future graduates in statistics and actuarial sciences) is the most intensive user of SAS software. Since 2002, this faculty has established two preparatory programming courses for SAS certification, which is much sought-after in the labor market. These are Data Management: SAS Basic Programming and Data Management: SAS Advanced Programming. These courses are primarily aimed at students taking a Master’s Degree at LSBA. The university recommends taking the basic course during a student’s initial master’s coursework and the advanced programming course during their final advanced courses. However, students are free to organize themselves as they wish. These courses are also open to PhD students from other faculties and they in fact make up about 10% of participants. LSBA also organizes a third course on data mining. This course focuses on the use of SAS Enterprise Miner, but this is not part of the certification program.

What sets the two certification-based courses apart is their focus on practical work, assisted by three UCL lecturers specially trained in SAS tools. Céline Bugli, a statistician and coordinator of seminars on data management, is one of this trio. “Students are mentored very closely. After classes in theory, they participate in various practical work spread out over the initial two periods lasting four months each. They also have access to an online platform containing documents and videos on SAS software, as well as exercises enabling them to advance at their own pace. Students can also exchange messages via this platform.”

The students can therefore learn on demand, either by familiarizing themselves with SAS software in the computer labs, which are also open in the evenings and even on weekends, or in their own student accommodations on their own PC. They can also obtain SAS® University Edition, our free software package available to students, professors and researchers in higher education and universities. SAS University Edition can be used on a stand-alone PC, Mac or Linux workstation and includes SAS® Studio, a SAS programming and development environment that runs through the browser. More information about SAS University Edition can be found here: http://www.sas.com/en_us/software/ university-edition.html.

An essential trial-run before the exam

Students are required to sit a test after completing each session of practical work. Successfully passing a two-hour mock exam is essential in order to be able to register for certification, which takes place in February at UCL with the possibility of re-sitting the exam in June or August.

The effectiveness of the method of support used is clearly shown in the results achieved by LSBA: for the year 2014-15, 35 of the 50 students registered obtained basic certification, which is a pass rate of 70%. Since 2002, a total of 250 students have obtained basic certification.

What is more, word of mouth is working, with the Master of Science in Statistics attracting more and more students each year. Five years ago, only around twenty students did sign up for the basic programming course, but the numbers today have more than doubled.

“Feedback from students is very positive. They also like the contribution from SAS, who brings a different perspective directly from the real-life business world. Among the different course modules, the Macro and SQL subjects seem particularly useful for the students.

Guaranteed employment as data scientist

In a more general sense, certification is a definite asset when looking for employment. A student who passed his certification exam told us that there was in fact already a job waiting for him the following Monday,” adds Bugli.

The UCL courses answer the increasing demand of companies for data scientists. These experts in data analysis, mostly with a statistical background, play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the worlds of IT and business. They are skilled at digging into big data to solve complex problems in a variety of sectors: banking and insurance, pharmaceuticals, public sector, telecommunications, wholesale, IT consultancy, etc.

Université Catholique de Louvain


Training of students with a view to obtaining SAS certification. This is an undeniable benefit in the labor market, as data scientist are increasingly in demand.


Theory and practical support delivered via two courses (basic programming and advanced programming) set up as a result of close collaboration between UCL and SAS. SAS provides course content as well as software. 

UCL students
The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.

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