Is SAS a Programming Language or Scripting Language?


Angela Bailey

Is SAS a Programming Language or Scripting Language?

When it comes to SAS (Statistical Analysis System), there is often confusion about whether it should be considered a programming language or a scripting language. In order to understand the nature of SAS, let’s first explore the definitions and characteristics of programming languages and scripting languages.

Programming Languages

A programming language is a formal language that enables humans to communicate instructions to computers. It consists of a set of rules and syntax that allow programmers to write programs that can be executed by a computer. Programming languages are typically used for developing complex software applications, algorithms, and systems.

In programming languages, code is written in advance and compiled or interpreted before execution. The code is then executed in a sequential manner, following the flow defined by the programmer. This allows for greater control over program logic, data structures, and algorithms.

Scripting Languages

A scripting language, on the other hand, is often used for automating tasks and manipulating software applications. Scripting languages are interpreted at runtime rather than being compiled in advance. They are typically used for writing scripts that control the behavior of software applications or perform specific tasks within them.

In scripting languages, code is written as a series of commands or instructions that are executed one after another. These scripts can be run directly or invoked by other programs or systems.

SAS: Combining Features

Now let’s consider SAS in light of these definitions. SAS can be seen as a unique combination of both a programming language and a scripting language.

SAS has its own programming language known as SAS Language (or Base SAS) which allows programmers to define data structures, manipulate data, perform statistical analysis, create reports, and more. It follows many principles of traditional programming languages, such as variables, loops, conditional statements, and functions. This aspect of SAS makes it a programming language.

Additionally, SAS has a scripting language called SAS Macro Language. The SAS Macro Language enables users to write scripts that automate repetitive tasks, generate code dynamically based on conditions, and create reusable code templates. The Macro Language is interpreted at runtime and allows for the automation of various processes within the SAS environment.


In conclusion, SAS can be considered both a programming language and a scripting language. Its base programming language provides the ability to write complex programs for data analysis and manipulation. At the same time, its macro scripting language allows for automation and flexibility within the SAS environment.

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