Time is short, especially in the early stages of your career. You want to accomplish as much as you can as quickly as you can. Something that can help you get your foot in the door after you get all of your exams in order is showing an aptitude for programming languages. Two of the biggest statistical languages are SAS and R. I always hear arguments at my university about which of the two has higher utility and is more useful in the job market. I don’t really know the answer myself, but I’m going to talk about the merits of both so you can decide for yourself which one you’d like to focus on learning first.
I have taken classes that used these statistical languages, but I learned SAS first. SAS in my opinion is very organized and very clean, and I believe that it should be for the money that you are spending. SAS costs a lot of money. And to be frank, I don’t think it should be bought for personal use at home unless you have a lot of extra cash lying around. Now this doesn’t mean that I don’t love using SAS, nor do I think it’s not worth the money that it costs. SAS is extremely user-friendly because of its graphical user interface and is able to handle very large sets of data. SAS is great, which is why it is loved by a lot of people in the industry. But if you are just starting out, the only way I could see you practicing it more is if your university has SAS in its system. I think any decent university already does. If yours does, then I think it is a good thing to learn since it is so highly regarded in the industry and it can provide a great base for understanding more about statistical coding.
Now as a poor college student, my favorite thing about R is that it is free. You can use it at home as much as you want and learn it on your own time. And as you learn more and more new things in statistics, you can see how to do those things in R. There are also many other great things about R though. R is also an open source program, which allows you to see what all of the functions do and what it’s capable of doing. There are also many forums and books that help explain how to use R more efficiently. Because it’s so easy to get your hands on, R is definitely moving up in its reputation within the industry.
At the end of the day though, you shouldn’t worry so much about all of this stuff until you get your exams in order. But for purely educational motives, I believe there is a lot of value in learning both SAS and R. At the entry level, I believe what language you know doesn’t really matter. It’s more about showing your future employers your capability in learning new and complicated things. So keep on learning and working hard!