data_science_illustrationThis week at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2016, Microsoft announced the release of the Microsoft Professional Degree (MPD) program. This is an online degree program from Microsoft, and the first degree being offered (in Beta) is a degree in Data Science. It seems apparent the goals of the MPD program are to help close the skills gap. According to Microsoft there’s 1.5 million jobs awaiting qualified candidates.

Update September 26, 2016: Microsoft has renamed the “Microsoft Professional Degree” (MPD) program to be the “Microsoft Professional Program” (MPP), and they are going to be added 2 more tracks for MPP in 2017. 

Microsoft Professional Degree Program

Online training has been pretty hot in recent years. There are companies like Pluralsight, Lynda, edX.org, as well as many others that have been in this space for some time. They all provide self paced, online classes that anyone can sign up to take. A large number of people have taken classes from these companies and used their new skills to land better paying jobs, or build careers. The difference between these online “schools” and traditional universities are quite large.

The Microsoft Professional Degree program provides somewhat of a middle solution. It provides online, self paced classes too. However, the difference is it requires students to pass each individual course, as well as complete a final Capstone project in order to earn the “degree.” This should provide for a more highly regarded credential for students than traditional online classes that aren’t any different than any other self learning.

The Microsoft Professional Degree program courses are being produced by Microsoft and being made available online at edX.org.

Degree Pricing and Auditing

edX-cert-verified-thumbThe cost of the degree is broken out so that students will pay for each individual course to get a Verified Certificate that will provide proof for them to earn the Microsoft Professional Degree in Data Science. It’s $49 for each of the verified certificates from edX.org, with the exception of the orientation class that’s $25 and the “Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics” that’s $99. This comes to a total of about $500 USD for all the verified certificates required.

Data Science Curriculum

Currently the only Microsoft Professional Degree announced is the Data Science degree. Through the 9 courses and the final project, students will learn the following 8 skills to prepare them for Data Science jobs:

  1. Data Science Orientation
  2. Query Relational Data
  3. Analyze and Visualize Data
  4. Understand Statistics
  5. Export Data with Code
  6. Understand Core Data Science Concepts
  7. Understand Machine Learning
  8. Use Code to Manipulate and Model Data
  9. Develop Intelligent Solutions

These courses cover topics including how to analyze and visualize data with Excel or Power BI, as well as using R or Python to explore the data. They will also teach students what’s necessary to understand key Data Science topics, like statistics and machine learning as well.

Data Science Course List

The following is a listing of each of the courses offered for the Microsoft Professional Degree in Data Science. A couple of the course areas allow for multiple options to be chosen from. Each category is listed with the specific courses offered in that category below it.

Data Science Orientation

Data Science Orientation

Get started on your data science journey, as you learn what it takes to become a Data Scientist. Learn to work with and explore data using variety of visualization, analytical, and statistical techniques.

Query Relational Data

Querying Data with Transact-SQL

Explore Transact-SQL, an essential skill for database professionals and developers working with SQL databases. Go from your first SELECT statement through to implementing transactional programmatic logic. Focus on querying and modifying data in Microsoft SQL Server or Azure SQL Database.

Analyze and Visualize Data

(Multiple Training Options)

Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel

Explore tools in Excel that enable the analysis of more data than ever before, with improved visualizations and more sophisticated business logic. Learn how to import data from different sources, create mashups between data sources, and prepare data for analysis.


Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Power BI

Learn how to connect and visualize your data with Microsoft Power BI. Find out how to import your data, author reports using Power BI Desktop, and publish those reports to the Power BI service. Create dashboards and share with business users—on the web and on mobile devices.

Understand Statistics

Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics

Learn how statistics to play a central role in the data science approach and how data scientists excercise statistical thinking in designing data collection, derive insights from visualizing data, obtain supporting evidence for data-based decisions, and construct models for predicting future trends.

Explore Data with Code

(Multiple Training Options)

Introduction to R for Data Science

Learn the R statistical programming language, the tool of choice for data science professionals. Discover its basic syntax, starting with variables and basic operations, and then learn how to handle data structures, such as vectors, matrices, data frames, and lists.


Introduction to Python for Data Science

Learn the basics of Python, including simple arithmetic operations, variables, and data structures. Explore Python functions and control flow, and create your own visualizations based on real data.

Understand Core Data Science Concepts

Data Science Essentials

Learn key concepts and techniques used to perform data science; including statistical analysis, data cleansing and transformation, and data visualization with R, Python, and Microsoft Azure Machine Learning.

Understand Machine Learning

Principles of Machine Learning

Learn how to build, evaluate, and optimize machine learning models; including classification, regression, clustering, and recommendation.

Use Code to Manipulate and Model Data

(Multiple Training Options)

Programming with R for Data Science

Get up to speed with programming in R. Explore R data structures and syntaxes, see how to read and write data from a local file to a cloud-hosted database, work with data, get summaries, and transform them to fit your needs.


Programming with Python for Data Science

Learn to use Python to apply efficient, well-known mining models to unearth useful intelligence. Explore data visualization, feature importance and selection, dimesionality reduction, clustering, classification, and more.

Develop Intelligent Solutions

(Multiple Training Options)

Applied Machine Learning

Learn how to apply machine learning to solve common predictive problems, including text analytics, spatial data analysis, image processing, and time series forecasting.


implementing Predictive Solutions with Spark in HDInsight

Learn how to use Spark in Microsoft Azure HDInsight to create predictive analytics and machine learning solutions. Find out how to cleanse and transform data, build machine learning models, and create real-time machine learning solutions using Python, Scala, and R with Apache Spark.


Developing Intelligent Applications

Learn how to develop smart applications that use machine learning to engage intelligently with users in imaginative ways.

Final Project

Data Science Challenge

Put everything you’ve learned into practice by participating in a data science challenge and competing with your fellow students. Take on a challenge on the Cortana Intelligence platform, where you develop and deploy a solution that is tested and scored to determine your grade.

More Information

For more information about the Microsoft Professional Degree program as well as the Data Science degree, please refer to the official Microsoft Professional Degree website from Microsoft.

Happy training! No matter the path you take: self learning, certification, MPD, university.

Attribution: Images and Course descriptions are from the official Microsoft Professional Degree website.

Microsoft MVP

Chris Pietschmann is a Microsoft MVP, HashiCorp Ambassador, and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) with 20+ years of experience designing and building Cloud & Enterprise systems. He has worked with companies of all sizes from startups to large enterprises. He has a passion for technology and sharing what he learns with others to help enable them to learn faster and be more productive.
HashiCorp Ambassador Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect