data_science_illustrationThe Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) is a new attempt from Microsoft to provide a training and educational platform to help fill the ever growing skill gap in the technology industry. According to Microsoft there are 1.5 million jobs awaiting qualified candidates, and the MPP programs goal is to help fill this huge need in better training candidates.

What is the Microsoft Professional Program?

The self-paced training spectrum is made up of certifications on the more self guided end to online courses on the more structure guided end. Both of these are very different than a traditional degree in the facts that they both focus more on the latest technologies and leave out any “general education” stuff. Basically self-paced training, both online courses and certifications, offer no fluff, to the point method of learning and proving skills in a given topic area.

The different between these more self-paced training options and higher education degree programs has really been quite large. As a result, there has been an ever growing skills gap in the technology world. Once someone earns a degree their skills immediately start to become outdated and eventually obsolete. So they need to keep learning new technologies all the time, however it can be difficult to decide what to learn.

There has been an ever growing skills gap in the technology world.

When looking at someone new to the technology industry, they generally have absolutely no idea where to start or what technologies to learn. To solve this people look at job listings as well as what’s popular online in general or with self-paced training course vendors. This generally leaves them with very little direction unless they choose to go with a higher education degree program.

The overall skills gap in the industry not having enough trained professionals to fill available open jobs affect those who are in college, after college, and working to learn new skills using self-paced courses. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of guidance available.

This sort of confused state of the technology industry as a whole not knowing what to learn to fill the skills gap is a growing problem. There are self-paced course companies like Pluralsight, Lynda.com, edX.org and others that are attempting to provide a solution. There are also vendor specific certifications like those from Microsoft that are attempting to provide a solution as well. While there are times when these can be very complimentary, it generally leaves a divided and confused industry thrashing to fill the skills gap needs.

The new Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) provides more of a middle ground between traditional higher education and what is provided by self-paced course and certification options. While it seem more helpful for those new to the technology industry, it looks to provide the direction many experienced in the industry are looking for to help them as well. The way it provides the middle ground is that it provides both individual courses and verified certificates of completion  as well as guided direction for what courses to take and skills to learn.

The goal of the Microsoft Professional Program is to help fill the skills gap with qualified candidates.

In a way, the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) is a sort of a hybrid between higher education and self-paced, online courses or certifications. While it’s certainly not a replacement for any of the three other learning / training options, it’s aimed to fill a need for people those other options don’t fit, as well as help prepare more skilled professionals to be able to fill the ever growing skills gap.

Information about the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) can be found at http://academy.microsoft.com.

FYI, originally, the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) was named Microsoft Professional Degree (MPD) program. Microsoft hasn’t stated why they renamed it since it’s initial announcement 3 months ago, but it’s likely due to some pushback and confusion in calling it a “Degree.”

Available Program Tracks

The Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) is still new, and currently there is only 1 program track available. The very first MPP program track available is:

  • Data Science

The reception of the MPP program as gone over very well so far, so Microsoft has announce they will be adding 2 more tracks to the program in 2017. These new MPP program tracks will be:

  • Big Data Engineering
  • Front-End Web Development

The number of MPP program tracks Microsoft is eventually targeting hasn’t been announced. The curriculum of the Data Science track looks promising, and the 2 new tracks will likely follow suit.

Degree Pricing and Auditing

edX-cert-verified-thumbThe cost of the entire Microsoft Professional Program 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 Program track 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.

When the additional tracks are announced / available the prices for their courses will likely be very similar, if not exactly the same.

Where to Signup?

The Microsoft Professional Program website has further information on the courses necessary to complete the program tracks available. If you’re interested in one of tracks in the MPP program, you can signup at the following link:


Note, at the time of writing this, the Data Science track is the only current track available in the program, and Open Enrollment has just opened for anyone who is interested to signup and start taking courses!

Data Science Track Curriculum

The curriculum of the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) Data Science track is broken out into 9 courses, as well as a final Capstone Project that needs to be completed to achieve the MPP Data Science certification.

Here’s a simplified breakout of the courses:

Unit 1 – Fundamentals

Course 1: Data Science Orientation
Course 2: Querying Data with Transact-SQL
Course 3: Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel OR Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Power BI
Course 4: Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics from Columbia University

Unit 2 – Core Data Science

Course 5: Introduction to R for Data Science OR Introduction to Python for Data Science
Course 6: Data Science Essentials
Course 7: Principles of Machine Learning

Unit 3: Applied Data Science

Course 8: Programming with R for Data Science OR Programming with Python for Data Science
Course 9: Applied Machine Learning OR Developing Intelligent Apps OR Implementing Predictive Solutions with Spark in Azure HDInsight

Unit 4: Capstone Project

Project: Cortana Intelligence Competition

As you can see above, a few of the course areas have multiple options to choose from for which courses to take. For example, on the programming side you can choose between either Python or R to focus on. You can also choose between focusing on either Excel or Power BI for visualization as well. It’s nice when you have some choice in what courses to take since that really helps you customize the certification for your needs, expertise or interests better.

Happy studying!

Also, if you’ve already participated in the Microsoft Professional Program, please post a comment on this article to let us know your experience and overall satisfaction level with the courses and program as a whole. This program is still very new with a bit still unknown by many of us on the “outside”, however it does look very promising!

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