Microsoft has announced a new professional degree program, meant to offer professionals at any career stage a university-level curriculum. The Microsoft Professional Degree (MPD) program is built off of Open edX running on the company's Azure platform, and all course materials will be available on

Microsoft launches professional degree program to boost high-tech employment

The first curriculum will be focused on data science, with Microsoft designing coursework meant to fill gaps in that field. The company has already offered a pilot program for partner and Microsoft employees.

Those interested can sign up now to be notified when the program opens, which Microsoft says will be soon.

Press release:

Microsoft announces professional degree program

Initial curriculum focuses on data science to address the growing skills gap in the high-tech workforce

TORONTO, July 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- On Wednesday at the Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft Corp. announced the Microsoft Professional Degree (MPD) program, the first program of its kind to offer employer-endorsed, university-caliber curriculum for professionals at any stage of their career. MPD is a Microsoft-led initiative that provides professionals with real-world knowledge and hands-on experience to grow their skills in critical fields. The initial MPD offering is in data science, with all courseware available on, the nonprofit online learning destination founded by Harvard University and MIT.

"The proliferation of cloud technologies and the delivery of software as a service has opened up tremendous revenue opportunities for our partners," said Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist, Developer Experience and Evangelism Group, Microsoft. "The Microsoft Professional Degree will be offered via edX, as well as through learning-as-a-service offerings delivered through partners, to meet customers' evolving training needs and to help close the skills gap we are seeing across a number of industries."

A significant skills gap exists in the data science field. In response to this growing need, Microsoft designed its pilot curriculum to deliver the critical skills and experiences that are required for success in the data science field. Since May 2016, over 200 pioneering partner and 650 Microsoft employees have been participating in a closed preview to evaluate and validate this new data science curriculum.

"At Microsoft, we believe the approach and tools used for learning need to continually evolve to meet the demands of our device-centric and data-driven world. This is a world where both technical and functional skills are becoming increasingly critical across all careers and vocations," said Alison Cunard, general manager, Microsoft Learning Experiences. "The breadth and versatility of the edX platform allow us to expand our reach and deliver the Microsoft Professional Degree program, combining online learning with hands-on labs and workshops, allowing students to gain relevant and marketable skills."

Learning partners including DDLS, Fast Lane, NIIT Ltd. and QA Ltd. have been evaluating the platform and curriculum since May.

"We are very excited about this new opportunity to scale up our online learning offerings and deliver cutting-edge skills in emerging areas of the digital transformation wave sweeping across organizations worldwide," said Rahul Keshav Patwardhan, CEO, NIIT.

The MPD program is designed as both a catalyst for individuals in the early stages of their career and an enhancement for mid-career professionals looking to sharpen and learn new skills to continue their success in the dynamic high-tech job market. Students will get experience with real-world data, using tools from Microsoft and the open source community that range from Excel, Power BI and Cortana Analytics to R and Python.

"We see this as a fantastic opportunity to provide what our customers have increasingly been asking for, real-world skills — both conceptual and technical — that prepare people to succeed in 21st century careers," said Torsten Poels, CEO and chairman of the board, Fast Lane.

The data science curriculum is now available on More information is available at

Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT" @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.