Microsoft announces professional degree program to fill the skills gap

Microsoft wants more data scientists in the job market. But some young people need to acquire their knowledge starting completely anew, while mid-career professionals need to build on their previous experience.

To plug the skills gap for both categories, Microsoft launched a series of classes in data science through, the nonprofit online learning destination founded by Harvard University and MIT.

The Data Science Curriculum is the first offering of the Microsoft Professional Degree program, a Microsoft-led initiative to help professionals grow their skills in critical fields. Launched today, the program aims to offer an “employer-endorsed, university-caliber curriculum for professionals at any stage of their career,” the company said in a press release.

Data scientist is probably one of the most desired professions, with more job offerings than candidates.

The Microsoft course consists of nine classes and a final project. All classes can be audited for free. However, to receive credit toward the Microsoft Professional Degree, students must purchase a certificate for each of the 10 steps of the curriculum.

The certificate for the orientation class costs $25, the verified certificate for “Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics” costs $99 and all other classes offer certificates for $49 each (the complete Data Science course costs $516).

Students need to enroll in specific course sessions. A calendar for each class is available here; prospective students can read the detailed syllabus, examine the elective options for each unit and enroll on the edX page of the class. Each step requires a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 8 hours to be completed.

Microsoft is not the first major tech company to enter the field of IT online education — Google and Udacity have partnered to offer an Android nanodegree and other classes, and Amazon offers AWS training and certification for advance technical skills, including a big data class.