The Microsoft Software and Systems Academy will now be offered as a fully online, fully funded 16-17-week course.

Founded in 2013, MSSA is a well-known opportunity for veterans and transitioning servicemembers in the DoD Skillbridge program to prepare for a career in technology.

DoD Skillbridge is a transition program that enables active duty servicemembers to participate in a civilian internship for the last 180 days of their service while still on the government’s dime.

The recent pandemic-prompted changes to MSSA will enable students to learn technical and career skills from anywhere in the world without needing to use their GI Bill benefits.

“I strongly believe one of the key steps needed to foster a successful and inclusive economic recovery is expanded access to digital skills that drive our modern workforce,” Chris Cortez, vice president of Microsoft Military Affairs, said in a LinkedIn post announcing the changes on Jan. 27.

The program has been operating virtually since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the new, permanent online curriculum and funding changes began in early February 2021.

The new format has granted increased flexibility to deliver custom learning opportunities, a Microsoft spokesperson told Military Times.

Microsoft declined to comment on how much it would cost to fully fund MSSA.

Students now use Microsoft Teams to connect with mentors and instructors for technical and professional development courses on one of two tracks: Cloud Application Developer or Server and Cloud Administrator.

Specializations in cybersecurity and database administration were removed from the program “to best prepare students for the rapidly evolving digital economy,” the spokesperson said.

Students will still receive hands-on exercises, virtual labs and certification testing as part of the program.

At the beginning of 2021 more than 3,000 students had graduated from MSSA, with an employment rate greater than 95 percent. At full capacity, MSSA is capable of training approximately 1,000 students per year.

Upon completion of the program, graduates in good standing are offered the opportunity to interview with Microsoft or one of MSSA’s numerous hiring partners in rapidly growing career fields.

MSSA has long been a part of the DoD SkillBridge program but is also available to veterans. Those interested in applying can email to sign up for information sessions held every Tuesday.

Harm Venhuizen is an editorial intern at Military Times. He is studying political science and philosophy at Calvin University, where he's also in the Army ROTC program.

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