Microsoft has provoked anger from IT professionals with the announcement that it is to retire its Master certification programmes within a month, citing high costs, low uptake and a "changing industry".

The courses are intended to "validate the deepest level of product expertise", according to Microsoft, but only attracted a few hundred professionals in the last few years.

An email, which was sent to programme participants and posted on Microsoft's TechNet blog, said: "The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine if there's a different certification needed for the pinnacle of our program."

The affected qualifications are Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master and Micorosft Certified Architect. The company confirmed that the certifications will still be recognised and valid, but that the programmes' certification exams would be retired on 1 October 2013 with training also no longer being provided.

Users reacted to the news angrily, with one consultant estimating that the short notice of the announcement had cost his company more than $60,000 in training costs. Another user said the decision was "hugely, heartily disappointing, and a frightening sense of Microsoft having lost the track."

Microsoft has not disclosed a replacement for the programme, with senior director for Microsoft Learning, Tim Sneath commenting on a petition requesting the qualifications to not be dropped that the firm is "taking a pause" from offering the programme while "looking to see if there's a better way to create a pinnacle without losing the technical rigour" of the courses.