Six Sigma Certification

What Is Six Sigma Certification?

Six Sigma certification is a verification of an individual's command of a well-regarded quality assurance method. Certifications for Six Sigma training are awarded in levels using a belt classification system similar to belt levels used in martial arts.

Six Sigma is a set of quality management techniques and tools developed in the 1980s and adopted by American corporations, including General Electric. Development of the Six Sigma system is credited to Bill Smith and Mikel Harry, two Motorola engineers, and the name was trademarked by Motorola in 1993.

There is no standard Six Sigma curriculum. Programs are offered by many colleges, online and on-campus, and are offered in-house by many corporations.

Key Takeaways

  • Six Sigma is a set of quality management techniques and tools that have been widely adopted by American corporations.
  • Six Sigma originated as a method of minimizing errors or defects in manufacturing processes.
  • It has since had a pervasive influence on management practices in the U.S. and abroad.

Understanding Six Sigma Certification

The name Six Sigma stems from a statistical measurement represented by the lowercase Greek symbol sigma (σ). On a bell curve measuring data and standard deviation, sigma represents one standard deviation from the mean of a set of data. So, six sigma refers to the data that falls with six standard deviations on either side of the mean of the dataset.

On the curve, any data points outside of six sigma represent products outside acceptable norms—these are generally called defects. The Six Sigma bell curve represent one million data points. Therefore, if your product falls within six sigma—or six standard deviations from the mean on either side—there is a likelihood that you only have 3.4 defects per million items produced.

In a manufacturing process, this is the ultimate level to strive for, ensuring error-free delivery of a product 99.99966% of the time. Six Sigma training, therefore, focuses on developing management processes that reliably lead to virtually defect-free results in manufacturing or in any business activity.

The Six Sigma Belt Levels

Six Sigma certifications are awarded belt levels relevant to the position in the employee's business within an organization. They are earned through practical experience, course-based training, and exams. The belt levels are:

  • White belt: Awarded for completing an entry-level overview of the tools used in Six Sigma, its history, and the system's structure.
  • Yellow belt: Awarded for assisting a project at a practical level and passing an exam demonstrating an understanding of implementing, performing, and applying Six Sigma.
  • Green belt: Awarded for learning the principles of Six Sigma and implementing them under the guidance of a black belt in real projects. Must pass an exam demonstrating thorough knowledge of the phases of the Six Sigma Method.
  • Black belt: Plans and executes projects using Six Sigma principles. Must pass an exam demonstrating a complete knowledge of the phases of the Six Sigma Method.
  • Master black belt: Manages the implementation of Six Sigma projects across functions. Demonstrates through an exam an expert understanding of the philosophies and principles of Six Sigma.
  • Champion: An upper-level executive who is responsible for the implementation of Six Sigma across all departments.

Benefits of Six Sigma

For Employers

Six Sigma helps employers in many ways. In addition to improving employee and process performance, businesses benefit from:

  • Reduced waste
  • Increased efficiency
  • Increased revenue
  • Reduced errors and defects
  • Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Increased brand recognition

For Employees

Employees benefit from Six Sigma training and application as much as businesses do. Many experience:

  • Increased pay
  • An increase in opportunities
  • Higher job security
  • Leadership opportunities

Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma is derived from a combination of Lean and Six Sigma principles. Lean focuses on removing waste of physical and personnel resources by identifying the causes of defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation waste, inventory waste, waste of motion, and extra processing.

Lean Six Sigma uses Six Sigma techniques to identify and eliminate wasted resource use that doesn't generate value for the end user while continually working to achieve a goal of 3.4 defects per million products.

No Official Standards for Six Sigma

No unifying standard or organization sets a standard for Six Sigma belt certification. Instead, each company, school, or certifying organization determines its own criteria.

In some organizations, certification may require completing an exam or a series of exams. In others, an individual must complete several Six Sigma-based projects. In addition, certification services charge a fee.

How Much Does Six Sigma Cost?

Because Six Sigma training is not standardized, costs will vary based on who is conducting the training. For example, a company training employees in Six Sigma will likely not charge the employees but will incur the costs of employing people who can teach the subject, developing the curriculum, and losing the employee's time at their regular job.

You can take certification tests through various sources, such as Purdue University, The Council for Six Sigma Certification, or Project Management Academy. Project Management Academy charges $495 for its Beginner Yellow Belt certification, $2,295 for its Green Belt Training, and $3,595 for its Black Belt Training.

The Council for Six Sigma Certification offers free white belt certification and charges $99 for a yellow belt, $159 for a green belt, and $229 for a black belt (for primary certifications—level II certifications are more expensive).

What Is a Six Sigma Certification?

Six Sigma certification signifies you have received a specific level of training and understand the concepts involved in a particular quality improvement method.

How Long Does It Take to Get Six Sigma Certification?

The time it takes to get a Six Sigma certification depends on many factors. If you're receiving the training through your employer, it may take one week or more. On the other hand, studying in your free time can take as long as you need to study and pass the exam.

What Does Six Sigma Certification Cost?

Six Sigma certification costs vary by level from $99 to $3,595. The costs also depend on how much instruction you receive or whether you're only paying for the exam.

The Bottom Line

Six Sigma is a quality control certification that attempts to educate people on analyzing processes and outcomes to reduce waste and decrease defects. There are several levels of certifications, from a primary end user to a master Six Sigma user who acts as a senior quality control member.

Six Sigma benefits both employees and employers because using it can reduce waste and defects, thereby increasing a business's value to consumers and end-users. This can lead to high levels of customer satisfaction, more revenue, higher compensation, and better products.

Article Sources
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  1. Six Sigma. "Six Sigma Case Study: General Electric."

  2. American Society for Quality. "What Is Lean?"

  3. Project Management Academy. "Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Training."

  4. The Council for Six Sigma Certification. "Six Sigma Certifications."