What are the five different Six Sigma belts?

Six Sigma certifications are measured using the martial-arts inspired belt system: white, yellow, green, black, and master black.

Levels of Six Sigma belts

Six Sigma White Belt

Note: this belt isn’t actually a certification

The white belt is a more informal designation than the other belts, since it doesn’t actually count toward actual certification. This belt is for anyone interested in completing Six Sigma certification—it’s a starting point. People with white belts are working on mastering the basic, foundational concepts of Six Sigma and should have enough information to contribute to small projects and provide information and guidance when needed.

Six Sigma Yellow Belt

A person with a yellow belt will have enough knowledge to be a team member for Six Sigma projects. They are the worker bees of Six Sigma; they are directly responsible for using Six Sigma methods to get tasks accomplished. Yellow belts should be overseen by someone with more knowledge and experience. This supervisor should be either a green belt or a black belt, depending on the scope, size, and magnitude of the project in question.

Six Sigma Green Belt

Individuals seeking green belts are usually project managers, or people hoping to follow the project management career path. Green belts have enough Six Sigma knowledge and experience to have a supervisorial their own projects. Their roles as team members often focuses on instructing other members, but also includes data collection and analysis as well. When individuals first earn their green belts, it’s good practice to have a black belt holder as a mentor, particularly when these green belts have little experience with managing teams/running projects.

Six Sigma Black Belt

Like in karate, earning a black belt in Six Sigma is a major milestone. This signifies that the individual has enough experience to be a Six Sigma leader, including large-scale projects like implementation and directing Six Sigma programs. Black belts should take an active mentoring role with individuals at lower levels in the Six Sigma certification process, and black belts should actively seek out mentorship from master black belt.

Master Black Belt

Master black belts are the Eagle Scouts of Six Sigma. This certification is the highest one can earn, and very few make it to this level.  Master black belts often work for large companies, and are the only master black belt the company employs. Typically, master black belts are in charge of running big, corporate-wide projects, creating, revising, and analyzing metrics, and devising strategic plans for quality management throughout a company’s manufacturing processes.

Six Sigma certifications aren’t easy to achieve—they require more than simply showing up at the courthouse or a testing center in a strip mall by the airport. These certifications require commitment and hands-on experience. While these certifications are not easy to achieve, they do pay endless dividends. Companies are always searching for candidates with green and black belts. Master black belts are highly coveted.


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