Six Sigma certification is a way for individuals to improve their knowledge and experience with the quality management philosophy known as Six Sigma. Certification puts an emphasis on both knowledge and application so that people will be experienced enough to apply Six Sigma in the workplace. There are several levers of certifications available to work toward, and since Six Sigma has evolved into such a widely-used Lean manufacturing method, attaining certifications is an excellent way for people to push their careers forward.
Six Sigma certification works through a belt system. Like Karate, these different colored belts signify amount of knowledge and experience with Six Sigma. Everyone must start at the beginning with lower-level belts, and as they gain experience, they can shoot for more advanced certification. Six Sigma certification is not like other professional credentials that require you take a webinar, pay a fee, then take a test in a strip mall somewhere. Six Sigma certifications demand actual, hands-on experience to advance to the next level.
The type of belt one holds determines what roll one will have on projects, and what title/role they’ll have in their company.
White belt is the starting point. This is not an actual certification—more like a symbol that you’re beginning your journey into Six Sigma. White Belts can work on small projects, and provide support on larger ones when under the close supervision of higher-level belt holders.
People with yellow belts take more active roles in projects. They’re the worker ants of Six Sigma projects because they are responsible for getting tasks done. Yellow Belts need to be under the supervision of someone with higher certification.
Green belt holders are those looking to take on leadership roles in the future. These belts signify holders are ready to take on roles on the team that require data collection and analysis. Green Belts can be responsible for leading small projects, and should seek out Black Belts for guidance and mentoring.
Black Belts are so experienced and knowledgeable in Six Sigma that they should always be leading teams and mentoring others. Typically, black belts are in charge of large-scale projects like implementation of Six Sigma.
Master Black Belts are the Navy Seals of Six Sigma certifications. They are such a scarce, elite bunch that typically there’s only one needed. These belt holders are the ones that take the helm on big, corporate-wide projects such as designing Six Sigma training and implementation programs. Master Black Belts are highly coveted.