Attaining any level of Six Sigma certification is a significant accomplishment, and one that can help you to advance in your career. Many positions in companies require that you have at least a certain level belt in order to qualify, and others list it as an accomplishment that is highly recommended. No matter how much Six Sigma education or experience you currently have, it is good to learn more and take your career to the next level.
Six Sigma Classes & Education
For most people, the first step is to take Six Sigma courses, which will help you to get a good general understanding of what Six Sigma is and how it can help you in your chosen career. Introduction courses can be in person, online or even through books.
Most people who want to become a Six Sigma professional will start out by attaining one of the standard belts, which are green, black and master black belts. There are also white or yellow belts that many companies use, but those are not universally accepted like the others are.
To get a belt one must complete certifications and have proof of certain amounts of experience. There are a number of third party certifiers that are authorized to award the different belt levels. These include many universities and other education providers.
Attaining the Green Belt
The green belt is given to people who spend some time in their career on process improvement efforts. In order to attain this designation, one should have experience working under the supervision of a Six Sigma black belt (or a master black belt). This experience should include work on analyzing problems, quality improvement projects, and the use of Six Sigma tools and/or processes.
In addition to the experience component, all green belts require the candidate to complete a written exam. This exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and covers virtually all areas of the overall body of knowledge offered by Six Sigma. These exams take up to four hours to complete. Once the exam is passed, the candidate is a Six Sigma green belt professional.
Attaining the Black Belt
One important thing to note is that black belt certifications are not something that all Six Sigma professionals will seek. The black belts are typically going to be pushing up the management track rather than looking to remain in a more hands on role. If you do choose to seek the black belt, however, you will need to become well versed in all areas of the Six Sigma philosophy.
Since black belts are responsible for training and mentoring people who want to become green belts (and the green belts themselves) it is important that black belt candidates are able to properly explain all Six Sigma concepts. This includes systems, tools, principles and philosophies.
A good understanding of the DMAIC model as well as Lean enterprise concepts are also extremely important. Prior to taking the black belt exam, a candidate must have completed a minimum of one Six Sigma project (more are recommended) and have submitted a project affidavit regarding the project.
Once ready, it is time to register to take the black belt exam. Like the green belt exam, it is only offered a couple times per year. The exam will cover advanced Six Sigma concepts and help to gauge your overall experience. If you pass the exam, you are a Six Sigma black belt professional. To maintain this level, you need to recertify every three years.
Attaining the Master Black Belt
The master black belt is the highest level of Six Sigma training possible. To attain this level, one must have extensive knowledge of the Six Sigma process, and have a significant amount of experience training others. Master black belts should have experience looking at high-level topics such as nonparametric analysis, multi-variable experiments, practical experimentation, and much more.
In addition, master black belts must have a deep understanding of the entire DMAIC process and how it applies to Six Sigma. They should have been leaders in training programs given to other black belts, and helped mentor both green and black belts with great success.
Before looking to take the master black belt certification exam, a current black belt should have been the leader on a minimum of ten projects, offered a minimum of 40 hours of training, and be recognized by others as an exemplary black belt. While there is no specific length of time one must be a black belt before they can attain the master black belt level, it is typically going to be many years.
Six Sigma | A Life Long Effort
One of the most important things to remember when beginning your journey to becoming a Six Sigma professional is that this is not something with a specific end goal in mind. While there are many measurable accomplishments along the way, one is never done learning about the Six Sigma philosophy and how it can be implemented in a specific organization.
Whether you’re just beginning as a yellow belt, moving up the ladder as a green belt, becoming a leader as a black belt, or training and coaching as a master black belt, you will always be learning, growing and improving yourself. The more effort you put into the Six Sigma process, the more valuable you will be to organizations and the more challenges you will be able to overcome.
Starting Your Six Sigma Journey
If you work at a company that is already using Six Sigma professionals, the best first step is to seek out a green or black belt to work with. They can become your Six Sigma mentor, and will be able to help you along your journey. In almost all cases, Six Sigma professionals are extremely happy to help someone get started, because it is an important part of their own training and experience.
While attaining Six Sigma belts is not easy, it is well worth the effort. The things you learn will benefit you personally and professionally for the rest of your life, so take that first step today to becoming a Six Sigma professional.
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