Can you Six Sigma certify yourself?

The idea of self-certification comes up occasionally so I thought we’d discuss the idea of self-certification, and if it’s a real option.

What we’re really taking about when we talk about certification is “proof of knowledge”.  Getting a certification shows others that you’ve proven your skills or knowledge through the use of an independent 3rd party.  Essentially, you take a test or submit a paper which demonstrates your knowledge of the subject matter.  The independent 3rd party then verifies your knowledge and issues you a certification.

So technically, self-certification isn’t possible since you need an independent 3rd party to verify your knowledge.  There are however, many ways to gain knowledge in a subject like Six Sigma without getting a certification or spending a lot of money.

  • The Library – A great place to start the quest for more knowledge is always your local library.  Libraries will typically have a large assortment of business-related books.  You can look for books with subjects like Six Sigma, Lean, Continuous Improvement, and Quality Improvement.  Many of these books, especially textbooks, will have practice exams and quizzes in them.  Read the books and practice with these exams to reinforce the subject matter.  You won’t have a piece of paper at the end saying your certified, but you’ll have in-depth knowledge that you’ll be able to demonstrate.
  • The Internet – It may seem obviously, but the internet is a great place to find information on just about anything.  There are many free-to-study programs online.  If you can’t find something specific to Six Sigma, try searching for programs that teach statistics or quality improvement methodology.
  • Free Six Sigma programs – There are ways to get certified for free.  The Management and Strategy Institute offers a free six sigma white belt certification.  The program only takes about 25 minutes to complete, so it’s well worth your time.  The White Belt level of Six Sigma is a very introductory level, so it isn’t an advanced certification.  It’s a great first start however and it does show employers you’ve taken training.
  • Through your job – One area that people often forget is about training through their own employer.  Many large companies have quality improvement processes taking place.  They may go by company specific names like “Quality and Process Assurance”, but they all generally use Six Sigma and Total Quality Management as a basis for quality assurance.  Your employer may be able to let you join one of the projects, even if it’s just for the experience.  You’ll learn something new and impress your superiors with your quest for knowledge.

The more important question is why do you want to self-certify yourself in Six Sigma.  If the answer is because you’re looking to save money, any of the options above can help.  These options won’t be as respected by employers as a real independent certification however, so you’ll need to be careful in your approach.  If your ultimate goal is to find work in the “Quality Improvement” field, a valid 3rd party certification is still the best way to go.