Is my Six Sigma training equivalent to a belt level?

If you’ve ever taken business classes in college or enrolled in an MBA program, you’ve most likely been introduced to Six Sigma.  The process improvement method is one of the most popular improvement methodologies taught in school and is covered in most basic business classes.

Most people are aware that Six Sigma projects are run by team members with belts.  The belts represent a different job function on a Six Sigma project, they are not a hierarchy as some people often believe.  Those belts range from White Belt, through Yellow, Green, Black, and Master Black Belt.  While it’s true that a Black Belt will have more knowledge than a Yellow Belt, they aren’t necessarily at a higher level within the organization.  Your role on a project has a lot more to do with your training than it does on your position within the company.

Professional man holding book

Does my training equal a Six Sigma belt?

The answer to this can be a surprising yes.  Remember, there is no official certification company within the Six Sigma community so being certified by an organization isn’t required.  Depending on the type of training you’ve taken, you can even decide to self-certify yourself in Six Sigma.

Let’s break down the different levels of training and talk about what belt-level they may be equivalent too.

General Six Sigma Topic Training.

Six Sigma is often discussed briefly in college business majors.  They may discuss the history of Six Sigma and give you a general understanding variance from a mean average (sigma level).

    • Belt Level: If you’ve had this type of training, it would be equivalent to a Six Sigma White Belt.

Degree in business management, plus general understanding of statistics.

Six Sigma projects focus on improving business processes and correcting operations.  Someone with a degree in business has been trained in these same processes.  Skills like organizational behavior, business communication, change management, and principles of financial and managerial accounting are all taught at this level of education.  These skills make someone a perfect fit to serve as a subject matter expert (SME) in their area of expertise.  Yellow Belts typically work on Six Sigma projects on a part-time basis and serve as SMEs when required.

    • Belt Level: If you have a degree in business and a general understanding of statistics, then this training would be equivalent to a Six Sigma Yellow Belt (SSYB).

Degree in business management with a strong understanding of mathematics and statistics.

If you have a degree in a business field (business, accounting, leadership) as well as a strong understanding of mathematics, it could equal a Six Sigma belt level.  The Green belt level of Six Sigma works to improve the organizations processes.  They monitor a process, see how it deviates from the average, and work to improve it.  They use mathematical models (using advanced software like Minitab or Excel) to determine how to improve the process.  In your business training you’ll have learned about subjects like principles of economics, project management, and quantitative analysis, all skills that will serve someone well on a Six Sigma project.

    • Belt Level: Someone with this level of knowledge would be the equivalent to a Six Sigma Green Belt (SSGB).

Masters degree or an MBA, plus advanced statistical knowledge.

  • If you’ve taken the initiative to continue your university education and obtain your MBA, you may be ready for a leadership position within a Six Sigma team.  MBA’s have the advanced leadership skills required to successfully manage a process improvement project.  You’ll have strong statistical skills and know how to use analysis software to make important decisions.  You’ll also know how to use graphical charts in operations management and manage innovation.
    • Belt Level:  If you have this high-level of educational background, you may be qualified to lead a project as a Six Sigma Black belt (SSBB).

Are there benefits to getting Six Sigma certified?

Yes, there are many benefits to getting a Six Sigma certification and not relying solely on your college training, especially through an organization like the Management and Strategy Institute.  Getting a certification is a way to prove your skills.  Certifications show that a 3rd party organization has tested you, and that you’ve proven you understand Six Sigma concepts.  The problem people without a certification run into is that they don’t have a way to demonstrate what they know.

When you get a Six Sigma certification, you’re demonstrating your knowledge and possible experience.  It gives an employer a way to verify your knowledge in a specific subject.

What about a Lean Six Sigma certification (LSS)?

Lean is the tool used to remove waste from an existing process.  This is used heavily in the manufacturing industry to analyze the manufacturing process and remove inefficiency.  Lean is less reliant on statistics and more reliant on quality management (TQM).  Lean breaks down a process into its individual parts and allows you to analyze each step.  Many universities teach total quality management as part of their business and MBA programs.  If you’ve taken quality management programs through college this might be equivalent to a Lean version of a belt.