Developed in the 1980s, the Six Sigma approach to the manufacturing process has gained popularity in the workplace. Six Sigma business processes eliminate defects and waste by focusing on quality control and paying attention to consumer feedback. Some companies hire -- or promote -- employees based on whether they possess Six Sigma certification. Whether you seek to up your game at your current company or boost your chances of landing a new job, Six Sigma may pave the way.
Levels of Certification
Six Sigma features different levels. Each level is identified by a color of belt, as in the martial arts. The certification, and accompanying knowledge, you will need depends on your workplace role in the production process. Since there are no universal standards, the levels vary among certifiers. The American Society for Quality identifies five levels, beginning with a bare-bones White Belt certification and continuing through a Master Black Belt. Black Belt certification is designed for employees who will lead problem-solving projects, and Master Black Belt is a program geared toward Six Sigma training and consulting. However, the International Association for Six Sigma Certification provides certification for only the yellow, green and black belt levels. The IASSC test fee in 2014 was $195 for the yellow belt level and $395 for the black belt level. The ASQ exam was $339 for the yellow and $459 for the black.
You have options when it comes to registering for a certification program. First, you must decide whether you want to take only a certification exam or receive training, too. The IASSC features a program that only requires you to pass an exam, and the ASQ program only requires an exam preceded by an application process designed to ensure that test-takers have the necessary knowledge to pass the exam and put Six Sigma to use in the workplace. However, you may stand little chance of passing the exam if you lack training or experience with Six Sigma. If you lack a background in Six Sigma, turn to a professional institute or college certification program. They feature classroom or online training and instruction. At Purdue University, their entry-level Six Sigma course requires you to read a textbook, watch online lecture videos, participate in online discussions, and take quizzes and tests. Purdue's course lasts 10 weeks. The registration fee in 2014 was $2,450 for the green belt course. Manufacturing companies sometimes recruit students who complete these college courses.
Six Sigma vs. Lean Six Sigma
There are two types of certification: Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma. Both share many of the same principles. They teach you how to streamline operations, reduce waste and minimize production costs. However, the two have some differences, too. Lean Six Sigma focuses on removing steps in the manufacturing process to save on production costs. Lean Six Sigma also looks more at how products are perceived in the marketplace in terms of how customers perceive the value of a product feature. Six Sigma deals more with eliminating variation in the production process to ensure that each product meets the same quality standards. Companies also have applied Six Sigma to all parts of their operations to reduce waste in areas such as customer support, employee management and product delivery.
If you opt for an employer-based certification program, you may wish to obtain a Six Sigma certificate through a third party, such as the American Society for Quality. Taking this route will give you the best of both worlds. The employer-specific training will allow you to advance at your current job. Meanwhile, the ASQ certification will prove to potential employers that you have a broad understanding of Six Sigma. ASQ does not require you to take additional coursework. Instead, you must submit an application detailing your training and experience with Six Sigma and must pass ASQ's Six Sigma exam.