What is Six Sigma certification? A comprehensive guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Whether you're becoming an entrepreneur or want to work your way up the corporate ladder, Six Sigma is an approach that can add a lot of value to your work. Businesses that follow a Six Sigma approach can maximise their value and processes while saving on resources. Understanding Six Sigma and gaining the right qualifications in relation to it can have many advantages for professionals across all kinds of organisations and industries. In this article, we answer the question 'What is Six Sigma certification?' and explore exactly what this process entails.

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What is Six Sigma certification?

If you've shown an interest in business and entrepreneurship, you may have asked the question, 'What is Six Sigma certification?'. Six Sigma certification validates individuals who have a strong command of a well-regarded system of professional skills development. Six Sigma certifications cover individuals with skills in identifying risks or errors in a business process and being able to remove them. To get a Six Sigma certification, individuals need a good level of proficiency and experience in these areas. Professionals grade these certifications based on a belt system.

Six Sigma refers to a system of quality management strategies and tools invented by an engineer working for Motorola in the 1980s. Since then, many corporations and businesses around the globe implemented this system. The initial development of this approach was to minimise errors or defects during manufacturing processes. Today, Six Sigma has played a major role in shaping and defining modern management practices. Six Sigma doesn't have a standard curriculum. You can obtain a Six Sigma certification through various educational institutions, both online and in-person, and some companies may allow you to gain this certification through in-house training.

Related: How to become an entrepreneur

The Six Sigma belt levels

When getting a Six Sigma certification, you may receive different belt levels. Typically, you obtain these belt levels based on your position in the business. You may earn higher belt levels with more experience and practical training. Here are the belt levels:

  • White belt: Awarded to an individual for an entry-level overview completion.

  • Yellow belt: Awarded to an individual for assisting in a practical-level project.

  • Green belt: Awarded to individuals who have learned all Six Sigma principles and have implemented them while under the guidance of a black belt.

  • Black belt: Awarded to individuals who can plan and execute Six Sigma principles.

  • Master black belt: Awarded to individuals who can manage Six Sigma project implementations across different functions.

  • Champion: These are upper-level executives who are fully responsible for implementing Six Sigma practices across all departments in a company.

Six Sigma standards

Six Sigma certifications don't have any unifying standards that are followed across the board. Each organisation or school sets its own standards for Six Sigma and its own criteria. Although the basic principles of Six Sigma remain the same, the means to achieving certifications could look quite different. For example, some Six Sigma certifications may require the completion of exams. Some may involve the completion of specific projects based on Six Sigma principles.

The key principles of Six Sigma

For each level or belt in Six Sigma, there's a 'body of knowledge'. These bodies of knowledge cover the basic requirements, guidelines, or competencies required for each level. While each belt may differ, they all share the same fundamental standards. All the work done in a Six Sigma certification is definable, measurable, analysable and controllable. When understanding Six Sigma, the general idea is to represent a very well-controlled process. Six Sigma practices use a problem-solving approach called DMAIC. This is an acronym that means:

  • Define: The goal or challenge of the project is identified, and the project's overall scope is set.

  • Measure: This looks at how performance and progress during the project are monitored and measured. To do this, you find and follow a baseline before looking for areas to create improvements.

  • Analyse: This step of the project identifies the main cause of a challenge. This involves identifying all of the issues that a project faces and discovering their underlying causes, which helps to clear any surface issues from the project.

  • Improve: Once the main problem is found, it's time to implement a solution. This process could involve testing different solutions for the main problem until you find the best approach.

  • Control: Once you implement the recommended improvements, ensure they're maintained and controlled. This stage involves monitoring the improvements and making sure that they're successful.

With each belt involved in Six Sigma certification, the DMAIC approach defines all the different tasks and responsibilities you do. These are all required to earn the certification.

Advantages of Six Sigma

Becoming certified in Six Sigma offers many advantages. Here are a few main reasons why implementing Six Sigma in an organisation is a good idea:

Decreased waste

One area that Six Sigma methodology focuses on is optimising processes in a company to minimise waste. This can save a company valuable resources while refining a wide range of processes. Identifying and implementing a process to mitigate waste is an important factor for an organisation.

Increased efficiency

By reducing waste in an organisation, you can vastly increase efficiency. Six Sigma helps businesses maximise their resources to work more efficiently. This allows businesses to get more out of everything they do.

Fewer errors

While Six Sigma is an approach that cuts down on waste, it's also focused on improving the quality of business processes. This helps businesses do things correctly from the beginning of their operation, resulting in a higher standard of productivity and fewer resources being wasted along the way.

Higher salaries

Individuals with Six Sigma certifications have the potential to earn more money as their certifications develop. With each belt level, a Six Sigma certified professional could expect a salary bump. Consider your goals when pursuing the various levels to earn your desired salary.

Reduces legal risk

The Six Sigma methodology focuses on quality and ensuring that the business operation follows the best available practices. This can help businesses stay updated with compliance laws and reduce possible legal risks. Understanding the level of quality required can help you relay to your team its importance.


Six Sigma is an approach that can apply to all industries and organisations. The techniques and methodologies learned in a Six Sigma certification can help individuals in all kinds of work environments. This makes it a versatile management strategy.

Six Sigma and Lean

Six Sigma is an approach that's often confused with Lean, which is a slightly different approach. Lean is a business philosophy focused on increasing value for the customer while minimising waste. In this case, waste refers to any additional processes that don't add value to the customer. The main idea behind Lean thinking is shifting the focus from vertical to horizontal. It considers values across all departments and processes instead of specific isolated points. This reduces wasted time and effort.

Lean and Six Sigma follow common ideas, but the key difference is that Six Sigma reduces variation while Lean reduces waste. Lean is also more of a technical approach, while Six Sigma is more of an analytical approach. Six Sigma focuses more on reducing costs and achieving an almost-perfect result, while Lean focuses on maximising value with minimal resources.

Lean Six Sigma

Since Lean and Six Sigma focus on delivering high levels of customer value and low-cost delivery, many businesses combine the two approaches. Lean Six Sigma is an approach that's driven by data and uses a fact-based thought process to prevent defects and issues. This approach reduces both waste and variation, creating a standardised approach to work processes. Lean Six Sigma usually starts with a Lean implementation to reduce waste and maximise value before Six Sigma statistical tools enhance the business further. If there's waste and variation present in business operations, the business may apply the Lean Six Sigma approach.

Related: How to attain qualified teacher status (QTS) certification

Who uses Six Sigma?

There are many certifications that professionals can obtain, and a Six Sigma certification is one of the most useful. You can apply this approach to different organisations, and individuals can constantly advance through the Six Sigma program as they develop new skills and experiences. Six Sigma is an approach that can solve many business problems and improve how business management. It's an excellent approach for improving business functions, and anyone with a Six Sigma certification could benefit greatly. Here are some career paths where being Six Sigma certified can be particularly helpful:

  • project manager

  • project coordinator

  • agile product owner

  • program manager

  • product manager

  • scrum master

  • process improvement manager

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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