A guide to understanding the Six Sigma Belt Levels from Champion to Master Black Belt
Understanding the Six Sigma Belt levels can be confusing. This break down of the requirements for each Six Sigma Certification clarifies the differences in achievement and typical roles for each level.
What Are the Six Sigma Belts?
Six Sigma methodology provides the use of a colored belt tier system for its certification. To receive Six Sigma Certification, you must follow a hierarchical process.
Here are the Six Sigma Belts and Certification Levels you can achieve:
- Six Sigma White Belt – White belt certification demonstrates an introductory level of knowledge to the fundamental concepts of Six Sigma.
- Six Sigma Yellow Belt – Yellow Belt certification indicates that you have learned the specifics of how Six Sigma works, how it’s disciplines are applied to the workplace and where best to concentrate your time as you learn the process.
- Six Sigma Green Belt – Green Belt certification focuses on advanced analysis and resolution of problems related to quality improvement projects. Green Belts lead and manage projects, while providing support to Six Sigma Black Belts.
- Six Sigma Black Belt – Black Belt certification signifies that you are an expert in Six Sigma philosophies and principles. Black Belts are known as agents of change within an organization who lead project teams.
- Six Sigma Master Black Belt – A Master Black Belt represents the top of the Lean Six Sigma achievement structure. They have extensive experience and are leaders in their fields.
Understanding the Six Sigma Belt levels can be confusing. Many people want to know the advantages and requirements of each Six Sigma Certification belt level. The most important factor is the degree to which you are involved in the work or projects.
Six Sigma Champion
The first level of Six Sigma certification is called a Champion. A Champion isn’t a belt, per se, but it is a critical function in a Six Sigma project or organization. The Champion’s primary role is to make sure that operational projects are in line with the strategic level business objectives.
We’ll first begin by explaining the White Belt. This is the first level of the Six Sigma Certification process. You start at the ground level by solving problems at a local level. White Belts will connect with higher-tier individuals such as those professionals with a Green or Black belt to solve each problem. The goal of a White Belt is to understand the fundamental concepts of Six Sigma.
Yellow Belt for Six Sigma is where you get into the specifics of how Six Sigma works, what it is, how the disciplines can be applied to the workplace, and where best to concentrate your time as you learn the process. A Yellow Belt professional is well versed in the basics of Lean Six Sigma, which includes all aspects of the phases of D-M-C. Thus we recommend that students enter a class to receive the guidance necessary. Yellow Belt Lean Six Sigma is where the fun is just getting started to eliminate defects from within enterprise systems.
One of the most frequently asked question is the difference between a Six Sigma Green Belt and Six Sigma Black Belt.
A Six Sigma Green Belt supports a Six Sigma Black Belt by analyzing and solving quality problems and is involved in quality-improvement projects. Green Belts also assist in reviewing data and suggestions sent by lower-tiered belts. There are times Green Belts will have enough experience to lead and manage a project of their own. It all depends on their experience level in a particular field. Green Belts are known as the workhorses of a business.
Those with a Green Belt will be able to apply learned tools such as define, measure, analyze, improve and control to everyday work problems. They will also be able to assist Black Belts in Six Sigma teams and team projects to provide measurable improvement to the enterprise.
Candidates that have a thorough knowledge of the Six Sigma methods and procedures at the Green Belt level have a distinct advantage when searching for a career. Hiring managers seek candidates with the knowledge and expertise those with a Green Belt possess. The average salary for Green Belts start at $75,000 (salary citation).
Typical jobs for those with a Six Sigma Green Belt include: Compliance structural engineer, lead manufacturing engineer, operating systems specialist, business process analyst, project engineer, and senior IT project manager.
A Six Sigma Black Belt understands Six Sigma philosophies and principles, including the supporting systems and tools. This person demonstrates team leadership and understands all aspects of the DMAIC model [in accordance with] Six Sigma principles.
Black Belts are known as agents of change within an organization. They have a deep understanding of team dynamics and handle assigning roles and responsibilities to team members. Most often these team members are Green Belts. It is the goal of a Black Belt to improve overall quality and profitability. On average, Black Belts save companies approximately $230,000 per project. The average salary for a Black Belt is estimated at $88,000 per year (salary citation).
Typical jobs for those with a Six Sigma Black Belt include: Project Manager, Vice President of Operations, and Manager of Manufacturing.
Six Sigma Master Black Belt
Master Black Belts are the top of the food chain for Lean Six Sigma / Black Belt Six Sigma subject matter experts [in the field of study].
The Master Black Belt (MBB) requirements for individuals are at least five years as a Black Belt Six Sigma (BBSS) or experience on a minimum of 10 BBSS projects throughout their experience as a professional. The aforementioned is what you are required to submit for portfolio review and acceptance as a MBB student. Both the IASSC and the ASQ review your experience as a Six Sigma professional, which includes coaching and teaching, mentoring, your responsibilities as a BBSS professional, and your depth and breadth of technical experience and innovation.
The average salary for a Master Black Belt starts at $132,000 and can exceed $200,000 per annum (salary citation).
Typical jobs for those with a Six Sigma Black Belt include: Senior Project Manager, Senior Process Engineer, Lean Transformation Expert, and similar positions.
Once you fully understand the levels of Six Sigma, earning certification and progressing up the levels can be difficult, but rewarding. Businesses across the world recognize Six Sigma certification as proof that an individual has the knowledge and training to enhance, reduce or eliminate unnecessary costs and streamline business processes that help propel future growth. Hiring managers are looking for the knowledge and skills offered by a Six Sigma certified professional, in order to improve business goals, increase profitability and overall efficiency. When you receive Six Sigma Certification, you will have the tools necessary to thrive in many positions. You will have a direct knowledge of how to reduce costs, increase revenue, streamline business processes and improve employee buy-in.
How Six Sigma Training Can Advance Your Career
No barrier to achievement. Unlike the specific standards set forth by the Project Management Institute for PMP certification requirements, there are no universal prerequisites to becoming Six Sigma Certified.
Move up within the organization. For starters, many companies provide Six Sigma training to their workforce. Their goal is to groom employees who already understand the internal culture and operations of the business. In such an environment, a person with Six Sigma certification has a veritable “leg up” on opportunities for promotion.
Become more visible and knowledgeable. Employees working on Six Sigma projects are charged with looking at the entire organization. As a result, not only do they become more knowledgeable about different departments and operations, their commitment to improving quality and efficiency lands them “on the radar” of senior-level executives — another way to grow within the company.
Build self-esteem. By achieving Six Sigma certification, you demonstrate a commitment to following through and a dedication to learning that inevitably boosts your self-esteem.
Gain a reputation as an expert. Individuals with significant Six Sigma experience often receive speaking requests from trade organizations and industry groups. After all, “quality improvement” is a hot topic these days, regardless of the type of business.
Because Six Sigma is used in companies as varied as software developers and the U.S. military — “basically any organization that could use some kind of improvement in its internal processes” — this represents a unique strategy for ambitious employees to change their careers and/or advance in a fields of their choice.
The idea of Six Sigma is that you can measure the total number of defects you have in a process. Once that figure is known, you can systematically eliminate the defects. The goal is to essentially get as close to zero defects as possible. To reach Six Sigma quality level, a system must not have more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities.
Whichever belt you seek, as a Six Sigma, you will have the tools to thrive in business. Earning your Lean Six Sigma Certification will help you accelerate your career as a true subject matter expert for eliminating deficiencies as a fundamental value add to the corporation. This makes you valuable as a SME for all things Six Sigma and will put you ahead of the competition for employment consideration. We hope this article has helped you to understand the levels of Six Sigma certified professionals, along with the benefits, challenges, and expectations.