Lean Six Sigma certification can fast track your career and boost your pay packet.
Certified Lean Six Sigma professionals are among the highest paid globally, with Black Belts earning an average salary of $96,637 in the United States1.
If you're looking for a pathway to lucrative management and executive roles, Lean Six Sigma certification might just be the answer.
So how do you actually obtain that coveted certification? In this guide, we break down the levels, requirements and step by step path to get Lean Six Sigma certified and skyrocket your career.
Lean Six Sigma certification levels
Lean Six Sigma certification is a demonstration of knowledge, and to some degree experience in the application of the Lean Six Sigma methodology and tools. There is no universally accepted standard for certification, but by common practice several levels of Lean Six Sigma proficiency have been defined. The levels of certification are designated with Lean Six Sigma belts: Yellow Belt, Green Belt, and Black Belt.
Yellow Belt is appropriate for team members of a Lean Six Sigma project who are the subject matter experts on the team representing their function. They need to know and understand the process and are able to participate in the use of the Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques.
Green Belt is the level for a Lean Six Sigma project leader. These individuals are expected to lead an improvement project using the methodology and applying the appropriate Lean and Six Sigma statistical tools. They are leaders of projects and project teams.
Black Belt is the level for a Lean Six Sigma expert. These individuals are expected to lead large cross-functional improvement projects and they are teachers and coaches for the Green Belt project leaders. If there is a question about which tool or technique to use or the application of those tools or techniques, they are the ones who decide the correct approach. They also participate in the Phase Gate reviews of projects.
A special case of Black Belt is the Master Black Belt. This is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt who acts as the administrator of the initiative for the organization. There is no special Lean Six Sigma certification for these individuals, rather they must be able to combine their Lean Six Sigma expertise with the corporate culture and norms in order to effectively manage the initiative.
There are a host of organizations that award certification in Lean Six Sigma. This creates many certification opportunities but it also causes a great deal of confusion. The certifying organizations fall into one of these three categories:
Many corporations and government entities developed their own certification process. During the early years of Lean Six Sigma, there were no large certifying bodies or agreed upon Body of Knowledge. Corporations and consulting agencies stepped into the gap and created their own programs. These differed widely and were often very parochial in the use of tools or techniques. The overhead of maintaining a training and testing organization caused this approach to be prohibitive for many companies who only required a small cadre of trained and certified individuals. This type of certification is diminishing as other certifying bodies have come onto the scene.
Many universities have created a certification program. In some cases, the certification can be achieved through completion of accredited programs. In other cases, a seminar series of training and coaching are deployed leading to a certification exam. However, the methodology and tools often vary based upon the preferences of the current instructors. Although these programs are normally the most expensive, they have gained in popularity as the certification training costs are often paid for with corporate tuition reimbursement.
This category is the one that is currently growing the fastest. These organizations are international in reach and have codified their program into a Body of Knowledge. Candidates for certification can study the Body of Knowledge to prepare for the certification exam. Some of these organizations have additional requirements to receive certification beyond passing the exam. These are the least expensive options for achieving certification, although most individuals find they need training from a third-party training provider to prepare for the exam. The major agencies in this category are:
- International Association of Six Sigma Certification (IASSC). The GoSkills training program is aligned with the Body of Knowledge from this organization.
- American Society for Quality (ASQ)
- Six Sigma Institute
How to get Lean Six Sigma certification
There are several certifying agencies to choose from, as outlined earlier, and various methods, including getting your Lean Six Sigma certification online. Let's discuss the IASSC certification process. Lean Six Sigma certification requirements at the other certifying agencies will vary somewhat, but will still follow this same general outline.
IASSC certification process
Study the Body of Knowledge for the appropriate level of certification (Yellow Belt, Green Belt, or Black Belt). Most individuals find that they need to take a course from an accredited provider in order to become fully prepared to sit for the exam.
Complete the application process and register for the exam. The application can be completed online. There are no prerequisites to take the exam - but it is recommended you have thoroughly studied the Body of Knowledge and taken a training course. For the Green and Black Belt certification exams, some work experience with Lean Six Sigma is an advantage, but not required.
Take the exam. The cost of the exam, the number of exam questions, and exam duration will vary depending upon the level of certification. IASSC has several options for testing. The most common is to sit for the exam at a PearsonVue training center. There is also an online proctored testing option.
The table below summarizes IASSC Lean Six Sigma certification costs and requirements.
|Certification||Certification cost||Certification requirements||Exam requirements||Exam duration||Passing score|
|Yellow Belt||$195 USD||Studied the Yellow Belt Body of Knowledge||60 questions, closed book||2 hours||230/300 points|
|Green Belt||$295 USD||Studied the Green Belt Body of Knowledge||100 questions, closed book||3 hours||385/500 points|
|Black Belt||$395 USD||Studied the Black Belt Body of Knowledge||150 questions, closed book||4 hours||580/750 points|
When you pass your exam, you will receive a certificate (electronic or hard copy), and a unique certification number. You will be able to display your new designation on your resume and LinkedIn profile to flaunt your new skills (e.g. John Smith, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.)
Maintain certification. Again, each organization has slightly different requirements for maintaining certification. The IASSC approach is to require an abbreviated recertification exam every three years to demonstrate that retention of knowledge and proficiency. You can register for this exam in a similar manner as that used for the original exam.
Ready to get certified? Browse our IASSC accredited Lean Six Sigma certification online courses.