Research: Six Sigma Certification

The following are selected highlights of a 2013 research study. The complete report, with more analysis and extended findings, is available for purchase on the iSixSigma Marketplace.

When it comes to Six Sigma certification, companies take varied approaches – some leave the responsibility for certification completely on the Six Sigma professional, while others make the certification process an internal part of the company’s Six Sigma initiative. Overall, the results of iSixSigma’s survey of certification show that Six Sigma practitioners are interested in obtaining certification for reasons that are not necessarily tangible. Six Sigma professionals who are certified report they receive respect and admiration from their colleagues and increased job satisfaction from being certified, and are considered a more credible Six Sigma practitioner. Throughout the report, findings are compared to a similar iSixSigma research study conducted in 2007.

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Certification Demographics

Of the different Six Sigma roles within an organization, process owners are by far the least likely group to be certified – 67 percent of respondents in this role reported no certification.

In comparison, Green Belts (GBs) and Champions, the next least certified groups, reported no certification at the rates of 21 percent and 22 percent, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, 85 percent of Black Belts (BBs) and 99 percent of Master Black Belts (MBBs) hold some level of Six Sigma certification, most often matching their current role (Table 1).

Table 1: What is the highest level of Six Sigma certification you have earned? (N = 446)
 Current Role
 Process OwnerGreen BeltBlack BeltMaster Black BeltChampionDeployment Leader
No certification67%21%15%1%22%23%
Green Belt10%75%5%3%22%7%
Black Belt19%4%77%19%11%26%
Master Black Belt5%0%3%76%33%50%
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Certification Requirements

The most common requirement for receiving Six Sigma certification is completing a training curriculum. For the majority of certified BBs (86 percent), GBs (84 percent) and MBBs (84 percent), passing a test was also required in order to receive their certification. Completing one or more Six Sigma projects was required for 96 percent of BBs and 92 percent of MBBs. Coaching projects was required for 36 percent of certified BBs and 83 percent of MBBs (Table 2).

Table 2: Which of the following were required in order to receive your Six Sigma certification? (Check all that apply.) (N = 419)
 Green BeltBlack BeltMaster Black Belt
Completion of training curriculum78%92%98%
Passing a test84%86%84%
Complete one or more Six Sigma projects67%96%92%
Coaching Black Belt projects3%10%83%
Coaching Green Belt projects9%36%64%
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Reasons to be Certified

Why are Six Sigma practitioners working toward certification? The most popular reasons are the same now as in 2007 – being a more credible Six Sigma expert, followed by the desire to get ahead with a company, for the challenge, or because the company requires it. Fifty-eight percent of MBBs stated they are currently seeking certification to become a more credible Six Sigma expert; 54 percent of BBs stated they are seeking BB certification for the same reason. Only 2 percent of MBBs said they are going through the certification process to get a job at a different company, while 19 percent stated they are doing so to get ahead within their own companies (Table 3).

Table 3: Which of the following best describes why you sought or are seeking certification?
Results from 2007 (N = 1,077)Results from 2013 (N = 442)
To be a more credible Six Sigma expert31%41%
To get ahead within my company20%15%
For the challenge12%8%
My company requires/required it10%8%
For the prestige of being Six Sigma certified9%7%
To get a new job at a different company7%6%
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Survey Methodology: iSixSigma staff designed the survey with input from Six Sigma practitioners. Six Sigma professionals were invited by email to participate in the survey. The survey drew responses from 451 individuals. Some reported totals do not add to 100 percent because of rounding and survey questions that allowed more than one response to be selected.

Click here to purchase the complete research report on the iSixSigma Marketplace, which includes additional findings including:
•    Professional benefits experienced within a year of certification
•    Number of projects required in order to receive certification
•    How certification was achieved (classroom, online or blended)
•    What certifying bodies are used
•    And more!

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