Six Sigma is split up into different levels of attainment, using different color belts, which relate to the level of expertise that you’ve reached, using a similar system to martial arts.
There are different levels of Lean Six Sigma belt depending on how experienced and trained you are. The belts are:
A very basic level of knowledge primarily for members of the organization not involved in Six Sigma. This is not normally a level for people who want to get involved, but more to see if it’s something you might be interested in.
White Belts have between one hour and one day of training, and mostly have an understanding of the main Lean Six Sigma terminology. They can get involved in discussions about projects, if not actually assist in carrying them out. Read more here.
The ‘ground level’ of knowledge to enable you assist on Six Sigma projects. This is the level that a Six Sigma organization might train all non-project staff in, so that they can assist in, or at least understand the projects.
Yellow Belts usually have around two days of training, and have an understanding of terminology, and the basis of the frameworks and tools involved in process improvement. Read more here.
A Six Sigma professional who can have an in-depth role and occasionally lead on Six Sigma projects. They will usually be part time Lean Six Sigma workers, spending on average one day a week working on projects, working under the direction of Black Belts.
Green belts usually have around one to five weeks training, and have a detailed understating of the methods, frameworks and tools involved in Lean Six Sigma. They can work with only light supervision and will be key assets on Lean Six Sigma projects. Read more here.
A knowledgeable Six Sigma professional who can lead Six Sigma projects and usually works on Six Sigma (or at least quality control) full time. They often work on Lean Six Sigma projects full time, and have resources such as green belts and yellow belts that they can call on when they need more resources. They are often (especially in smaller organizations) in charge of both Quality and the Lean Six Sigma operations.
Black Belts usually have around three to ten weeks training, and have a thorough knowledge of all aspect of Lean Six Sigma, enabling them to take a project from conception to completion with no oversight. Read more here.
Master Black Belt
An expert in Six Sigma methodologies, who can lead projects and advise Black Belts when they run into issues. These are usually Black Belts who have both many years of experience of leading projects and have had extra training to the Black Belts in the organization. Read more here.
In my experience, often in small organizations you often just have Black Belts, and in large organizations you have Black Belts and Green Belts, but all levels are used (often Master Black Belts are used, but without the Master Black Belt title).
Personally, I got heavily involved in Lean Six Sigma with no belt at all, and only after several years went to White Belt to Green Belt (missing out Yellow Belt), and finally on to my Black Belt (for which I set this website up to help me, and have now passed).
As I went through the different stages I found myself having a much bigger impact on the projects (and understanding a lot more the methodologies), and it spurred me on to take the later belts. I found the Black Belt especially challenging but valuable. It transformed my knowledge from a series of helpful tools to having the skills to knowing how I would take an idea all the way through to a sustainable business improvement in a methodical, efficient way.
Which Six Sigma belt is right for me?
The belts build on each other, so you can work your way up the stages without having to choose now where you’re going to end up. Which belt you want though depends on your attitude / what you want to get out of it. The stages are:
- I’m not sure if Lean Six Sigma is right for me – White Belt
- I’ve seen other people doing Lean Six Sigma projects and find it interesting, and want to be useful if a project affects my area – Yellow Belt
- The Lean Six Sigma projects in my organization look interesting and worthwhile, and I want to learn some useful tools and get involved on a few projects – Green Belt
- I think Lean Six Sigma is great and I want to learn all the tools, help drive the company to embrace it more and lead projects – Black Belt
- I think the other Black Belts would benefit from my experience and want to help run the Lean Six Sigma organization – Master Black Belt
How do I get qualified?
If you work for a Lean Six Sigma organization, your workplace may have in-house courses where you can get certified. This obviously is going to be a great option, as you will have the same training background as your colleagues, and usually at no cost to you.
Failing that, online certification is probably the best option, and can be very reasonably priced. You can often get White Belt for free or at least very cheap, and there are often good bundles where you get Yellow, Green and Black Belt much cheaper than if you signed up for them separately.
The online certifications will usually come with associated courses which can include online videos online tests and self-study. This means you can have all the advantages of classroom training but allow to you study at your own pace.