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Six Sigma Black Belt

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

Mention to someone that you know karate and the likely response is an excited, "Are you a black belt?" The term black belt has become synonymous with ultimate mastery, a force to be reckoned with. Tell people you have a black belt and they'll gasp in awe and take two steps back.

Six Sigma Black Belt Certification

In karate, there are nine belt colors. Beginners start with a white belt to symbolize that they are a newborn, a seed, beginning their lifecycle. As their skills progress they face challenges to prove their abilities and thus cycle through darker belt colors until they have attained the esteemed black belt status. Go ahead and mentally sing "Kung Fu Fighting" for a few bars and bow in respect to this imagined achievement.

Six Sigma, a Lean Manufacturing process which focuses on finding and fixing flaws to streamline workflow, has wisely harnessed the belt color symbolism to denote mastery levels. The International Association for Six Sigma Certification offers—you  guessed it—certification  for Six Sigma in yellow belt, green belt, and black belt levels. As the student becomes more accomplished, the tests get progressively longer. IASSC also allows organizations to become accredited to provide their own Six Sigma training.

The Six Sigma Black Belt exam for certification—the peak achievement in the series—is a four-hour test with 150 questions. The test includes both multiple choice and true/false questions. The certification is currently offered at over 8,000 testing centers scattered across 165 countries so you won't have to go far to earn one. You can also opt for online testing. If you've always wanted to tell people you have a black belt and were never good at karate, this is your chance.

six sigma session

Caption: A key area of Six Sigma is charting. Anyone can create a chart but the principle is in using the data to improve process flow.

How do I become certified?

Formal Six Sigma training is not mandated for certification. It is also not necessary to have passed certification for other belt colors. To earn your Black Belt, you must score at least 580 points out of a total possible of 750 on the test.

If you certify online, you can schedule your exam after paying $395 to the IASSC Processing Center. Though the test is online, it is supervised and you will use a webcam to present identification and interact with your proctor. The proctor will stay online as you test to ensure that--as in a classroom--no rules are broken.

If you prefer to take the test in a classroom setting, the fee varies based on provider.

Courses are also available from a variety of IASSC Accredited Providers, so you can hone your skill set whether or not you choose to pursue certification.

What would Six Sigma Black Belt certification do for my career?

Those passing certification receive an IASSC Mark for display on public profiles such as LinkedIn or other social media. And in case you don't want to brag about your newfound status digitally, certification also earns an "IASSC Certified Black Belt" certificate you can display to not-so-subtly inform others that they may not wish to challenge your knowledge of Six Sigma. It can aid in acquiring a position such as leading Six Sigma improvement projects or enable you to offer your services as a consultant. Add the mark to your email signature, include it in your press release boilerplate, slap it on your business card, create a folder or notebook as a leave-behind at meetings.

Though certification won't transform you into a Mr. Miyagi or a Bruce Lee, at least when you tell people you have a Black Belt you might earn an awed gasp and just a little more personal space.