Six Sigma Certificate or Certification – What’s the Difference?

In my experience there is a good deal of misunderstanding among students who are seeking to enhance their professional credentials in the field of Six Sigma.  The source of the confusion is not recognizing that there is a fundamental difference between a Certificate in Six Sigma and Certification in Six Sigma.  It is important that you clearly understand the difference between a Certificate and a Certification when deciding on which credential to earn, when preparing your own resume, or when reviewing the resume of someone else.

Our Six Sigma courses are a Certificate training program.  Students who successfully complete all of the requirements for a given course will be awarded a Certificate.  Course requirements include lectures, readings, assessment exercises, videos, quizzes, case studies and tests.  In the case of the Black Belt course, students also complete a project.  The Certificate does not expire and does not need to be renewed.

Professional Certification is granted for a limited time and recognizes that an individual possesses a level of mastery or competency as measured against a defensible set of standards.  Certifications expire and must be renewed, typically with ongoing education requirements.  Certifications often require applicants to document a specified amount of work experience in the field as well as pass an examination.  Organizations that grant professional certifications may or may not offer training courses that serve to prepare an individual for certification testing.

As an example, the American Society for Quality offers a Six Sigma Black Belt Certification.  Applicants are required to complete two projects and proved signed affidavits, or complete one project with a signed affidavit and document three years of work experience in one or more areas of the Six Sigma Body of Knowledge.   Work experience must be in a full time, paid role. Paid intern, co-op or any other course work cannot be applied towards the work experience requirement.  Most applicants will find it difficult to complete acceptable projects without first completing a Certificate training program.  Applicants must also prepare for and pass a comprehensive 150 question, four hour open-book exam.   Recertification is required every three years.

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About the author:  Mr. Roger C. Ellis is an industrial engineer by training and profession.  He is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 50 years of business experience in a wide range of fields.  Mr. Ellis develops and instructs Six Sigma professional certification courses for Key Performance LLC.   For a more detailed biography, please refer to