page contents

Six Sigma which Belt First?

Six-sigma as with many business disciplines has a language of its own – this is where our Six-Sigma A-Z supports you with an explanation against many Six Sigma terms. Six Sigma though also has a hierarchy of belts – so in six sigma which belt First? Well tackle this whilst providing some wider guidance on who else of the belts maybe applicable to.

Six Sigma White Belt

Introductory Level of Knowledge and Awareness

White belt is the minimum standard in Six Sigma. Often White Belt training is launched on mass to an organisation or unit, so they have awareness and a level of understanding to the foundations of the methodology.

Six Sigma Yellow Belt

Basic Level of Knowledge

Yellow Belts participate as a team member delivering everyday continuous improvement. They are often tasked with a particular focus area and will own smaller activities which support the overall success of six-sigma initiatives. The level of training is less of a demand of the belts above and can be completed in a workshop within a couple of doors or via robust on-line learning. It is often good practice in organisations for Yellow Belts to complete their own small projects to pass certification.

Six Sigma Green Belt

Fully Certified – Leads Green Belt projects

Green Belts lead improvement activities and will guide White and Yellow Belts in delivery. Their level of six sigma is more advanced and they may be involved in training others. Often Green Belts will do the ‘heavy lifting’ with regards to the statistical analysis.

Six Sigma Black Belt

Expert Certification – Leads Black Belt projects

Black Belts are leaders who have an in-depth understanding of Six Sigma, which they use to mentor junior belts. They often work on more than one initiative at a time and deliver initiatives of significant size and value.

Six Sigma Master Black Belt

Master Certification – Trains and Coaches

Master Black Belts operate at the programme level, which includes defining the approach. They train and coach Black Belts and in some cases Green Belts also. They may play a role in coaching senior operational management.

Where do I start?

So now you understand each of the six sigma belts where do you start? The answer depends largely on you and your current circumstances. Though the six sigma belts conform to a hierarchy – as listed above White Belt through to Master Black Belt you don’t necessarily have to start your journey at White Belt.

Experienced in Business Improvement?

If you already have a business improvement background or have worked in a transformation/change setting you may already have part of the mind-set required. Likewise if you work within an operational setting which deploys many of the principles you may be in a better place to advance more quickly (many components of Six Sigma can be found within other improvement methodologies – Total Quality Management for example).

However, we do recommend gaining a level of understanding into Six-Sigma akin to White Belt and potentially to Yellow Belt standard. Though you won’t necessarily have to complete any formal training or gain formal certification for this.

From a certification perspective you may jump straight into Black Belt as the requirement mainly changes at a size of project perspective. But a word of caution – even if you jump straight to Black Belt and pass a certification with flying colours you most likely will not be operating as a true Black Belt. Improvement methodology skills such as Six Sigma and Lean are best learnt by doing whilst being mentored. After-all practice makes permanent but practice and mentoring makes perfect.

So if you’re a true novice to this world then start with White Belt with a clear plan to move swiftly onto Yellow Belt. From there make a decision how quickly you feel you can move to Green belt and beyond.

If your seasoned in this space consider the above, but if you want to move forward at pace introduce yourself to the world of Six-Sigma and start working towards Green Belt. A great place to start is completing a Yellow Belt course (even without certification). And if you really want to proceed with Black Belt certification that’s ok – just make sure you can the experience as a Green Belt and learn from a seasoned Master Black Belt.

Further Reading

To see how Six Sigma is calculated go to or ty our Six Sigma Calculators. Or for more on Six-Sigma and a walk through of DMAIC go to

Until next time


Pin It on Pinterest