Graduate Certificate Programs in Six Sigma
Graduate certificate programs are career-oriented, post-baccalaureate academic programs that are offered by colleges and universities and which provide students with practical knowledge and targeted training in advanced professional skills. College graduates and mid-career professionals who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and who are interested in learning Six Sigma management theories and practices can do so by enrolling in a graduate certificate program with a Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Management, or Six Sigma Quality Management curriculum. These programs consist of a relatively small cluster of courses that can typically be completed in one year or less of part-time enrollment.
These graduate certificate programs represent a more cost effective and less time-consuming alternative to master’s programs that offer Six Sigma training, which that can take two or three years to complete. As an additional benefit, Six Sigma graduate certificate programs commonly consist of master’s-level courses that many schools will accept for transfer credit if and when a student who has completed a certificate program opts to pursue a master’s degree in business, management, or a related field.
Six Sigma Management Explained
The Six Sigma management philosophy dates back to the mid-1980s when a Motorola engineer by the name of Bill Smith formulated a systematic, data-driven, goal-oriented approach to reducing defects and assuring quality in manufacturing processes. It was further popularized a decade later when General Electric CEO Jack Welch integrated Six Sigma methods into his management style and the company’s business culture. It has since become a common way for companies in construction, engineering, finance, manufacturing, healthcare, and many other fields to control for quality while improving efficiency through a body of applied knowledge often referred to as Lean Six Sigma management.
At its core, Six Sigma is based on a formal, scalable process by which mistakes in manufacturing are reduced by minimizing procedural variations and thus reducing the statistical probability of defects. Much of this relies on what is commonly referred to as the DMAIC model, a sequence of discrete steps that involve managers and management teams defining, measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling complex processes in production-oriented industries. Since their introduction, Six Sigma management principles and the DMAIC model have been adopted by and adapted for many types of businesses and organizations outside of pure manufacturing, including service industries, healthcare providers, and the financial sector.
Six Sigma specialists, who are typically designated as Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts, rely on statistical tools to measure deviations and identify the cause of actual and potential problems, and they use these findings to implement quality controls. With the addition of lean management principles, Six Sigma Green and Black Belts are able to work with companies to improve efficiency and reduce costs while maintaining high standards of quality. Thus, the principles, practices, and processes associated with Six Sigma have become an integral part of contemporary business and organizational management.
Identifying and Classifying Six Sigma Black Belt Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate certificate programs have two key characteristics: they are post-baccalaureate programs that require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree; and they are non-degree academic programs that consist of a relatively small number of credited master’s-level courses. Six Sigma graduate certificate programs generally require students to complete four or five courses that cover topics that are central to the principles and practices of Six Sigma management, lean management, and quality control management. These courses are typically offered by schools, departments, and/or divisions of business, management, engineering, or professional studies and may draw on curricula for master’s programs in business, engineering, and/or management. Thus, students may be able to transfer credits earned in a graduate certificate program to a master’s program in a related field when and if a student opts to pursue further graduate studies.
The names of Six Sigma graduate certificate programs vary by school, with Six Sigma Black Belt, Six Sigma Management, and Lean Six Sigma Management representing three of the more common formal designations for these programs. Similarly, certificate programs may be designated as graduate or post-baccalaureate certificate programs. While most Six Sigma graduate certificate programs are by definition post-baccalaureate programs, they are also open to graduate students and professionals who hold a master’s or doctoral degree. Finally, some graduate certificate programs are post-master’s or post-graduate programs, which means they require applicants to hold a minimum of a master’s degree and are not designed for students whose highest level of academic attainment is a bachelor’s degree.
Six Sigma Black Belt Graduate Certificate Coursework
While specific requirements vary by program, most Six Sigma management graduate certificate programs are comprised of several courses that are designed to prepare students to become Six Sigma Green or Black Belts. There are three professional organizations that offer Six Sigma Green and Black Belt credentials to professionals who have been trained in Six Sigma principles and practices, have practical managerial experience, and are able to pass an exam. These organizations are: the Council for Six Sigma Certification (CSSC); the International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC); and the American Society for Quality (ASQ). While the professional certification credentials offered by these groups are optional, some employers may require them and most Six Sigma graduate certificate programs offer a curriculum designed to prepare students to sit for the CSSC, IASSC, and/or ASQ professional certification exams. This curriculum typically includes the following types of courses:
- Six Sigma Quality Management
- Six Sigma Methodology
- Advanced Quality Control
- Project Management for Operations Managers
- Lean Six Sigma
- Six Sigma Principles for Organizational Leaders
- Business Analytics for Six Sigma Black Belts
Online Graduate Certificate in Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma Management
Graduate certificate programs are commonly designed and structured to accommodate a broad range of students, including full-time working professionals and recent college graduates who have already entered the workforce. One way that schools accomplish this is through the use of online instructional technologies and learning management systems (LMSs) that support the streaming of live and pre-recorded lectures and virtual class sessions; the online delivery of course materials such as readings and learning modules; and the remote management of student assignments, exams, and discussions.
Online Six Sigma Black Belt and Lean Six Sigma Management graduate certificate programs represent a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based programs. They provide the same type of Six Sigma training and instruction as on-campus programs without requiring students to commute to a school’s campus on a regular basis for in-person classes. In addition, online learning allows students who do not live within commuting range of a school that offers a Six Sigma graduate certificate program to enroll in a program without having to relocate for the six to twelve months that it typically takes to complete a certificate program.
GraduateCertificates.com classifies programs as online based on the number of campus-based sessions they require. Among the programs classified as online Six Sigma Black Belt graduate certificate programs are programs that offer all of their coursework online and programs that offer most of their coursework online but require students to attend a limited number of campus visits (e.g., less than three visits per year). Programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified as blended or hybrid programs. While hybrid programs are generally more convenient than fully campus-based programs, they may not be practical for students who do not live or work within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Schools that offer online programs may utilize synchronous and/or asynchronous instruction for their courses. Synchronous instruction takes place in real time and requires students to be logged on to a program’s LMS at specific times in order to view live lectures and participate in virtual class sessions. These live sessions are typically held in the early to late evening so that working professionals in different time zones can attend. Asynchronous instruction encompasses a broad range of online learning activities, including pre-recorded lectures and classes that can be streamed by students at their convenience, self-administered assignments and exams, and interactive learning modules that can be completed 24-7 by logging on to a program’s LMS.
Programs that utilize synchronous instruction may be preferable for students who are more comfortable with an online learning experience that more closely resembles attending traditional, campus-based classes. Asynchronous instruction affords more scheduling flexibility than synchronous instruction, but it requires students to be more disciplined and self-driven in the absence of weekly scheduled classes.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Six Sigma
The schools listed below offer online graduate certificate programs in Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma Management programs. These programs are meant to offer a representative overview of the types of programs that are currently available from accredited colleges and universities in an online format.
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers an online Six Sigma Black Belt Graduate Certificate program that is designed for college graduates and mid-career professionals who have a bachelor’s degree and who have prior training in business mathematics and statistics. The program consists of four required courses that confer 12 graduate credits, some or all of which may be applied toward a master’s program if a student should choose to pursue further graduate studies after completing the certificate program. Students who do not have prior training in mathematics and statistics can take an online Mathematics and Statistics for Business course offered by SNHU prior to enrolling in the certificate program coursework. The SNHU program is 100% online and does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit SNHU at www.Snhu.edu.
Arizona State University (ASU) offers a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Graduate Certificate program through its Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. The 15-credit program is fully online and does not require any campus visits. It is comprised of five master’s-level courses that cover topics in Six Sigma methodology, quality control, reliability engineering, and production systems. The program accepts students who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in any field or discipline. For more information on the program, visit ASU Online at asuonline.asu.edu.
The University of Arkansas (U of A) offers an online Graduate Certificate Program in Lean Six Sigma through its College of Engineering. The program consists of four master’s-level courses for 12 credits that may be applied toward further graduate studies at U of A’s College of Engineering if and when a student who graduates from the certificate program opts to pursue a graduate degree in engineering. The program is 100% online and does not require students to attend any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit U of A Online at online.uark.edu.
More Graduate Certificates in Six Sigma Management
Additional Graduate Certificates in Business
- Graduate Certificate in Construction Management
- Graduate Certificate in Digital Marketing
- Graduate Certificate in Engineering Management
- Graduate Certificate in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management
- Graduate Certificate in Marketing
- Graduate Certificate in Project Management
- Graduate Certificate in Social Media Marketing
- Graduate Certificate in Supply Chain Management
- Graduate Certificate in Sustainability
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