Lean Six Sigma – for Current Students

Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology recognized worldwide in organizations both large and small, across all areas of business.

Many companies pay a salary premium for new hires with Lean Six Sigma training.

RIT offers three levels of certification:

  • Yellow Belt – entry level certification provides an excellent introduction to fundamental improvement tools and includes classroom exercises to demonstrate application. Take a full-semester academic course (ISEE 582/682) and receive Yellow Belt certification.
  • Green Belt – next level of certification.  Green Belt certification qualifies you as a practitioner capable of utilizing a wide range of tools to lead significant improvement projects. This certification is rigorous, requiring a full semester academic course (ISEE 582/682) plus successful completion of a significant improvement project on behalf of a sponsor, typically from an external organization. Students are responsible for securing an appropriate project which they will lead after course completion.  It may be possible to complete a project that also satisfies your department’s capstone requirement – contact your department for clarification and see the FAQ’s below. Your Green Belt project must be initiated within 2 years of completing ISEE 582/682.  CQAS will help mentor you through your project.  Contact Us for information on completing your charter and registering for the project. You will be charged $750 to cover consultation and mentoring with CQAS staff.
  • Black Belt – highest level of certification.  Black Belt certification builds on Green Belt certification and introduces advanced statistical and data analysis tools.  Certification requires a passing grade on a comprehensive final exam and successful completion of a significant improvement project with an external sponsor.  The Black Belt project typically has a higher return-on-investment than a Green Belt project.  In addition, Black Belt certification requires demonstrated leadership experience; therefore, candidates typically have several years of work experience prior to entering a Black Belt program.  No academic credit is offered at this time.

RIT also offers the Advanced Certificate in Lean Six Sigma, which consists of four graduate level courses.


Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a comprehensive set of tools focused on process improvement. It is a powerful means to achieve continuous improvement and process change. Profit and non-profit organizations alike are committed to Lean Six Sigma as a means of simplifying processes, improving process accuracy, and lowering costs. Lean Six Sigma aims for a goal of 3.4 mistakes per million – this is actually what Six Sigma means. There are three levels of practitioner certification:

  • Yellow Belts become proficient enough in LSS tools to be effective team members.
  • Green Belts learn a host of “cognitive” and statistical tools to lead projects, oftentimes with Yellow Belts supporting the team effort. Green Belt certification also requires completion of a sponsored project with significant return-on-investment.
  • Black Belts complete additional training beyond Green Belt certification and are the senior consultants in the world of Lean Six Sigma. They take on large cross-functional projects usually supported by Yellow and Green Belts. 

The underlying philosophy of Lean Six Sigma began with Henry Ford over 100 years ago. After World War II, American experts including Deming and Juran were invited to Japan to help businesses like Toyota. Toyota became one of the first companies in the world to use Lean and Six Sigma techniques to improve business processes with a real emphasis on employee involvement. LSS is not a “fad” – US companies such as GE, Allied Signal, and Motorola were some of the early adopters and have continued to embrace this methodology for many years. Today, nearly all businesses utilize Lean Six Sigma in one form or another to improve their business processes.

LSS offers a set of tools to solve process issues whether a process is inefficient, too costly, or is not contributing as it should to revenue generation or other business goals. LSS can be used for any process in any field or discipline, and will help you improve your contribution to a current or future employer. The online job placement site Indeed quotes an employer’s survey which shows a 5-8% salary premium for Lean Six Sigma practitioners.

Most candidates begin with a Yellow Belt to find out whether they have the interest and passion for Lean Six Sigma. The time to complete the Yellow Belt alone is not significant but is a good introduction to LSS and will give you tools that will helpful regardless of whether or not you go further to a Green Belt or even a Black Belt.  A Yellow Belt can be obtained through training or by taking a for-credit academic course ISEE 582/682.

Yes. Upper-class undergraduate and graduate students can take ISEE 582/682, an online course offered by RIT through the ISEE department during all 3 semesters (fall, spring and summer). The course is popular so register early.  In addition to academic credit, you are awarded a Yellow Belt and are considered to be Green Belt “trained” provided that you meet course requirements. If you would like to continue on to a Green Belt, you must then complete a project after course completion.  This requires securing of a sponsor, identification of a suitable project, and approval from RIT. The project must be initiated within 2 years of completing ISEE 582/682. Contact Vincenzo Buonomo at vxbasp@rit.edu for more information.

Pre-requisites include completion of a basic course sequence in statistics. At RIT, this could be either STAT 145&146 or STAT 251&252.

Now that you are considered to be Green Belt “trained,” it is much less expensive and will take much less time to complete a project for certification, since waiting until some future date will require that you enroll in a full training program at a cost of between $3000-$5000 from a reputable provider.

Consider what other students have said:

“Realizing that I could achieve Green Belt certification by completing a project was a “no brainer,” especially with the coursework so fresh in my mind.”

“After a discussion with Prof. Buonomo, I found that I could achieve Green Belt certification with an extra project.  A combination  of good timing and having an available project led to an easy decision to move forward with a project for Green Belt certification.”

“Green Belt certification that includes a real project is considered very positively in my organization.”

You will be charged $750 to cover consultation and mentoring with RIT staff.  As mentioned above, however, this is much less expensive than the cost of a full training program ($3000-$5000) to achieve Green Belt certification later on.

After securing a sponsor and discussing project ideas with your sponsor, you will prepare a project charter and get approval from both your sponsor and RIT (including registering for the project and paying $750).  Project execution will follow the DMAIC process, during which you will meet periodically with your sponsor and a RIT mentor. Your completed project will include a story board of key findings and the Control Plan, and you must also show proof that the sponsor has “signed-off” at all stages of the project. RIT will review all documentation and provide a report back to you. Should there be any issues, you will be told in writing what needs to be addressed. Finally, the sponsor must submit a brief letter in writing that supports completion of the project. Most Green Belt projects take 6-12 months to complete.

How have other students identified projects?

“I was able to plant the idea of doing a LSS project while I was on co-op.  The Green Belt project complemented my co-op projects and presented the company with a real upside.”

“Since I was already employed, I was on the lookout for a process that our group was struggling with.  I had discussions with a fellow engineer and my manager about process improvement opportunities and, from this, I was able to “scope out” an appropriate process and insure that it was could be completed in a reasonable amount of time to achieve Green Belt certification.”

“The course helped me identify opportunities that could benefit from the DMAIC process, and I ended up selecting a somewhat large and complex project that would have a long-lasting impact on my company.”

“I identified a suitable LSS project by meeting with a cross-functional team to discuss issues that were occurring in my area.  After coming up with a list of potential projects, we analyzed the list to determine which projects could meet the following criteria: (1) follow the DMAIC process; (2) be completed in the 6 months available; (3) aligned with annual business goals.”

In general, no, although some departments may allow capstone projects that also meet Green Belt project requirement. Contact your department for more information. Projects associated with academic coursework, including Capstone projects, have characteristics that don’t lend themselves very well to satisfying Green Belt requirements: 

  • Academic projects are time-constrained – bounded by semesters or graduation deadlines – while Green Belt projects have no such constraints and must be completed through the Control phase in order to be certified.
  • Green Belt candidates must lead projects individually.  Team members on academic projects often have similar roles and share responsibilities.
  • Academic projects have distinct requirements that are unrelated or poorly aligned with Green Belt process improvement requirements, and academic priorities take precedence.  Lean Six Sigma projects must utilize the DMAIC structured approach and be completed through the Control phase.  A Senior Design project, for example, usually follows a product development process and may require disciplinary deliverables that are unrelated to process improvement or don’t use the DMAIC process. A capstone or thesis project usually involves disciplinary research as well as reporting that is not well aligned with green belt tollgates and the DMAIC process.

After considering these challenges, if you still believe that your academic project can be structured to satisfy Green Belt project requirements, you must put together a draft project charter.  This means that you have identified a sponsor who is on-board with the opportunity/need and is committed to supporting you throughout the life of the project.  Submit your draft charter to Vincenzo Buonomo at vxbasp@rit.edu and he will evaluate its viability as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project.

In general, no, for many of the same reasons mentioned above for academic projects: time constraints, project leadership requirements which are especially difficult in a co-op position, and misaligned requirements and priorities.  As a co-op student, gaining the necessary level of support to lead a Green Belt project is especially challenging. 

Nevertheless, after considering these issues, if you have the bandwidth to complete a suitable Green Belt project within your co-op employment timeframe and in parallel with your co-op responsibilities,  then you should put together a draft project charter.  This means that you have identified a sponsor who is on-board with the opportunity/need and is committed to supporting you throughout the life of the project.  Submit your draft charter to Vincenzo Buonomo at vxbasp@rit.edu and he will evaluate its viability as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project.

Here are suggestions from other students:

“I frequently met with my sponsor to keep him informed about project status and, especially, any challenges that I was facing.  It was also crucial to insure that everyone involved in the process was able to contribute their ideas and have buy-in.”

“Since I was on co-op during the project, I was able to work on the project part-time and also keep the stakeholders informed by holding weekly meetings and providing implementation details to senior leaders, which resulted in management support and buy-in.”

“Throughout the project I made sure to stay in contact with key stakeholders.  Fortunately, those stakeholders were part of my management chain so keeping them engaged was not difficult.”

“I maintained organizational support through my project by meeting regularly with key stakeholders to review project status.  It’s very important to have a supportive team and sponsoring organization so that any obstacles that  arise can be overcome quickly by utilizing guidance and advice from more experienced team members.”

Unequivocally, yes!  Not only will you be rewarded with Green Belt certification, but you will be making a solid contribution to your sponsor and sponsor’s organization that will give you visibility and credibility.  Here’s what some former students have said:

“Seeing results which drastically reduced turnaround time by more than one half was extremely gratifying and valuable to the company.”

“Most rewarding was working closely with operators and the project team, and transitioning the improved process to the owners to give them a tool to help earn a bonus.  The leadership team subsequently included this project into their key initiatives for yield improvement.  This has confirmed for me that my work was useful and will live on.”

“The timely completion of my project provided valuable additional training that improved skills, impressed training partners, and garnered rewards for the participants.”

“The most rewarding part of the project was analyzing the data after improvements were made.  It was gratifying to see the benefits and that the project goals were not only met by surpassed.”

Identifying project opportunities and a supportive sponsor can be challenging, which is why it is so important to have discussions with co-workers and managers.  Finding the time to complete a project can also be a challenge, but if it can be a part of your expected on-the-job responsibilities, then the project become embedded in your work rather than an extra task.

Other challenges from other students:

“Gaining buy-in from the front line workers was challenging, as well as setting aside time to work on the project.”

“We had problems with one of the project assets, but this is something that will likely happen in any project and is a good experience to have.  It was also difficult to balance project workload with course work (as a full-time student).  The most difficult phase of the project was “Control” since we were unable to collect as much data as hoped and the timing coincided with course deliverables, which is why it is not ideal to try to complete a LSS project while on co-op.”

“The person selected to champion the release of the project needed additional training which delayed project roll-out.”

“The most challenging part of the project was completing it in the assigned timeframe.  While this was a challenge, it was possible to complete the project on time and further refined my time management and prioritization skills.”

“Yes, the reviews were an excellent way to insure that I was heading in the right direction with the project and were timely aids to making changes in project direction.”

“Since my manager was also my project sponsor, periodic reviews were a built-in mechanism to examine and challenge decisions in a timely manner.”

“Project reviews stretched my understanding and helped push me past the easy answer to the right one on more than one occasion.  Having watched colleagues go through other Green Belt programs, I can absolutely say the RIT’s is the most rigorous I’ve seen, providing a quality, deeply detailed experience rather than just introducing concepts.”

“Yes, project reviews were beneficial by making is easy to communicate project status to key stakeholders and stay on track.”

Students have found the course to provide everything needed to identify and execute a valuable Lean Six Sigma project:

“The course was extremely helpful in preparing me for the project.”

“In addition to providing solid preparation for the project, I utilized a number of slides from the course that identified relevant tools during each phase of the project.”

“The course provided a great foundation and a useful lens that really helped me to identify an appropriate project and to determine the best way to approach it.  I leveraged many of the tools covered in the course on my project.”

“The course prepared me well for the project by providing access to class materials and feedback from homework assignments.”

Aside from the above mentioned employer’s survey which shows a 5-8% salary premium for Lean Six Sigma practitioners, here are some thoughts from other students:

“I feel more confident because of the deeper understanding associated with this skillset because it strengthens my resume.  I know this will help me be more competitive in the job market or, if I choose a more entrepreneurial path, I will be able to apply the DMAIC process and thinking to problems I will likely face as a small business owner.”

“My near term plan is for my employer to sponsor my Black Belt.  I see myself identifying and leading projects that provide significant benefits to my employer as well as personal career growth.

“I expect the course and project experience to help in my career by providing a thorough understanding of different tools that can be used in industry.”

“ISEE 582/682 is a very worthwhile approach to getting a Green Belt since you get the most “bang for your buck.” 

“Do it!  Tackle it, even if it is frustrating at times or takes longer than expected.  Don’t give up!

“It is very much worth it to get your LSS Green Belt, especially if you take the ISEE 582/682 path.”  I was given advice that the project is what you make of it and now I can see how true that is.  The satisfaction is amazing!  You can really bring value back to your organization, and this is an experience that few other students have.”

“I would strongly advise other students to pursue the project and Green Belt certification.  Going through the process of leading a projects helps develop and strengthen many skills that will be useful.”

Yes, ISEE 582/682 counts toward a minor in Supply Chain Management through the Saunders College of Business. There is no minor in Lean Six Sigma.

Yes, the Advanced Certificate in Lean Six Sigma at the graduate level. This academic program does not include professional certification beyond Yellow Belt certification embedded in ISEE 582/682 because the purpose of the Advanced Certificate is in-depth academic level coverage and not industry-based certification.

Candidates must have a Green Belt and significant work experience with demonstrated leadership competence before starting the program. Admission also requires the identification and approval of a significant improvement project. No academic coursework is currently available for Black Belt certification.

RIT does not offer the Master Black Belt.  It is a very advanced credential seldom appropriate for students unless you already have significant work experience with demonstrated leadership competence. Master Black Belt study requires very specific deliverables including a comprehensive exam, project completion with significant financial expectations, training, consultation, and organization design. No academic coursework is available for Master Black Belt certification.

This question only applies to Black Belt Certification since this is the only certification program with pre-requisites.  Most students do not qualify for admission to our Black Belt program because of the experiential requirements.