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Six Sigma vs. PMP: Which Certification Is the Right One for You?

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Reputable certifications can open doors for you and help expand your knowledge. Becoming certified is a way to tell employers how dedicated you are and what skills you have.

Six Sigma and PMP are two of the well-known certifications that people go after. There are areas where the two certifications overlap, but they’re actually quite different.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand the difference between the Six Sigma and PMP certifications to help you end the dilemma of Six Sigma vs. PMP based on which one will be beneficial for you and your career.

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Six Sigma vs. PMP: The Full Comparison

There’s no clear-cut answer to whether you should pursue certification in Six Sigma or PMP. It all depends on your background and your current interests.  If you want to work as a quality control engineer or process improvement expert, becoming a certified Six Sigma can help you learn new concepts and tools to advance your career.

On the other hand, if you want to know how to lead diverse projects in all fields, then PMP certification would be ideal for you. Just make sure that you meet the requirements set by the PMI to take the PMP exam.

While that’s the bottom line of the issue, let’s further examine the differences between both!

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology that aims at reducing variation in business processes to improve their quality. It consists of a set of tools and techniques that are used collaboratively to generate satisfactory results. The DMAIC cycle is the core tool used in Six Sigma, and it has five phases of implementation, which are:

  • Define phase. Define the problem.
  • Measure phase. Measure the magnitude of the problem and its effect on the process.
  • Analyze phase. Search for the root causes(s) of the problem.
  • Improve phase. Brainstorm ideas to make the process better.
  • Control phase. Maintain results on a long-term basis and standardize them.

Various tools like Value Stream Mapping, Fishbone Diagram and Control Charts are used at each stage accordingly.  

Furthermore, some variations of the DMAIC model replace some of the phases according to the application, like the DMADV model (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, and Verify), which is used when designing a process for Six Sigma.

There are several Six Sigma certifications with varying skill levels, which are:

  • White Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Black Belt
  • Master Black Belt

You don’t necessarily have to take them in order or even take all of them. For example, one may decide to pursue the Six Sigma Green Belt certification and skip the White and Yellow Belt certifications.

Several institutes and organizations offer Six Sigma certification, including:

  • International Six Sigma Institute (ISSI), Berlin, Germany
  • American Society for Quality (ASQ), Wisconsin, United States
  • the International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC)

PMP

PMP (Project Management Professional) is a certification that validates a project manager’s knowledge and experience. It’s the highest non-academic certification a project manager can acquire throughout their career.

PMPs apply a set of standardized principles and concepts that increase the success rate by being able to complete it as efficiently as possible within the specified time frame.

The PMP certification is based on ten knowledge areas that cover everything that’s related to project management, including:

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Schedule Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Resource Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management

Unlike Six Sigma, there’s only one certification body that offers the PMP certification: The Project Management Institute (PMI). It’s a not-for-profit organization founded by a group of professional project managers in Pennsylvania, the United States.

It’s considered by many as the most authoritative organization in the project management community, and it sets the standards and body of knowledge for everything related to the field.

PMI’s PMBOK Guide is one of the most trusted book references used by project managers throughout their careers, and it’s the foundation that the PMP certification is based on.

Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites for getting certified in any of the Six Sigma certifications. Still, it’s recommended that you have some knowledge about statistics since it’s used extensively in the Six Sigma methodology.

On the other hand, the minimum requirements to get certified as a PMP are a bit more complicated. You need to have 7,500 hours of practical experience as a project manager or 4,500 hours if you have a four-year degree. You also need 35 hours of project management education in both cases.

Training

There’s no specific training required for PMP certification. You’re free to take the training on your own under the instruction of third party trainers as long as the training meets the standards set by PMI.

The same goes for Six Sigma certification, no matter which certification body you choose. Some organizations like ASQ offer training materials that can help you get prepared for the exam, but you can also use third-party materials.

Advantages

There are numerous benefits you get by becoming a certified PMP, including:

  • Validation of your project management knowledge. The PMP certification is globally recognized, making it an excellent way to showcase your project management skills to potential employers.
  • Better career opportunities. PMP holders are more likely to be handed projects than non-PMPs.
  • Increasing your knowledge in project management. Studying for the PMP certification gives you the opportunity to learn new things and develop a better understanding of your existing knowledge.

Similarly, becoming certified in Six Sigma has several advantages, which are:

  • Improve business processes and sustain results. Becoming a certified Six Sigma enables you to understand how you can improve business processes and create value for the company and the customer.
  • Applicable to virtually all industries. Any industry that has some form of the process going on can benefit from a certified Six Sigma.
  • Better job roles. Becoming a certified Six Sigma makes you more likely to climb the ladder to managerial positions quickly.

Demand

The demand for PMP certification is high due to the certification’s global recognition. Some regions demonstrate a particularly high interest in PMP, including large parts of North America and Asia. 

Similarly, the demand for Six Sigma professionals is also pretty high worldwide. Almost all businesses want to continuously improve the quality of their products and processes to satisfy their customers and generate more profit, which can only be done by hiring professionals with high expertise in the Six Sigma methodology.

Mean Salary

According to Payscale, the mean salary for a certified PMP is $106,000. The average salary for a certified Six Sigma in the United States varies according to the certification type. For example, the mean salary of a certified Six Sigma Black Belt is around $100,000. The Black Belt certification is close to PMP when it comes to career level.

Exam

Since there are several Six Sigma exams from different certification bodies, we’ve made a comparison between the PMP and Six Sigma Black Belt exam from ASQ for your reference. 

ExamFeesPassing ScoreTime LimitNumber of QuestionsFormatLanguageDifficultyPractice Exams
PMP$555, $405 for PMI membersVariable240 mins200Multiple ChoiceEnglish onlyHardYes
Six Sigma Black Belt (ASQ)$538, $438 for ASQ members550/750258 mins165Multiple ChoiceEnglish onlyIntermediateYes

Which One Should You Take First?

While Six Sigma covers some aspects of project management, it doesn’t give you the full knowledge base you need to lead all types of projects.

If you’re interested in both PMP and Six Sigma, we’d recommend that you pursue PMP certification first, considering that you’re eligible for it and meet the minimum requirements.

If you can’t apply for PMP certification yet due to a lack of sufficient experience, you can first go for the Six Sigma certification.

Maintaining or Renewing Certification 

Whether you need to renew your certification as a certified Six Sigma or not depends on the certification body that you acquired it from. 

The ISSI doesn’t require you to renew your Six Sigma certification. In contrast, other certification bodies like IASSC and ASQ require you to renew it via exams, development units, or other methods.

On the flip side, PMP certification must be renewed every three years by acquiring 60 PDUs (Professional Development Units) and paying a fee of $60 for PMI members or $150 for non-members.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a better understanding of the Six Sigma and PMP certifications, their prerequisites, and career prospects, you can decide which path you want to take.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the choice primarily depends on your interests, career level, and professional goals. Both certifications are quite valuable, and you have a better chance of taking your career to new heights by getting certified in one or both of them.

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