This series of articles highlights certifications in which Industrial Engineers are likely to have some interest. They were initially published in our Streamliner newsletter.
Six Sigma Certification ASQ Certifications Professional Engineer's License
Why become certified?
Competition is a fact of life in today’s business world. Employers are looking for, and often insisting on, employees that are proficient in their respective disciplines, especially in the quality arena. Certification is the easiest way to prove your proficiency to an employer. Attaining certification has significant income value as demonstrated by salary surveys like those conducted by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS). Additional driving forces behind certification are the push towards governmental regulation (FDA, NIST, ASTM, etc) and the adaptation of international standards (ISO registration), which are critical to many enterprise’s continued operations. While these regulatory entities don't require an organization’s quality professionals to be certified, it sometimes makes their regulating processes easier. Certification is an investment in your career and in the future of your employer.
(Six Sigma is a registered trademark of the Motorola Corporation. For a good overview of Six Sigma, visit www.isixsigma.com.)
Six Sigma has become a major cultural factor in many companies. Certification is primarily aimed at individuals involved in process improvement and quality, but some companies value having certified employees in all of their other functions. According to ASQ’s annual survey, individuals with Six Sigma certification tend to earn noticeably higher salaries, depending on their level of certification. Six Sigma certification probably has a higher likelihood of being a job requirement than other types of IE-related certifications.
(Please know that the exact details listed below, e.g., extent of training, cost, etc., vary among training organizations.)
Six Sigma has different levels of certification named after karate belt levels.
ˇ Yellow Belt: Individuals trained in Six Sigma methodology. This level of training is usually given to individuals who want a basic familiarity with Six Sigma or who will be participating in Six Sigma projects led by higher qualified individuals. Certification usually requires two or three days of classroom instruction.
ˇ Green Belt: Individuals who have a full-time functional position within an organization, but who are fully trained in Six Sigma techniques and can lead Six Sigma projects within their function. Training usually requires two to three weeks of classroom instruction spread over a three-month period. During the training period the individual must complete a Six Sigma project. This is minimum level an IE should complete in order to compete for Six Sigma positions and to attain the additional salary that these jobs command.
ˇ Black Belt: Individuals whose full-time job is conducting Six Sigma projects. Training is more extensive than for Green Belts. They are taught more tools and given more rigorous instruction in statistical techniques. Certification usually requires completion of a Six Sigma project with a net savings of at least $100,000 but usually more. (Some certifying organizations require two projects totaling $1,000,000.)
ˇ Master Black Belt: A Black Belt who trains and mentors other Black Belts and Green Belts. Certification does not require additional training, but it does require oversight and completion of several Six Sigma projects.
ˇ Brown Belt: Some organizations have this designation for individuals whose skill level falls between Yellow and Green or Green and Black.
Companies with extensive Six Sigma programs – such as Motorola, Honeywell, GE, Nokia – usually certify their own employees. Some companies out-source their training to other companies or training organizations. One can obtain a Black Belt certificate from the American Society for Quality by taking their test and providing proof of project completions. This certification costs $285. Go to www.asq.org and look at their “certifications” page. Classroom training that leads to certification costs anywhere from $2,000 to $12,000. For training in Richmond you can contact John Olsen of Leadership Solutions via email at email@example.com . John received his Six Sigma training from Motorola and subsequently led the training program for Allied Signal/Honeywell. You can also consult the George Group (http://www.georgegroup.com/ ), which has held training in Richmond hosted by VPMEP.
Some organizations have concluded that Six Sigma can be more effective when combined with Lean. Their certification programs include Lean training, but the certification levels remain the same as standard Six Sigma.
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The American Society for Quality (ASQ) has long been a proponent of certification for professionals whose jobs revolve around promoting and maintaining quality. It makes good sense that if the quality of a company’s products relies upon the knowledge and skill of the company’s quality managers, engineers, technicians and auditors, then the company and its customers should have some assurance that those individuals meet the quality standards that are expected of them too.
At one time ASQ only supported a few different certifications, but today they support thirteen. Of those, four are probably of significant interest to IE’s in addition to Six Sigma Black Belt, which we discussed earlier.
To obtain any one of these certifications, you must
1) Have a specified level of education and/or experience
2) Provide proof of professionalism, and
3) Pass a standardized examination.
The standard non-member fee for each test is $285. The tests are timed, open-book and usually consist of 150 questions. The amount of time allowed is short enough that you could not afford to browse through a text looking for the required information. You must be familiar enough with the material to go directly to it. To help people prepare for these tests, ASQ offers courses for each certification. Not all courses are offered here in Richmond. Also, the courses might be spread out over as much as a year with weekly classes. This would be undesirable if you’re in a hurry, but it would be good if you’re trying to fit it into a busy routine.
A great deal of information about ASQ and its certifications is available on their website, www.asq.org. If you’re interested in obtaining more information, visit the local ASQ (Section 1104) website http://groups.asq.org/1104, and contact their Education Chair, Paul Werkmeister (ph 274-1912). Paul conducts the CQE classes at John Tyler. Finally, if you’re interested in self-study, including Six Sigma, visit the Quality Council of Indiana's website at http://www.qualitycouncil.com . They have some of the best materials available.
(Thanks to Brad Reynolds for his assistance and contribution to this article. Brad is a member of Richmond’s ASQ and a CQE. He has proctored ASQ examinations.)
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Have you ever thought about leaving the corporate world and launching out on your own as an engineer? Are you approaching retirement and thinking about doing some engineering on a consulting basis? If so, and you don’t already have a Professional Engineer’s license, you’ll need to think twice. The Commonwealth of Virginia requires that you be licensed if you plan to provide engineering services for hire. You may say, “But I’ve been working as an engineer for years and I didn’t require one!” Well that’s because you’ve been exempted, because you worked for an employer that is not required by the state to have you licensed. For example, if your employer sells a product that requires your expertise to make, your employer wouldn’t need for you to be licensed, because it is selling a product, not your engineering expertise. On the other hand, an engineering firm that sells engineering services must certify that its engineers are licensed. Think of it like you would a medical degree. You can have a medical degree and become employed in medical administration or support without obtaining a physician’s license. On the other hand you must obtain a license to become a practicing physician.
If you’ve been away from your textbooks for quite some time, it is likely that passing the examinations will be very difficult. They cover a broad range of general engineering topics, including math and science, in addition to your specific discipline. This is why engineering students are encouraged to take tests like the EIT (Engineer-In-Training) soon after graduation.
One good aspect of a Professional Engineer’s license is that it is good for life.
If you would like to investigate engineer licensure in greater depth, here are some helpful Internet links.
ˇ Title 5.41, Chapter 4 of The Virginia Code specifies the need for licensing and defines “professional engineer”. Check out paragraphs 54.1-400, -401, and -405. See http://legis.state.va.us/Laws/CodeofVa.htm and enter “professional engineer” in the search box.
ˇ The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation is the regulatory agency for licensing. You can investigate the qualifications for a license at http://www.state.va.us/dpor/ape_reg.pdf.
ˇ The NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) performs the license testing. You can check their website at www.ncees.org for information on engineering licensure and the scope of subjects covered in the tests.
ˇ Contact the Virginia Society for Professional Engineers. See their website at http://www.vspe.org/Default.php.
(Thanks to Ms.Leigh Dicks, Executive Director, VA Society of Professional Engineers, for her assistance with this article.)
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