CQE vs. Six Sigma Black Belt - Is there a Big Difference?



Question for the experts, I've been in the quality field for over 7 years. I've done everything from SPC and DOE training to QS-9000 certification and QFD implementation. I recently had an interview with a company looking specifically for a 6 Sigma Black Belt. Not sure if I'll get the position, but if I don't could it be because I am a ASQ CQE without formal Black Belt training? Can someone tell me what's the difference if any?

Spaceman Spiff

Confusia, I asked the same question to a Six Sigma peddler... umm, training consultant about 6 months ago. According to him, "You'll get a nice certificate." Needless to say, I am eager to hear from you Six Sigma BBs and MBBs out there.

Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member
My personal opinion, I would hire a CQE over a BB. Here is why:

CQEs learn about the tools and techniques that can be used to help drive quality. They also do some study on Quality Cultures of various types to gain a broad perspective. They use their knowledge of both to help organizations achieve organizational Quality excellence. It can be applied in a broad sense.

The BBs on the other hand learn many of the same tools and techniques. The big difference for me comes with the Quality Culture. BBs are taught one type of culture, the one meshed into the recent Six Sigma Programs (fad). It is based on arbitrarily established goals and extrinsic movement (perhaps some motivation) factors. It is much less universally applied (most recognized BB programs are with the organizations who develop and promote them internally). You can drop $35K with Dr. Harry if you would like, but again, I would rather possess the knowledge of the tools and techniques for under $400 found in a CQE primer package.

The Six Sigma Black Belt culture: Dr. Harry can keep it for himself!




Based on my current experience working in an organization that is $tumbling into "$ix $igma" I have to definitely agree with Kevin. There may be a little bias because I am a CQE, but not much.

Graeme C. Payne
ASQ Certified Quality Engineer


Actually, I'm a former CQE (certification lapsed 10 years ago) who has recently done some consulting for a company implementing Six Sigma. My old CQE training was far more extensive than the Six Sigma material.

If I'm doing the hiring (and, I have), I'll hire a CQE over someone with a Six Sigma certificate every time.


Tommy VanHorne

I have been a CQE since 92 and finished Black Belt (BB) training Dec 99. First, too much emphasis has been put on BB certificaton as the performance measure. Requirements between providers vary widely and allow too much subjectivity. ASQ uses competency within a defined body of knowledge verified via exam (tough one at that). Preparing for the CQE was more rigorous than the BB studies. This may have been due to our 'provider'. The BB studies did emphasize design of experiments more extensively than my CQE, but overall the studies were more narrow in content. In interviewing a prostect, I would have to scruitnize their BB training more than I would a CQE's. I favor CQE training in both quality principles and applications and the design of experiments training in BB.


There are definitely substandard providers of Six Sigma out there. You can make your own conclusions of Dr. Harry, but he has never implemented anything!

As far as results, no CQE gets the kind of results a BB gets if properly trained.

I know, I have trained CQE's since 1980 and BB's since 1994.

ASQ is standardizing the BB certification. All you CQE's that think you are good -- go see if you can pass. I bet you cannot, but every BB I have trained could do the CQE with their eyes closed.

If you really want to know about Six Sigma (the name may be a fad, but the ability to guarantee results will last a career), go to certifiedblackbelt.com



I have held ASQ CQE certification since 1995; I completed BB training in June 2000.

The per project savings for my "CQE" projects was more variable and the average was much lower when compared to my "Six Sigma" projects.

Six Sigma's highly structured approach and ROI orientation may be the reason

In any event, because I have had both CQE and BB training my "tool kit" is much larger. Bottom line: I am a better QE for having had both types of training.

But for goodness sakes' don't stop there. Simulation and other modeling techniques are areas ripe for exploration as well as some of the more advanced statistical techniques such as principle component and cluster analysis.

Ben Royal


What six sigma can do which CQE cannot

The center piece of six sigma tools is Design of experiments in which six sigma scores over CQE.
In case of chronic technical problem solving, there is no better scientific method than DOE. Cause and effect matrix is many times unable to solve chronic problems because the root cause of variability may be interactions between two factors and not the factors by themselves. C & E is unable to identify interactions.
As an extension of DOE, response surface of top rank factors can give you predictive power to six sigma practitioner which process owner may not be able to do even after decades of working with it.


BB vs. CQE

Great questions, and great dialogue! I have to agree with GaryC and Benjamin. Despite its many weaknesses, I have to agree that Six Sigma brings a formal process and universal language to quality improvement that is sorely lacking in the CQE requirements. Of the two exams, the CQE was definitely the more challenging for me. However, part of the reason the CSSBB was so much easier was because I had the CQE background. The overlap is significant.

Personally, I find the two exams (and more importantly, their bodies of knowledge) complimentary and highly synergistic. Understanding the quality tools to the level of the CQE shores up the abilities of BBs who were trained through substandard programs (and believe me, there are a LOT of them out there). Similarly, the DMAIC process, Lean concepts, and DfSS knowledge helps to focus and strengthen the effectiveness of any quality engineer. Which would I prefer to hire, the CQE or CSSBB? The one most interested in pursuing the other BOK and certification as quickly as possible.
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