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Learn How To Find Standards

Looking for a Standard? You can begin with a simple online search, but featured here are specialized search tools that will help you work faster and smarter.

Before you begin your search be aware that most standards must be purchased in electronic form or hardcopy from the standards developer sponsoring the standard or an authorized standards re-seller. Here are a few tips on searching for standards.

Sector Specific Standards

There are thousands of sector specific standards in the U.S. developed by professionals in specific industry sectors such as telecommunications, concrete, fire protection, information technology, etc. Many sector specific standards are included in the standards search engines provided by IHS, TechStreet, and SAI Global.

However, when looking for standards it is useful to also search a standards developer's site. There are over 600 standards developers based in the U.S., many of which are international in scope and participation. The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) maintains a listing of U.S. industry standards developing organizations on the ANSI Standards Portal.

View and add to our list of standards organizations that offer free access to their standards.

International Standards

There are a diversity of bodies involved in the preparation of standards used globally. These include governmental or treaty organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and organizations that are either specialized in standardization or involved in other activities. In general, an international standard is voluntary and has no legal status unless a regulatory authority requires conformance to that standard.

It is the policy of the U.S. government to use the term "international standard" to refer to standards developed in conformity with the principles of the WTO TBT Committee's 2000 Decision on the Principles for the Development of International Standards, which include (1) openness; (2) transparency; (3) impartiality and consensus; (4) relevance and effectiveness; (5) coherence; and (6) the development dimension.

Though many standards developers in the United States are international in scope and participation, there are several international standards bodies that operate by national representative participation, including:

Codex Alimentarius
Codex develops food standards, guidelines and related texts.

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
The IEC prepares and publishes international standards for electrical, electronic and related technologies.

International Organizations for Standardization (ISO)
The ISO supports a wide-range of standardization work on everything from screw threads to ship building.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
ITU's scope of standardization is global telecommunications. ITU's standards documents, called Recommendations, can be downloaded for free on the ITU website.

Military Standards

Military standards are important for government contracts and procurement. You can search for government and military standards (and in many cases get the text for free) on:

ASSIST Quick Search
Searchable access to full-text Defense and Federal specifications and standards available in the official DoD repository. Registration is not required.

DTIC Online
The Defense Technical Information Center is the largest central resource for DoD and government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business related information and is an excellent complement or back-up to ASSIST tools. This site offers an easy to use link to the full text DoD Specifications and Standards eAccess database.

Standards Search Engines

These free specialized databases aggregate the collections of the major standards developers worldwide (ASTM, ISO, UL, etc.) and can help you quickly search a global library of standards. Searching these databases is free and all offer the option of purchasing the standard.

Document Center Inc.
Access to over 750,000 documents, sells standards and provides monitoring, auditing, and updating services. 

The IHS Standards Store has over 800,000 standards, specifications, and codes; available in English, French and Dutch.

SAI Global Standards Infobase
Provides access to over 1 million world-wide engineering standards and specifications, current and historical. Registration (which is free) is required to search the database.

Online database of over 400,000 industry codes and standards aggregated from 350 of the world's leading Standards Developing Organizations.


Voluntary Product Standards

The purpose of the Voluntary Product Standards is to establish nationally recognized requirements for products and to provide all concerned interests with a basis for common understanding of the characteristics of a product.





  • Standards Coordination Office
    (301) 975-4000
    NIST, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 2100
    Gaithersburg, MD 20899-2100
Created July 28, 2016, Updated March 6, 2023