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Learn More About Standards

Photo collage includes tape measure, gas can, laptop keyboard, old-fashioned scale, bunch of grapes, and scientific equipment like a Kibble balance.
Credit: B. Hayes/NIST

Why You Need Standards
Technical standards keep us safe, enable technology to advance, and help businesses succeed. They quietly make the modern world tick and prevent technological problems that you might not realize could even happen.

Types of Standards

  • International Standards
  • Sector-specific Standards

Finding Standards

  • ANSI Resources
  • Military Standards
  • Standards Incorporated by Reference
  • Standards Search Engines
  • Voluntary Product Standards Program


Types of Standards

Documentary standards come in many forms. Standards setting and standards developing organizations each have their own “types” of standards, as they define them.  In general, there are two types of standards.

International Standards

There is 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.

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:

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 standards aggregators.

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.


Finding Standards

Looking for a standard? You can begin with a simple online search. Featured here are some 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 or hard copy form from the standards developer that publishes the standard or an authorized standards reseller.  Here are a few tips on searching for standards.

ANSI Standards Resources

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.
  • DSP Specifications and Standards
    The Defense Cataloging and Standardization Act (10 U.S.C. 145, Section 2451-2457) directed the Department of Defense to establish a single, unified standardization program. The Defense Standardization Program (DSP) addresses this requirement by making available standardization processes, products, and services for the DoD.

Standards Incorporated by Reference

Standards Search Engines

These free specialized databases aggregate the collections of the major standards developers worldwide 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. Most of the sites have advanced search options and let you search by standards developing organization (SDO.)

 Voluntary Product Standards Program

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
    NIST, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 2100
    Gaithersburg, MD 20899-2100
Created July 28, 2016, Updated April 9, 2024