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Market Research Basics: Industry Codes

What are industry codes?

Industry codes are part of industry classification systems. There are several systems used by governments and international organizations to collect and analyze data about business and industry. Learn more here.

More about NAICS & SIC

North American Industry Classification System book cover

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy (source). NAICS began in 1997 "in part to standardize industry data collection and analysis in between Canada, the United States, and Mexico" (source).

The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system is four-digit codes that categorize the industries that companies belong to while organizing the industries by their business activities. The SIC codes were created by the U.S. government in 1937 to help analyze economic activity across various industries and government agencies. These are still used in some cases. (source).

Why you should know NAICS

Many business information sources also use NAICS to organize and publish data and information.

It's important to understand NAICS so that you can search more effectively for relevant statistics and information. You can also use NAICS to identify competitors more easily.

A caveat

If you are working with technology and/or on a life science-related project or venture, NAICS and SIC codes are less likely to be helpful. There may not be a corresponding NAICS code. Keyword searches often yield better, more relevant results.

To learn more about NAICS, read this web guide from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Use the Census Bureau website to search for NAICS codes relevant to your venture's industry.

Watch the short search tutorial to learn how to search for NAICS codes on the Census Bureau website.

Overview of the North American Industry Classification System (or “NAICS”)

from the U.S. Census Bureau

Finding NAICS Codes from Columbus State Library

Step-by-Step Instructions: How to search for NAICS codes on

1. Go to

2. Hover the mouse over "Find a Code" in the horizontal menu.

3. Select "NAICS Lookup"

4. In the left side menu, locate the search box labeled "2017 NAICS Search."

5. Search by keyword to find NAICS codes.

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Nancy Lovas
Davis Library