1. Navigate to the NAICS search screen on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.
2. Use the hierarchical classification system to progressively narrow categories until you have found your specific industry. Alternatively, use the NAICS search to find your industry by keyword.
3. Double-check your selection by referring to a third-party source.
1. NAICS Website
The North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS, pronounced Nakes) is a 2- through 6-digit hierarchical system used to classify business establishments for the purpose of cataloging statistical data describing the U.S. economy. It replaced the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system in 1997, which is still used today by certain organizations. Each digit in the NAICS code signifies greater classification detail. The first two digits identify the economic sector, the third digit designates the sub-sector, the fourth digit represents the industry group, the fifth digit designates the NAICS industry, and the sixth digit identifies the national industry. Within the NAICS classification system, U.S. industries are defined at the 6-digit level. The NAICS search tool can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website (here).
2. Identify Industry at the 6-digit Level
The website address provided above takes you to a table detailing the structure of the 2012 NAICS hierarchy. After identifying the 2-digit sector, progressively narrow your search by finding the relevant sub-sector and industry group. There is also the option of searching by keyword using the search tool on the left-hand side of the webpage. The results are often overwhelmingly detailed, but it can quickly narrow your search to the first four digits or so of the NAIC code.
3. Melissa Data
There should be an easier and less error-prone way to looking up a company’s NAICS code than subjectively guessing what sub-sector, industry group, etc. a company falls within. Unfortunately, most of the providers that offer these services are proprietary. One free alternative is Melissa Data (here). Be warned, though, the search engine is not particularly strong. When I type in “apple inc”, for instance, I get 600 results. Even after adding the full address to the search criteria, I only narrow the results to 477. You can quickly scan the results, however, for “Apple Inc” and confirm by the address that you found the right one. Upon selection, you will find codes for both NAICS and SIC with descriptions.(Be cautious when using this approach. The results are not always trustworthy.)
4. SEC’s EDGAR
The EDGAR website (here) can also be leveraged to quickly research a company’s SIC code. Simply look up a company by name or ticker symbol. The search result will return a page with the company’s SIC code in the top banner.
If you are in need of a corresponding SIC code after you have already identified a NAICS code, there are online crosswalk tools available to convert between the two (here).