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The University of Massachusetts Amherst


This is a guide about standards, with links to standard development organizations and other important standards resources.

What is a standard?

A standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. - International Standards Organization, ISO

Standards allow technology to work seamlessly and establish trust so that markets can operate smoothly. They:

  • provide a common language to measure and evaluate performance,
  • make interoperability of components made by different companies possible, and
  • protect consumers by ensuring safety, durability, and market equity.

- National Institute of Standards & Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST

Why do we have standards? Why are standards important?

Standards and their development frame, guide, and normalize almost all areas of our lives.  For example, standards in IT govern interoperability between a variety of digital devices and platforms, standardized production of various machine parts allows uniform repair and reproduction. Standardization in fields like accounting, health care, or agriculture promotes best industry practices that emphasize safety and quality control.  Standards reflect the shared values, aspirations, and responsibilities we as a society project upon each other and our world.   Keeping informed about the most current standards can drive innovation and increase the market value of an engineer’s research and design efforts as well as promoting international trade and commerce, which then fuels more innovation.

Watch: International Standards Organization's What Standards Do For You


Explore: American National Standards Institute's Why Standards Matter

This course is designed as a basic introduction to standards for management and technical personnel in business, industry association management, government, and public policy; university faculty and students; engineers, quality control and purchasing staff; consumers; and those new to organizations that develop standards.