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Whenever I fill out a survey (especially, but not limited to trade-papers/mags/sites), there’s one question (or any derivation thereof) that always trips me up:

Which industry classification best describes your line of work

This is usually followed by a list of things like Retail, Health, Education, Construction, Manufacturing, etc.

I can never figure out exactly what industry computer programming falls in. I usually just end up picking either Manufacturing because I suppose in a way, I’m manufacturing something, Retail since in a way, I am producing goods, or else whatever option happens to mention either “computers” or “electronics” (if any).

I tried Googling it but came up empty. Does anyone know what the “correct” answer is? What do other programmers enter in these surveys?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by MichaelT, Ixrec, GlenH7, TZHX, gnat Jun 2 at 17:01

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Usually "engineering" is an option, so I check that one. –  Jeremy Heiler Aug 16 '11 at 0:58
"Retail" means selling goods, not making them. You are definitely not in retail. –  tdammers Aug 16 '11 at 7:03
what's wrong with other? –  jk. May 22 '12 at 7:35
@jk, the other option usually causes a prompt of some sub-options taht rarely includes computer stuff. Of course, if it displays a text-field, then it can be manually entered (though at that point, I may as well just say starship captain or Jedi). –  Synetech May 22 '12 at 14:28
I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about a conceptual programming issue. –  GlenH7 May 30 at 12:30

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Well, according to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), computer programming is classified as:

54 : Professional, scientific, and technical services

-> 5415 : Computer systems design and related services

-> -> 541511 : Custom computer programming services

So I would think that if you have an option for "Professional Services", that would be appropriate.

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Just today I filled one out which included Personal services (and think it mentioned computers in the parenthesized list following it). I guess that’s it then. I’ll look out for that (or its sub-classifications as you indicated). Thanks. –  Synetech Aug 16 '11 at 4:30
This is not a correct answer. I think that Karl Bielefeldt's answer is the most complete, but TomG's answer is also correct. –  Thomas Owens Jun 2 at 13:34
The question in the in the question is about "your business" - not "your business unit" or "your department". The correct answer is what the business that you work for does as described in the other answers. A person working on point of sales software for a computer software company would be in one grouping while a person working on in house point of sales software would likely be in retail doing the same thing. –  MichaelT Jun 2 at 13:36
@ThomasOwens and MichaelT - In my own defense, the question does not say "your business", but "your line of work", which is not the same thing. The OP didn't say exactly what line of business his company is in, nor whether he is even employed by a company at all. In fact, in a comment to Karl's answer, the OP specifically mentions "independent developers". I provided an option, and it was acceptable to the OP, so to say that this is not a correct answer is, well, wrong. –  Eric King Jun 2 at 15:04
That's not to say that Karl's answer and Tom's answer are wrong... They're correct too. But my answer addresses the classification for independent developers, such as the OP. –  Eric King Jun 2 at 15:08

Your "occupation" is your job description. Your "industry" is your company's job description.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common industry for computer programmers is "Computer Systems Design and Related Services," meaning essentially what your company "sells" is the services of your time. "Software Publishers" is second most common, which is companies that sell software in a box as their product. But that only makes up 14% of programmers. The rest of us are spread out in just about every other industry there is.

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What about independent developers? I suppose it could be argued that we don’t really qualify for such surveys because they usually target companies, but then again, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen surveys that should apply to any programmer. (I’ll have to look through my trade mags and newspapers again; there’s always plenty of charts and stuff.) –  Synetech Aug 16 '11 at 4:27
If you're independent then you are selling professional services. The categorisation would depend on what's available in your list, but your industry is basically the same as a freelance accountant or lawyer. –  Kirk Broadhurst Aug 16 '11 at 13:01
+1 This is clearly the correct answer. Surveys ask for your industry so they know how many people work in, say, Retail or Manufacturing - for the purposes of economic analysis, where they should market their own products, etc. If you do programming for a car company then your job is dependent on the automotive industry; you work in the automotive industry, not in the IT industry. –  Kirk Broadhurst Aug 16 '11 at 13:03

I answer based on the company I work for. When I worked for a publishing company, it was "Publishing" or "Media". For an eCommerce company, "Retail" may be appropriate, etc.

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Other: Information Technology

I don't think there is a "correct" answer as IT is broadly spread across almost all industries.

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The question in the question is "what does your company do" - not "what role are you in within your company". A person doing IT for an oil and gas company would put down "oil and gas" while a person doing IT for a retail company would put down "retail". –  MichaelT Jun 2 at 13:38

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