As you probably know, every ten years the federal government conducts a census of the U.S. population to get a count of how many people live in each state. The results of the census help to determine each state’s congressional representation and how much federal money each community receives. Additionally, it provides a better understanding of American demographics. So, yeah, it’s a pretty big deal.
The next census is scheduled for 2020 and will require hiring thousands of census takers to complete the assignment. I’m always trying to recommend and steer people into new ways to earn some extra money and in the case of the census, you can earn a pretty decent stash for a pretty decent period of time, too. If you happen to be available to work flexible hours and want to get in on this, here’s all the things you’ll need to know.
Who Can Do This Job?
Even if you have a full-time job, you are still be able to become a census worker. Students, retirees, those who are without employment, or people who have full-time jobs but wish to make a little extra money often seek the position. The best way to apply to become a census worker is to visit the website of the U.S. Census Bureau. There you will find toll-free numbers for your local census office and information on job availability in your particular area.
If you are hired, the U.S. Census Bureau almost always places census workers in the communities in which they live. That makes it convenient and the pay for the job (which varies by geographic criteria) is actually pretty sweet, in the $15-$21 per hour area for most field workers.
Of course not everyone who applies to become a census taker will be offered a job, as there are generally way more applicants than there are available positions, so it will pay to apply ASAP.
Being bilingual will improve your chances, particularly if you are fluent in Spanish. On occasion, if a specific language skill is required, even non-citizens with a legal work visa are hired as census workers.
What Exactly Does a Census Taker Do?
As a census taker, you will literally go door to door in your assigned territory and verify the residential addresses you’re given in the community before the 2020 census is mailed out. Later, after the census form is supposed to have been returned to the government, you will return to the streets and then interview any residents who haven’t responded to the census mailing on time. It’s really just that simple.
What are the Tough Parts?
You may have to press some people to get answers to your questions once you can get your foot in the door that is. You’ll have a list of questions given to you and sometimes people may find that a question is a bit invasive. For example, you may have to ask about each individual’s ethnic background, marital status, income, and place of birth. Each of these questions helps the federal government to make policy and budget for needs. While the individual answers to these questions are confidential, there are a variety of situations in which it might be difficult to elicit answers.
But it probably won’t be as difficult as this SNL skit made it out to be:
Who’s Eligible for This Job?
To be a census taker, the number one condition is that you must be a U.S. Citizen or a legal permanent resident or non-citizen with a work visa and a bilingual skill that no available citizen possesses. Additionally, you must also:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be able to read, write, and speak English
- Have a valid Social Security card
- Pass a written test
- Have a valid driver’s license if you’ll be working in the field
- Pass a background check
- Complete four days of training
Taking the Test
The Field Employee Selection Aid test consists of 28 questions designed to measure the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform census jobs. The test is a multiple choice exam and lasts about 30 minutes.
The answers you give allow the census administration to assess your ability to read and follow a map, accurately record information, do simple arithmetic, and complete basic clerical tasks such as alphabetizing and reading for information. You’ll also be asked questions that check your understanding of concepts included in the census questions.
While the test isn’t extraordinarily difficult, it is challenging. Even college graduates can benefit from reviewing a practice test. Each state has its own testing procedures, so you may want to contact your state census office for the most relevant practice test.
Census takers generally work between 20 and 40 hours a week for 5-10 weeks and are paid weekly. You’re paid for travel and training, but you must be willing and able to work evenings, weekends, and in poor weather conditions. Census takers are given several neighborhood assignment areas, a map, and all other materials to do the job.
The earlier you apply, the better off you will be! Try a phone call to the U.S. Census Bureau job line at the national 1-855-562-2020 number to schedule an appointment to get started and take the employment test. Then, print a copy of the census employment application and Form I-9. Be sure to bring both forms to your appointment along with all required forms of identification.
Apply early. Right now is a perfect time to do it! Hiring will start in February 2019, and most positions will be filled by the end May 2019. It’s also a good idea to download and take the census practice test before your scheduled appointment.
In 2010, one of my best friends found himself out of work (the great recession) and hooked up with the census when it started up. He was able to make a decent wage for almost a year as he worked in what he described as interesting and important work. Afterwards, he was able to return to his regular career work and had no gap in his employment record. That’s a plus so if you need a job, now is the time to act.
Do you need employment or are you interested in earning some extra cash? In 2019, the census might just be a financial gift from above for you so get to it! Hiring is taking place, so go for it now!