Become a Census Taker

Make extra money while meeting new people

Every 10 years the government conducts a census of the US population to get a count of how many people live in each state, and to get a better understanding of American demographics. The results of the census help to determine each state's congressional representation and how much federal money each community receives.

The next census is scheduled for 2020 and will require thousands of census takers to complete.

Apply to be one of them, and you could enjoy a temporary boost to your income.

What a Census Taker Does:

Census takers go door to door to verify the residential addresses in their community before the 2020 census is mailed, and then later return to the streets to interview any residents that haven't responded to the census mailing.

A census taker must ask a wide range of questions which some people find invasive. For example, they must 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.

Who's Eligible:

To be a census taker, you must:

  • be a US Citizen (or a legal permanent resident or non-citizen with a work visa and a bilingual skill that no available citizen possesses)
  • 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

About the Census Taker's Test

The Field EmployeeSelection Aid is a test consisting of 28 questions designed to measure the knowledge, skills, and abilities, required to perform census jobs.

The test is multiple choice and lasts for 30 minutes.

The questions you answer allow the Census administration to assess your ability to read and follow a map, accurately record information, do simple arithmetic, complete basic clerical skills 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.

Hours and Pay:

Census takers generally work between 20 and 40 hours a week for 5-10 weeks and are paid on a weekly basis. You're paid for travel and training, but you must be willing and able to work evenings, weekends, and in poor weather conditions. According to the Census website:

When you have successfully completed your training, you will be given several neighborhood blocks called "Assignment Areas". Normally, your first assignment will be the area in which you live. You will be provided a map of each Assignment Area and the necessary census forms and materials to do the job. Most of the jobs are in the field and require you to locate and interview households and record information about the residents. When you accept your appointment, you assume an obligation to stay with the job until your assignment is completed.

The pay rate varies by location, but it is safe to say that even a beginning Census taker will make more than minimum wage. To determine the hourly rate for your area, visit Field Job Opportunities by State. Then, select your state from the drop-down list.

How to Apply:

Call the US Census Bureau job line at 1-866-861-2010 to schedule an appointment to take the employment test. Then, print out 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.

Tips to Land the Job:

  • Apply early. Hiring starts February 2019, and most positions will be filled by May 2019
  • Download and take the Census Practice Test before your scheduled appointment
  • Clear your schedule for the period of time during which you'll be working, as a Census taker who's not available will almost certainly lose his or her job.