Becoming a Census Taker

Making extra money while meeting new people

Interacial Couple Filling out Census
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 Robert Daemmrich Photography/Getty Images

Every 10 years, the 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 determine each state's congressional representation and how much federal money each community will receive. Additionally, it provides a better understanding of American demographics.

The next census is scheduled for 2020 and will require thousands of census takers. 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 later return to the streets to interview any residents who haven't responded to the census mailing.

A census taker must ask a wide range of questions that some people may find invasive. For example, they must inquire about each individual's ethnic background, marital status, income, and place of birth.

Each of these questions helps the federal government 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 U.S. citizen
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a valid Social Security number
  • Pass a background check
  • Have an email address
  • Complete four days of training
  • Complete an application and pass an assessment (questions are available in Spanish, but an English proficiency test may be required)
  • Be registered with the Selective Service program or have an exemption, if you are a male born after Dec. 31, 1959

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 multiple choice and lasts about 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, 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.

Hours and Pay

Census takers generally work between 20 and 40 hours a week for five to 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, census takers are given several neighborhood blocks called "assignment areas" and given a map and other materials to do the job.

The pay rate varies by location, but it is typically more than minimum wage. To determine the hourly rate for your area, visit the U.S. Census Bureau's job opportunities page by state. Then select your state from the drop-down list.

How to Apply

Call the U.S. Census Bureau job line at 1-866-861-2010 to schedule an appointment to take the employment test. Then print a copy of the census employment application and Form I-9.

Bring both forms to your appointment, along with all required forms of identification.

To increase your chances of landing a job, apply early. Hiring started in February 2019, and most positions will be filled by May 2019. It's also a good idea to download and take the census practice test before your scheduled appointment.