Field Job: Census Takers / Enumerators
The Census Bureau is aiming to hire close to 500,000 office and field staff nationally for the 2020 Census. The majority of those hires will be Census takers (also referred to as enumerators). In the state of California, that can mean as many as 55,000 people. In New York City, the Census Bureau might need to hire close to 13,000 people.
Census takers conduct the “non-response follow-up” portion of the Census. They interview the residents of every household that has not responded via the online or paper forms to collect Census information. Census takers serve as the last line of defense for getting an accurate count, which is critical for federal funding and fair political representation. In 2020, the Census Bureau projects that Census takers may be responsible for recording up to 40 percent of the count.
Hiring local field staff will be critical to ensuring a complete and accurate count, especially for hard-to-reach communities. Local candidates bring relevant language skills and cultural familiarity that allow them to access residents who might otherwise keep their doors closed to Census takers from outside the neighborhood.
Job Qualifications & Duties
Candidates must be U.S. citizens 18 years or older by February 2020 and be able to pass a federal background check. Bilingual candidates are highly desired. Veterans may be eligible for preferential hiring.
Census takers can expect to:
- Visit assigned neighborhoods and knock on doors of households that have not yet participated in the Census
- Interview residents in assigned areas, explaining the purpose of the Census, answering their questions, and recording their answers
- Use smartphones provided by the Census to record information
- Maintain and submit records of hours worked, miles driven, and expenses incurred on the job
- Meet with supervisor to review procedures, report issues or concerns, and receive updated instructions
- Attend team meetings and communicate with other Census takers via phone
Working as a Census taker is a valuable opportunity for workforce development. The job pays well (from $13.50 up to $30/hour depending on the county), builds technological literacy and customer service skills, and Census takers may be eligible for displaced worker benefits after the Census ends.
Recruitment Process & Timeline
Fingerprinting & background checks
Onboarding forms completed
Paid training & orientation
- 7.5 hours online
- Two daylong classroom trainings
Enumeration (“non-response follow-up”)
- Daily scheduling process
- Majority of the work anticipated to be in May
*Field staff candidates (address listers and Census takers) apply via the same centralized application process. Each candidate will only need to submit their application once to be considered for all field staff opportunities.
Local Recruitment Strategies
Counties, cities, local nonprofits, and community-based organizations should support the recruitment of qualified Census takers. The more that local entities can source, engage, and retain a robust pipeline of candidates, the more successful their count will ultimately be.
The Census Bureau estimates that it needs anywhere from a 5:1 to a 10:1 candidate-to-hire ratio due to the long application timeline and candidate attrition. That means that an area like Los Angeles County — which will need to recruit up to 15,000 people — will need more than 75,000 candidates to apply.
Who can help?
- Counties and cities
- Nonprofit job training programs
- Local and community colleges
- Workforce development boards
- Adult education programs
- Community institutions (e.g., libraries)
- Coordinating with their local Complete Count Committees and establishing a subcommittee on field staff hiring
- Working with their Complete Count Committee to educate their community about the Census and the field job opportunities
- Providing access to computers and Internet to complete the online application and assessment
- Holding workshops and trainings on technological literacy for interested candidates
- Creating off-ramps and transition opportunities for the approximately 500,000 people who might be seeking new employment after the Census is completed
We offer tools and services to support local field staff recruitment strategies.
Commonly Asked Questions
About the Job
What is the work schedule?
Hours are flexible, and Census takers will receive assignments based on when they indicate they’re available. In general, Census takers should expect to work part time, often during the evening and on weekends when residents are at home.
How long will the Census taker position last?
Depending on the county, Census taker positions can last for several weeks or up to a few months. Census takers will typically be employed for about six weeks, with the majority of the work occurring from May to July 2020.
How much do field staff get paid?
Wages for both Census takers and address listers range from $13.50–$30/hour depending on the county. County rates are posted here: https://2020census.gov/jobs/locations.html
Do field staff need access to a vehicle?
As Census takers and address listers will be traveling to many households across their neighborhoods, they will need reliable transportation — usually a car or access to good public transportation. They will be reimbursed for mileage driven on their personal vehicles, as well as for public transportation taken to trainings.
What technology skills/access do the job require?
All field job applicants will need to be able to complete an online application, assessment, and training. They need to have an active e-mail address. Census will train workers to use laptops (for address listers) and smartphone apps (for Census takers) using devices provided by the government.
Can someone get a field staff job if they already work full time somewhere else?
Yes. Hours are flexible with assignments given on a daily basis based on the candidate’s availability. Current federal employees or active military may be ineligible. See which federal agencies qualify for dual employment at https://2020census.gov/jobs/faqs.html
About the Process
Are there any prerequisites to applying?
Applicants must be U.S. citizens 18 years of age or older and be able to pass a federal background check. They also must be able to read, write, and speak English. Bilingual applicants and veterans will be given preference in the hiring process.
Can formerly incarcerated individuals apply to work as Census field staff?
The final step of the application process will be a fingerprint and federal background check. Depending on the recency and seriousness of one’s record, formerly incarcerated individuals may still be eligible to work as Census field staff. Census will contact candidates on a case by case basis and provide an opportunity for them to clarify their situation using documentation.
What does the application process entail?
The application process for all field jobs (Census takers and address listers) involves three steps: an online application and assessment, a phone interview, and a federal background check. The online application/assessment takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Can you complete the application in a language other than English?
The online job application must be completed in English. The assessment is available in English and Spanish, but candidates who complete the assessment in Spanish will need to take an additional English proficiency test.
What happens once a candidate submits their application?
Candidates will receive e-mail notifications regarding their application status throughout the application period, as well as e-mail instructions for next steps. Candidates will be notified if they have moved forward to the interview process via e-mail. They will also be updated via e-mail and physical mail about the results of their background check.