Census Worker
November 30, 2009 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Census worker. What is it like to be one?

I'm taking the census worker test here in Baltimore on Friday. I have a few questions though. If you do well on the test, what are the chances they will hire you? What is the actual experience like? Will I need to have a car? What different kinds of jobs are there?
posted by josher71 to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've worked for the Census since early this year. I started out as a clerk in the local office, then became a recruiting assistant. I love it. Most of our current hiring is for census takers, the people who go door to door for statistical information on household composition. It's a part time, evening-weekend job, and temporary with no benefits. As people are generally placed in their neighborhoods, you may not need a car, though one would certainly help. There may also be a few office jobs available. There is room for growth and promotion, but since Census operations are temporary, there is a high chance of being laid off temporarily and called back. The job of recruiting assistant pays quite well and is full time. Census jobs have no benefits, though, even manager jobs. However, hourly pay is competitive and there is paid training.

The test is very easy to pass. You only need to get 10 right out of 28 questions. However, the higher your score, the higher your name will be on the computer-generated list of people that will be called. If you are a veteran, bring your DD-214 and SF-15 (for service-connected disability) to the test for 5 or 10 extra points. When they call (which may be several months after the test) be sure to answer right away because if not, they will go right down the list and you'll miss your chance until your name comes up again.

The work you'd do as a census taker involves being on your feet, carrying a light load (a census bag), and talking to perhaps recalcitrant strangers. If you'd like more info feel free to memail me, and good luck. What part of the country are you in?
posted by xenophile at 10:09 AM on November 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I did it a long time ago, in Phoenix, where a car is mandatory. I was a census taker and logged up a lot of miles. Even in Baltimore, I wouldn't count on walking or public transportation. So, if you don't have a car make that known so they won't assign you to folks in the boonies.

It's not difficult, but can be challenging, given the characters that are out there. I interviewed people who were drunk, scared to talk until their husband came home, a guy in a huge multi-million dollar house, a flirty teen-age girl, etc. Great fun. Most folks, though, were just ordinary.

Unless things have changed, time with the Census counts as Federal employment time, in case you go that route.
posted by justcorbly at 4:39 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is the experience a friend of had.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:49 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I worked for the 2000 Census in Norman, OK. Fortunately, I never had the problems that jeffamaphone's friend had (or it's possible I didn't notice, since I was a lowly enumerator). The test (at least back then) was on map reading skills, basic arithmetic, and clerical stuff like how well you can catch minor differences in addresses and such. The better you scored on the test, the higher your chances of being called. It will also depend on how many applicants they received in your area and how well you measure up to them.

My area of town was fairly close to OU's campus, so it was mainly parking and walking, and I probably would have no trouble if I didn't have a car. On the other hand, a more spread out or rural area could require one. However, if you let them know, they should be able to manage your assignments so you don't have to have a vehicle. According to the FAQ, the only position where a car is a requirement is for the recruiting assistant job. Besides, that position and the enumerators (the folks who go door to door), they hire crew leaders, assistant crew leaders, and clerks.

I was in the last, "clean-up" stages in the summer of 2000. Mainly verifying that no one lived at the address on April 1st, or the address no longer exists at all. Some people would get really testy with me, probably because they had already answered the questions more than once. Dealing with people would be the most challenging part of the job, since you never know who is going to answer the door. Hopefully not anyone who hates government workers on principle.

Good luck!
posted by weathergal at 12:47 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

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