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Census Worker: Options and Job Descriptions

Census workers, or enumerators, gather data for the federal government. Learn about the training, job duties and further job options to see if this is the right career for you.

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A census worker may need to have a college degree, depending on their employment status. Their main job duties usually include interviewing citizens, validating residency, and gathering economic data for the U.S. Census Bureau. Since most workers are hired as temporary employees, yearly earnings and job growth projections could be influential factors in your decision to become a census worker.

Essential Information

The U.S. Constitution charges the federal government with conducting a nationwide count of U.S. residents every ten years, and the U.S. Census Bureau employs people in various kinds of roles to perform this duty. Most census takers work in the field conducting interviews. Permanent employees typically need at least a college degree; preferred education requirements for temporary employees can vary.

Required Education None for temporary census workers; college degree may be necessary for permanent employees
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) -1.5% (for all federal government workers)*
Salary (2015) $18,161 annually (for Grade 1 federal employees with no prior work experience)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Census Taker/Enumerator

Census takers or enumerators are typically temporary employees of the U.S. Census Bureau. They work in the field and interview residents of an assigned neighborhood according to strict instructions provided by the Census Bureau. They are also responsible for recording the information they elicit through interviews with citizens and implementing quality control measures with regard to the integrity and accuracy of collected information.

Supervisor

Various types of supervisory positions, often temporary, are available through the Census Bureau, including those that oversee administrative office operations, automation operations, field office operations, recruiting office operations and field operations. Typical job duties may vary slightly among the supervisory roles, but, in general, they include supervising and training census takers, among others. They may also oversee personnel levels and workflow according to agency standards, and perform employee assessments.

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Geographer

Graduates of cartography degree programs may be qualified to work as geographers for the U.S. Census Bureau, and these are typically permanent positions in headquarters. They create maps to be used by census takers in performing field work, such as mailing census questionnaires and interviewing residents. Preparing instructions and custom maps may also be part of the geographer's typical tasks.

Statistician/Analyst

The U.S. Census Bureau employs statisticians and analysts who concentrate on either economics or demographics. The economics statistician or analyst usually collects business and trade data, analyzing and reporting on it to provide a snapshot of the U.S. economy or business activity. The social science statistician collects information about U.S. populations through surveys and prepares reports on how and where people live, including employment, family, fertility, housing and neighborhood descriptions.

Those who specialize in economics typically hold a college degree in economics, marketing, finance, business management or statistics, while those who specialize in demographics usually hold a college degree in demography, criminal justice, sociology or psychology. These are usually permanent positions located at agency headquarters.

Salary and Employment Outlook

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't have employment predictions specifically for Census Bureau workers, it did note that employment for all federal government workers was expected to decline by 1.5% between 2014 and 2024. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the salary for a grade one federal employee with no prior work experience was $18,161 in 2015. With additional experience, employees can earn higher salaries.

Census workers can have different roles, including enumerator, geographer, analyst, or supervisor. Though job opportunities are declining, there is always room for advancement as a full-time permanent worker. The job description for each role may vary, but the salary and employment outlook should give enough information to help you decide if you want to pursue this profession.

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