Under the United States Constitution, every ten years, the federal government is obligated to count its population. The United States Census Bureau counts every single resident of the country, as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution.
This process is very important from a social, administrative, and political perspective. The data collected during the census is used to determine how many seats each state has in the United State House of Representatives. Furthermore, the same data is used for calculating the amount of federal funds sent to local communities for various reasons – federal aid programs, schools, social programs, and so on. The next census, which will take place in 2020, is especially important because the population is growing in both numbers and diversity. For this process to happen, the government has opened millions of temporary job positions. Here is what you need to know about federal careers in the 2020 census recruiting.
How Does the United States Census Work?
Before delving into the main subject of the article, it is important to understand the process behind the United States Census and how it works. In a country as large as the United States, counting each single resident can be a daunting task from a logistical standpoint.
Adding to the difficulty of the process is the fact that the constitutional article mandating the census was introduced over 200 years ago, in 1790, back when the United States had a population of barely 4 million people. Doing the math reveals that in 2010, when the census recorded 308.7 million people, the country had 79 times as many residents as it did in 1790.
But the role of the census extends beyond counting how many seats each state gets allotted in the House of Representatives. It is a valuable tool that can be used to track the shifting demographics of America – like how many people live in urban vs. rural areas, how many people have moved to and away from the cities, how many children live on average in each household, and so on and so forth.
These statistics can be used by the government to introduce reforms that aid certain struggling communities, social welfare programs, and to design public transportation systems. Furthermore, private organizations (real estate companies, hospitals) use the census data to plan housing developments and hospital expansions.
As you can see, the census is a very important process , a reason for which the government hires millions of temporary employees to aid this process. However, not all jobs are temporary, as they are hiring permanent employees as well. Here is what you should know about this.
Why They Need So Many Employees
The shifting demographics as well as the changes in the economic sector have affected the Census Bureau’s recruitment pool in significant ways. Because fewer people are looking for work now than they were in 2010, the Census Bureau has upped the pay rates and simplified the online application process. However, before hiring, the Bureau needs to create a recruitment pool. To apply online, simply access their official website; the application takes about 30 minutes to complete.
How the Census Bureau Hires Employees
The changing demographics and social norms meant that the Bureau had to adapt to the times. Consequently, the Census Bureau has revamped its recruiting strategies to reach as many interested people as possible. These strategies include:
- Encouraging the media to cover census-related news stories;
- Using social much to a larger degree than 2010, when the last census took place;
- Collaborating and partnering with influential local organizations to spread the word about census jobs;
- Setting up booths in panels at public events such as local markets, job fairs, conventions, fairs in order to reach as many people as possible;
Generally speaking, there are two types of census jobs: regional and bureau. Regional offices conduct surveys continuously, instead of just every 10 years, in order to supply the government with important statistics related to the economy, shifting demographics, and the people. Regional Offices hire field workers that have a keen knowledge of their respective community and how it has evolved over time.
Field workers are the backbone of the whole censusing process as they are the ones interviewing people and asking relevant questions about the community. They go from door to door to verify residential addresses in their respective communities before the 2020 census is mailed, and then return to the streets to interview any individuals who have not had the chance to respond to the census mailing for various reasons.
Census takers have to ask difficult questions that some people might deem invasive, which is why the Bureau makes sure that the interviewers have a keen knowledge of the communities they will be conducting the interviews in. The questions range around the individual’s ethnic background, income, place of birth, and marital status. The data obtained from these questions help the federal government make policy and distribute budgets .
To be eligible for the job of census taker, you must meet the following criteria:
- Be at least 18 years old;
- The ability to speak, read, and write in English;
- Pass a background check;
- Complete four days of training;
- Have a valid social security card;
- Pass a test (more on that below);
- Have a valid driver’s license;
- Be a U.S citizen, a legal permanent resident, or a noncitizen that has a work visa and is bilingual.
The test itself contains 28 multiple-choice questions relevant to the position of census taker and lasts about 30 minutes. The test’s purpose is to asses a candidate’s ability to follow a map, record information, do simple arithmetic and perform clerical tasks such as alphabetizing.
The test is not very difficult, but it might be challenging to some because it assesses skills that many people do not use on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, some states might have a different testing procedure, so make sure to consult your local census office for more information.
As for the pay and working hours, field employees work between 20 and 40 hours per week, for a duration between 5 and 10 weeks. Field workers are paid on a weekly basis. While the federal government covers the costs associated with training and travel, census takers must be open to a flexible schedule – meaning working weekends, evenings, and in drastic weather conditions. The pay is above the minimum wage, and it varies from location to location.
But regional offices are also searching for full-time corporate employees  in offices throughout the country. The positions include, but are not limited to:
- IT staff. IT responsibilities  vary from maintaining the database, maintaining the digital infrastructure, aiding employees by offering onsite technical support. It requires experience in the field of tech support. Some IT staff members are focusing on automating certain census processes to reduce the workload of field workers and other employees. (Sample IT Federal Resume) 
- Administrative  This department handles all everything logistics-related from handing out tasks and organizing people in teams to coordinating field workers. Some prior administrative and managerial experience is required.
- Clerical staff. Everything related to permits and documents is handled by this department.
- Survey statisticians . This department focuses on entering the surveys in the database, creating charts, calculating parameters and everything related to statistics. The job requires experience in statistics and related software. (Typically in the GS-1530 Statistician Series )
The census is an important tool of the federal government which can be used to set the budget, create policy, and distribute welfare and social programs in the areas that need it the most. Due to the sheer scale of the process and the country’s big population, the federal government needs to mobilize millions of citizens for it. If you are interested in either a part-time or a permanent position in the Census Bureau, read through our article and you will get all the information that you need.
Scott Lawson is an HR manager devoted to his career. During his 5-year work span Scott developed a taste for writing and helping others. This materialized into a website called JobApplicationWorld , that aims to help people tackle the hiring process.
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