Census Worker: A Brilliant Part-Time Opportunity

One issue that I hear about from readers on an almost daily basis is the issue of how to find work opportunities for all sorts of specific needs. A stay-at-home mom wants to pick up a few hours here and there. A retiree is getting stir crazy and wants to find some work for idle hands to do while earning a few dollars. Here’s an interesting solution to that very problem.

With the dawning of 2010 comes the once-per-decade United States Census – and with it comes the need for hundreds of thousands of part-time workers to help with local census results. Bob writes in:

In the Simple Dollar you have often told people to find a second job to help dig out from debt. I thought you might be able to write about the positions available from the US Census Bureau. In my area, Suffolk Cty Long Island NY, the hourly rate is $18/hr!!!

I was intrigued, so I called up Jane, an old friend of mine who has worked with the census in the past. I asked her a number of questions about what exactly this opportunity might entail for people who are looking for work right now (and with a 10% unemployment rate, that’s a lot of people). Here’s the key parts of the information I found.

Who can work for the Census Office? Pretty much everyone can find a job working for the census. The US Census website offers a thorough guide for job seekers, including specific information for full time workers, retirees, and students and recent graduates. Since most of the work is clerical, they’re usually fairly flexible with schedules, which means it might work well for a stay-at-home parent who wants to pick up some hours here and there, for example.

What exactly does a census worker do? Census workers in local communities have the job of making sure people are actually filling out their 2010 census forms accurately and in a timely fashion. This means that workers will have to do things like locate residences, explain what the census is all about and why we fill out the forms, help people fill out their forms, record the answers that people give, and make sure that those forms are filed correctly. Other workers have more clerical tasks: organizing submitted forms, mailing them, and so forth. Jane gave the strong impression that most people are given a list of names and addresses and are tasked to help the people on that list to fill out their census forms. This means finding where they live, stopping by, talking with them, helping them fill out the forms, then returning the completed forms to the census office.

How good is the pay? It varies a lot throughout the country, but the pay is surprisingly good for part-time work. In Iowa, for example, workers usually start at around $12 per hour. On top of that, you’re reimbursed at a very nice rate for any miles you put on your personal vehicle doing census work – driving to homes and the like.

Why are you writing about this on The Simple Dollar? People need work. With “official” unemployment at 10% and real unemployment approaching 20% in some areas, a lot of people are hurting. On top of that, there are many people out there struggling to make ends meet with their full time jobs. For both of these groups, census work is something that they can probably handle without additional training, plus it’s flexible work that pays pretty well.

There are a lot of poor paying jobs floating around out there. On top of that, there are even more scams identifying ways for people to make money that don’t really work. Census work is one of the few legitimate part time work opportunities that actually works for almost everyone – it’s something I myself would do if I needed some extra income.

How can I get started? The first step is to contact your local census office. Just find the one closest to you and give them a call.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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