Becoming a Mail Carrier: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a mail carrier career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to find out if becoming a mail carrier is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Mail Carrier

Mail carriers deliver correspondence to businesses and residences all across the country and are vital for the day-to-day operations of the United States Postal Service (USPS). Take a look at some of the pros and cons of becoming a mail carrier.

Pros of Becoming a Mail Carrier
No educational requirements*
Job training is provided*
Excellent government health, vacation and retirement benefits*
Generally work is done independently and without direct supervision**

Cons of Becoming a Mail Carrier
27% decrease in employment opportunities projected from 2012 to 2022*
Injuries can occur from repetitive lifting and bending*
Bad weather conditions can make delivering the mail difficult*
Working on Saturdays and overtime around holidays may be required*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Association of Letter Carriers

Career Information

Job Description

After mail has been processed and sorted, mail carriers deliver it to the appropriate businesses and residences. Mail carriers usually have established routes and deliver or collect mail on foot or in a vehicle. You'll carry mail in a satchel if you're delivering by foot. If you're delivering mail via a vehicle, the mail is organized into various boxes or carts.

Prior to going on your route each morning, you must arrange that day's mail in the sequence it will be delivered. Additionally, mail carriers must collect cash-on-delivery (COD) money and obtain signatures to confirm delivery of special mail. You might have to perform other job duties when you're at the post office; this could include answering questions, selling postal products and insuring parcels.

Salary Information

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that postal service mail carriers earned a median hourly wage of $27.50, which amounted to a median yearly income of $57,200 (www.bls.gov). The top-paying states for postal service mail carriers were Hawaii, California, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Mail carriers in the top ten percent of wage estimates earned upwards of $58,420 in 2014.

Career Outlook

The overall outlook for postal employees in general is unpromising, with a 28% decline projected for all workers, and mail carriers specifically seeing a projected decline of 27% for the 2012-2022 decade, per the BLS. The decline in the employment of mail carriers would be the result of automated systems, centralized postal pick-up areas and enlarged routes for existing carriers.

Career Requirements

Basic Prerequisites

First, you have to be at least 18 years old to be hired. You have to be a U.S. citizen or have permanent resident-alien status. If you're male, you'll need to have registered with the Selective Service System. From there, an examination is issued to test your accuracy and speed for memorization and filing purposes. Based on your examination score, you'll be placed on an applicant waiting list. When a position opens up, the top three applicants are chosen and brought in for an interview. After you're hired, you'll have to pass a drug test, physical examination and background check.

Training

No academic requirements exist for becoming a mail carrier, although you're expected to have a good understanding of English. After being hired, you'll receive on-the-job training. You might also receive classroom instruction on defensive and safety driving. Whenever new procedures are implemented, you'll receive a training demonstration, which also applies when new technology is incorporated into the postal office.

Real Job Postings

The USPS uses examination scores to determine eligible candidates for career carrier positions. The better score you receive on this test, the more likely you'll be invited for an interview when there is an opening. However, you can take a look at some job postings from March and April 2012 to learn what attributes the USPS is looking for in temporary mail carriers:

  • An opening for a temporary mail handler in Dallas, Texas, requested someone willing to live in reasonable commuting distance of the facility - for availability purposes - to collect, deliver, process and transport mail, in addition to performing custodial duties.
  • In North Carolina, another casual position required someone with a flexible schedule due to varying work hours.
  • A temporary relief carrier position in West Virginia needed local applicants with a driver's license, clean driving record and documented driving experience of two years.

How Can I Stand Out?

Skills Development

Developing excellent communication skills is one way to stand out as a mail carrier. Since this is a public service career, you'll interact constantly with others. As a representative of the post office, remaining cordial is required, even if customers appear stressed or angry.

In order to work on these skills, you might look into options offered by the American Postal Workers Union (www.apwu.org). It sometimes hosts workshops designed specifically for those working in the postal service. For example, you might take a workshop that trains you to deal with customer complaints.

Advancement Options

The post office offers training programs for employees interested in advancement into managerial positions. There is a 16-week Associate Supervisor Program that can help candidates advance into supervisory positions, as well as the Managerial Leadership Program and Advanced Leadership Program for those interested in becoming managers or executives in postal service. These programs have various eligibility requirements, and candidates for the Advanced Leadership Program must be nominated and sponsored by a postal service executive.

Alternative Occupational Options

If you like the job duties a mail carrier performs, but you're not interested in the hiring restrictions involved with government employment, then you may want to consider becoming a courier or delivery driver. The requirements for these careers are similar to those of a mail carrier and the employment outlooks much brighter.

Courier

Couriers pick up and deliver packages, documents and messages, much like a mail carrier. Depending on your employer, you may have a route or work within a specific area. Some couriers work for specific types of companies, like law firms or medical labs, while others work with businesses and the general public. There are few requirements to become a courier, and the average annual income in 2011 was about $27,000. Employment opportunities for couriers are predicted to increase 13% from 2010 to 2020.

Delivery Services Driver

Another alternative to being a mail carrier is becoming a delivery services driver. While there are many different types of delivery drivers, some are route drivers who pick up and deliver items to customers using small trucks or delivery vans. Depending on the vehicle, delivery drivers may be required to possess a commercial driver's license. They made an average salary of about $33,000 in May 2011, and employment opportunities are projected to increase by 15% from 2010 to 2020.

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American University

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Northcentral University

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  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Public Administration

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Seton Hall University

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Kaplan University

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  • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership

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Keiser University

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Baker College Online

  • General Studies - Bachelor

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University of the Southwest

  • MBA Public Administration

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