Page updated 8/3/2016
All applicants for Postal Service jobs are required to take a Postal Service examination. After passing the exam, it may take one to two years or longer before being hired, as the number of applicants is generally much greater than the number of jobs that open up.
Education and training. There are no specific education requirements to become a Postal Service worker; however, all applicants must have a good command of the English language. Upon being hired, new Postal Service workers are trained on the job by experienced workers. Many post offices offer classroom instruction on safety and defensive driving. Workers receive additional instruction when new equipment or procedures are introduced. In these cases, workers usually are trained by another postal employee or a training specialist.
Other qualifications. Postal Service workers must be at least 18 years old. They must be U.S. citizens or have been granted permanent resident-alien status in the United States, and males must have registered with the Selective Service upon reaching age 18.
All applicants must pass a written examination that measures speed and accuracy at checking names and numbers and the ability to memorize mail distribution procedures. Job seekers should contact the post office or mail processing center where they wish to work to determine when job vacancies are anticipated. Applicants who pass the exam are listed in order of their examination scores. Five points are added to the score of an honorably discharged veteran, and 10 points are added to the score of a veteran who was wounded in combat or is disabled. The appointing officer chooses one of the top three applicants on the job vacancy list. Applicants must reapply for other job vacancies as they occur.
When accepted, applicants must pass a physical examination and drug test, and may be asked to show that they can lift and handle mail sacks weighing 70 pounds. Applicants for mail carrier positions must have a driver’s license and a good driving record, and must receive a passing grade on a road test.
Postal clerks and mail carriers should be courteous and tactful when dealing with the public, especially when answering questions or receiving complaints. A good memory and the ability to read rapidly and accurately are important. Good interpersonal skills are important, particularly for mail clerks and mail carriers who deal closely with the public.
Advancement. Postal Service workers often begin on a part-time, flexible basis and become regular or full time in order of seniority, as vacancies occur. Full-time workers may bid for preferred assignments, such as the day shift or a high-level nonsupervisory position. Carriers can look forward to obtaining preferred routes as their seniority increases. Postal Service workers can advance to supervisory positions on a competitive basis.
Employment - The U.S. Postal Service employed 80,000 clerks, 338,000 mail carriers, and 198,000 mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators in 2006. Most of them worked full time. Most postal clerks provide window service at post office branches. Many mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators sort mail at major metropolitan post offices; others work at mail processing centers. The majority of mail carriers work in cities and suburbs; others work in rural areas.
Postal Service workers are classified as casual, part-time flexible, part-time regular, or full time. Casuals are hired for 90 days at a time to help process and deliver mail during peak mailing or vacation periods. Part-time flexible workers do not have a regular work schedule or weekly guarantee of hours but are called as the need arises. Part-time regulars have a set work schedule of fewer than 40 hours per week, often replacing regular full-time workers on their scheduled days off. Full-time postal employees work a 40-hour week over a 5-day period.
CARRIER (CITY), PS-05 Occupation Code: 2310-01XX
Delivers and collects mail on foot or by vehicle under varying conditions in a prescribed area within a city. Maintains pleasant and effective public relations with route customers and others, requiring a general familiarity with postal laws, regulations, and procedures commonly used, and with the geography of the city.
RURAL CARRIER, RCS-00
Cases, delivers, and collects mail along a prescribed rural route using a vehicle; provides customers on the route with a variety of services.
CASUAL, EAS-07 Occupation Code: 5201-1001
Performs mail handling, mail processing, mail delivery, mail collection, mail transportation, and custodial functions, or a combination of such duties on a supplemental basis.
Search our jobs board for mail carrier jobs in the postal, government, and private sectors.
Job Outlook - Employment of Postal Service workers is expected to experience little or no change through 2016. Still, many jobs will become available for mail clerks and carriers, because these positions are expected to add workers, and because of the need to replace those who retire or leave the occupation.
Employment change. The stable employment overall of Postal Service mail carriers and Postal Service clerks will be offset by declines in Postal Service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators, which will likely cause overall employment of Postal Service workers to decline 2 percent over the 2006-2016 period. An increasing population, the greater use of third class, or bulk, mail by businesses, and more electronic shopping will generate more business for the Postal Service. However, demand will be moderated by the fact that people are sending out fewer pieces of first class mail because of the growing use of electronic communication.
These changes will affect Postal Service occupations in different ways. Efforts by the Postal Service to provide better service and meet the needs of a growing population will increase the demand for Postal Service clerks. However, the declining use of first class mail as the use of electronic communication grows will hold growth in this occupation to a minimum.
Employment of mail sorters, processors, and processing machine
operators is expected to decline moderately because of the increasing
use of automated materials handling equipment and optical character
readers, barcode sorters, and other automated sorting equipment. In
addition, companies that mail in bulk have an economic incentive to
presort the mail before it arrives at the Post Office to qualify for a
reduction in the price.
Employment of mail carriers is expected to grow, but only by about 1 percent through 2016. As the population continues to rise, the need for mail carriers will grow. In addition, businesses are using the mail more to deliver advertising, which is making up for the reduced use of first class mail. Also, the Postal Service is moving toward more centralized mail delivery, such as the use of cluster mailboxes, to cut down on the number of door-to-door deliveries. The best employment opportunities for mail carriers are expected to be in less urbanized areas as the number of addresses to which mail must be delivered continues to grow, especially in fast-growing rural areas. However, increased use of the “delivery point sequencing” system, which allows machines to sort mail directly by the order of delivery, should reduce the amount of time that carriers spend sorting their mail, allowing them to spend more time on the streets delivering mail. This will mitigate the demand for more mail carriers.
Job prospects. Those seeking jobs as Postal Service workers can expect to encounter keen competition. The number of applicants usually exceeds the number of job openings because of the occupation’s low entry requirements and attractive wages and benefits.
The role of the Postal Service as a government-approved monopoly continues to be a topic of debate. However, in 2003 the Presidential Commission on Postal Services, and in 2006 Congress, both rejected the idea of privatizing the United States Postal Service. Employment and schedules in the Postal Service fluctuate with the demand for its services. When mail volume is high, full-time employees work overtime, part-time workers get additional hours, and casual workers may be hired. When mail volume is low, overtime is curtailed, part-timers work fewer hours, and casual workers are discharged.