Postal service workers sell postal products and collect, sort, and deliver mail.

Duties

Postal service workers typically do the following:

  • Collect letters and parcels
  • Sort incoming letters and parcels
  • Sell stamps and other postal products
  • Get customer signatures for registered, certified, and insured mail
  • Operate various types of postal equipment
  • Distribute incoming mail from postal trucks

Postal service workers receive and process mail for delivery to homes, businesses, and post office boxes. Workers are classified based on the type of work they perform.

The following are examples of types of postal service workers:

Postal service clerks sell stamps, money orders, postal stationery, mailing envelopes, and boxes in post offices throughout the country. These workers register, certify, and insure mail, calculate and collect postage, and answer questions about other postal matters. They also may help sort mail.

Postal service mail carriers deliver mail to homes and businesses in cities, towns, and rural areas. Most travel established routes, delivering and collecting mail. Mail carriers cover their routes by foot, vehicle, or a combination of both. Some mail carriers collect money for postage due. Others, particularly in rural areas, sell postal products, such as stamps and money orders. All mail carriers must be able to answer customers’ questions about postal regulations and services and, upon request, provide change-of-address cards and other postal forms.

Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators prepare incoming and outgoing mail for distribution at post offices and mail processing centers. They load and unload postal trucks and move mail around processing centers. They also operate and adjust mail processing and sorting machinery.

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Work Environment

Postal service workers held about 504,100 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up postal service workers was distributed as follows:

Postal service mail carriers 328,700
Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators                              99,700
Postal service clerks 75,700

The largest employers of postal service workers were as follows:

Postal service 100%

Postal service clerks and mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators work indoors, typically in a post office. Mail carriers mostly work outdoors, delivering mail in all kinds of weather. Although mail carriers face many natural hazards, such as extreme temperatures and wet or icy roads and sidewalks, the work is not especially dangerous. However, repetitive stress injuries from lifting and bending may occur.

Work Schedules

Most postal service workers are employed full time. However, overtime is sometimes required, particularly during the holiday season. Because mail is delivered 6 days a week, many postal service workers must work on Saturdays. Some also work on Sundays.

Education and Training

All postal service worker applicants must pass a written exam. The exam covers four areas: address cross comparison, forms completion, memory and coding, and personal characteristics and experience. Jobseekers should contact the post office or mail processing center where they want to work to find out when exams are given.

Postal service mail carriers must be at least 18 years old, or 16 years old with a high school diploma. They must be U.S. citizens or have permanent resident-alien status. Males must have registered with the Selective Service when they reached age 18.

When accepted, applicants must undergo a criminal background check and pass a physical exam and a drug test. Applicants also may be asked to show that they can lift and handle heavy mail sacks. Mail carriers who drive at work must have a safe driving record, and applicants must receive a passing grade on a road test.

Education

Most postal service workers have a high school diploma. All applicants must have a good command of English.

Training

Newly hired postal service workers receive short-term on-the-job training, usually lasting less than 1 month. Those who have a mail route may initially work alongside an experienced carrier.

Personality and Interests

Postal Service workers typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a postal service worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Postal Service workers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Customer-service skills. Postal Service workers, particularly clerks, regularly interact with customers. As a result, they must be courteous and tactful and provide good client service. 

Physical stamina. Postal Service workers, particularly carriers, must be able to stand or walk for long periods.

Physical strength. Postal Service workers must be able to lift heavy mail bags and parcels without injuring themselves.

Pay

The median annual wage for postal service workers was $52,060 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $64,420.

Median annual wages for postal service workers in May 2019 were as follows:

Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators                              $60,140
Postal service mail carriers 51,310
Postal service clerks 48,330

In May 2019, the median annual wages for postal service workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Postal service                                    $52,070

Most postal service workers are employed full time. However, overtime is sometimes required, particularly during the holiday season. Because mail is delivered 6 days a week, many postal service workers must work on Saturdays. Some also work on Sundays.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of postal service workers is projected to decline 21 percent from 2018 to 2028. Automated sorting systems, cluster mailboxes, and tight budgets are expected to adversely affect employment. Employment changes, however, will vary by specialty.

Employment of postal service clerks is projected to decline 20 percent from 2018 to 2028. Employment may be adversely affected by the decline in First-Class Mail volume caused by the continued increase in the use of automated and electronic bill pay and email.

Employment of postal service mail carriers is projected to decline 20 percent from 2018 to 2028. The use of automated “delivery point sequencing” systems that sort letter mail directly reduces the amount of time that carriers spend on mail sorting.

The amount of time carriers save on sorting letter mail and flat mail will allow them to increase the size of their routes, which should reduce the need to hire more carriers. In addition, 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.

Employment of postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators is projected to decline 24 percent from 2018 to 2028. The postal service will likely need fewer workers because new mail sorting technology can read text and automatically sort, forward, and process mail. The greater use of online services to pay bills and the increased use of email should also reduce the need for sorting and processing workers.

Job Prospects

Despite declining employment, some job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation or the labor force. However, strong competition can be expected as the number of applicants typically exceeds the number of available positions.

For More Information

For more information about postal service workers, including job requirements, entrance examinations, and employment opportunities, visit

United States Postal Service

National Association of Letter Carriers

 

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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