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 mail carriers deliver mail to homes and businesses in cities, towns, and rural areas. Most travel established routes, delivering and collecting 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 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 clerks sell stamps, money orders, postal stationary, 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.

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 mail processing centers. They also operate and adjust mail processing and sorting machinery.

Work Environment

Postal Service workers held about 491,600 jobs in 2012. They all worked in the federal government.

Employment in the detailed occupations that make up Postal Service workers was distributed as follows:

Postal Service mail carriers 295,100
Postal Service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators 129,600
Postal Service clerks 66,900

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 carriers face many natural hazards, such as extreme temperatures and wet and 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.

Education and Training

Although there is no specific postsecondary education requirement to become a Postal Service worker, all applicants for these jobs must take a written exam. 

Education

Although there is no specific postsecondary education requirement to become a Postal Service worker, all applicants must have a good command of English.

Postal Service mail carriers must be at least 18 years old. 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.

All applicants must pass a written exam that measures speed and accuracy at checking names and numbers and the ability to memorize mail distribution procedures. Jobseekers should contact the post office or mail processing center where they want to work to find out when exams are given.

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.

Training

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

Important 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 $53,100 in May 2012. 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 $40,460, and the top 10 percent earned more than $56,510. 

Median annual wages for Postal Service occupations in May 2012 were as follows:

  • $56,490 for Postal Service mail carriers
  • $53,090 for Postal Service clerks
  • $53,090 for Postal Service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators 

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.

Union Membership                               

Most Postal Service workers belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of Postal Service workers is projected to decline 28 percent from 2012 to 2022. Automated sorting systems, cluster mailboxes, and tight budgets will adversely affect employment. Employment declines, however, will vary by specialty.

Employment of Postal Service clerks is projected to decline 32 percent from 2012 to 2022. Employment will be adversely affected by the decline in first-class mail volume due to increasing use of automated bill pay and email.

Employment of Postal Service mail carriers is projected to decline 27 percent from 2012 to 2022. Employment will be adversely affected by the use of automated “delivery point sequencing” systems that sort letter mail directly. This reduces the amount of time that carriers spend sorting, allowing them to spend more time on the streets delivering mail.

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 30 percent from 2012 to 2022. The Postal Services 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, the need to replace workers who retire will result in some job openings. However, very 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

U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission

National Association of Letter Carriers

For information about national Postal Service unions, visit

American Postal Workers Union

National Postal Mail Handlers Union

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.