Postal Service Workers


Quick Facts: Postal Service Workers
2017 Median Pay $57,260 per year 
$27.53 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 502,400
Job Outlook, 2016-26 -13% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2016-26 -65,300

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Postal Service Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Postal Service Workers Do

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

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postal service workers

Duties of postal service workers

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.


Work Environment for postal service workers

Postal service workers held about 502,400 jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up postal service workers was distributed as follows:

 

Postal service mail carriers: 316,700

Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators: 106,700

Postal service clerks: 79,000

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

The vast majority of 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 may also work on Sundays.


How to Become a Postal Service Worker

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.

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 mail 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.


salaries for Postal Service Workers

The median annual wage for postal service workers was $57,260 in May 2017. 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 $33,430, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $59,860.

Median annual wages for postal service workers in May 2017 were as follows:

Postal service clerks: $58,550

Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators: $57,260

Postal service mail carriers: $57,000

In May 2017, the median annual wages for postal service workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Postal service: $57,260

The vast majority of 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 may also work on Sundays.

Union Membership

Most postal service workers belonged to a union in 2016.


Job Outlook for Postal Service Workers

Overall employment of postal service workers is projected to decline 13 percent from 2016 to 2026. 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 12 percent from 2016 to 2026. 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 12 percent from 2016 to 2026. 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 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. 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, the need to replace workers who retire will result in some job openings. However, strong competition can be expected as the number of applicants typically exceeds the number of available positions.

Employment projections data for Postal Service Workers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 502,400

Projected Employment, 2026: 437,100

Change, 2016-2026: -13%, -65,300


Careers Related to Postal Service Workers

Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers

Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers pick up, transport, and drop off packages and small shipments within a local region or urban area. They drive trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW)—the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo—of 26,000 pounds or less. Most of the time, delivery truck drivers transport merchandise from a distribution center to businesses and households.

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments. There are two types of retail sales workers: retail salespersons, who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles; and parts salespersons, who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$29,250
Retail Sales WorkersNo formal educational credential$23,370

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postal Service Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/postal-service-workers.htm