When you learn how to become a mail carrier, you will be able to become a federal employee. The application process is pretty extensive, but the job can pay well and usually comes with good benefits.
Before you decide to become a mail carrier, you should know what you will do. Let’s look at the job duties and the steps to becoming a mail carrier.
Job Duties of a Mail Carrier
As a mail carrier, your job is to collect and deliver mail. This includes letters, parcels, packages, and documents. You will deliver mail to both residences and businesses.
Mail carriers travel throughout cities, towns, suburban areas, and rural areas every day. They deliver and collect mail on their route. You may work on foot or in a mail truck.
Some of the most common job duties for a mail carrier include:
- Sorting and preparing mail for delivery
- Delivering mail on an assigned route
- Collecting mail on an assigned route
- Collecting any payments necessary for cash-on-delivery items
- Completing change-of-address forms for those relocating
- Collecting signatures for registered, certified, or insured mail
- Making sure to stick to a strict schedule for mail deliveries
- Returning mail that has been incorrectly addressed
- Reporting issues found on your route preventing you from delivering mail
These are the main job duties you will encounter as a mail carrier.
How to Become a Mail Carrier in 5 Steps
Step #1 – Complete High School or a GED
You must have a high school diploma or GED to become a mail carrier. Even if you’re 16 or 17 years of age, you can apply to become a mail carrier, as long as you have completed high school.
Step #2 – Meet all the Minimum Requirements
Along with completing high school, there are many requirements you will need to meet including:
- Driving Record – You will need to have a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record for the past five years to become a mail carrier.
- Drug Screening – If you cannot pass a drug test, you cannot work as a mail carrier.
- Physically Fit – You will need to be comfortable walking, bending, kneeling, pulling, and pushing regularly. It’s also necessary to lift at least 50 pounds easily. In some cities, you will need to walk as much as 10 miles per day.
- Medical Assessment – It’s necessary to pass a medical assessment to ensure your health enough to work as a mail carrier.
- Criminal Background Check – You must be able to pass a criminal background check to work as a mail carrier.
If you can meet these minimum requirements, you’re well on your way to becoming a mail carrier.
Step #3 – Pass the 473 Postal Exam
The 473 Postal Exam is the most important requirement to become a mail carrier. If you cannot pass this exam, you cannot work as a mail carrier. The exam will include:
- Forms completion – Learn how to properly fill out forms in an efficient manner
- Address cross-comparison – You will be tested on the ability to check and type/retype many addresses. This is important as delivering mail requires you to be able to maintain the accuracy of addresses.
- Memory and coding – You will be tested on your ability to memorize and how well you can match the codes of your delivery route to the addresses.
- Personal characteristics and experience – This section will test your mental and phys8ical ability. It will also allow you to explain any experience that can help you work as a mail carrier.
Some of the exam portions can be done at home, while others will require an appointment. Each portion will take up to one hour to complete.
Step #4 – Pass the interview Process
After you have completed the 473 Postal Exam, if you have a high score, you will move on to the interview process. Your score is good for up to six years, so you can re-apply if you are not invited to complete the interview process.
The interview process for this career will include an introductory, middle, and final phase of the interview. It will start with a greeting, and then the interviewer will ask you questions. The final part of the interview allows you to ask questions.
Step #5 – Start Training
If you get offered a job as a mail carrier, you will go through training to advance. This might include managerial leadership programs, advanced managerial training, or supervisory training programs.
Most Necessary Skills for Mail Carriers
You will need a unique set of skills for this type of career including:
- Attention to Detail – You must be able to pay close attention to addresses to properly deliver mail.
- Time Management – Delivering mail on time is important and good time management skills help.
- Stamina – In some cases, you will walk up to 10 miles per day.
- Communication Skills – You will interact with people on a daily basis. Good communication skills are necessary
- Organization – An unorganized mail carrier will likely not have a job for very long. you must be well organized for this type of job.
- Good Ethics – You will be handling the mail of those on your route. Good ethics are necessary as some of the information might be sensitive.
- Reliability – Timely delivery of packages and mail is a very important part of your job. You must be reliable as a mail carrier.
It’s also helpful to be friendly with those along your route.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mail Carriers
How much can I earn as a mail carrier?
You will work for the USPS, which means there aren’t any competing employers. The average mail carrier will earn a little more than $17 per hour, according to Indeed.com. In addition, you will likely earn more than $6,600 per year in overtime pay. The yearly salary ends up at about $46K.
Some areas of the country do pay a higher average salary. Atlanta, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Philadelphia all pay an average salary higher than the national average. Rural carriers might earn a slightly higher wage.
What type of benefits can I expect as a mail carrier?
The USPS is known for providing pretty good employee benefits. These include paid sick time, paid vacation time, life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, and vision insurance. You will also get military leave, bereavement leave, and potentially other benefits.
Another benefit you will gain as you get experience and become a better mail carrier is access to the best routes. The longer you work as a mail carrier, the more likely you will be able to get a better route.
How many hours will I work per week as a mail carrier?
While mail carriers often work a 40-hour full-time week, most will also work some overtime. Some mail carriers may work part-time to fill in, but most are full-time. Overtime might be required throughout the holiday season.
Mail carriers often work eight hours a day every day of the week except on Sundays. It’s common to work five days a week and not deliver mail on Saturdays or Sundays. A shorter or longer day is possible, depending on the route, the time of year, and the volume of mail.
Do I need to study for the 473 Postal Exam?
Yes. You will need to study for this exam and likely use practice exams online to make sure you’re prepared. It’s a rather difficult exam for some. Without the proper time to study, you might not pass the exam.
If you fail this exam, you will need to wait 120 days before retaking it. Scoring as high as possible gives you a better chance of getting an interview for a mail carrier position. Make sure to study and do your very best on this exam.
Will I need to work in bad weather?
Yes. The USPS is known for working in all kinds of bad weather including rain, snow, and sleet. You may be given special gear for these types of bad weather days.
Do I need a degree to work as a mail carrier?
No, and more than half of the mail carriers don’t have a degree. Some mail carriers do have an associate or bachelor’s degree, however.
Is this a growing career option?
No. The position of a mail carrier is expected to decrease by 14% over the next decade. It’s not a growing career option for postal service mail carriers.
How long will it take me to become a mail carrier?
The typical person will be able to become a mail carrier in one to three months. Sometimes, you can complete the training and application process faster, however.
Becoming a mail carrier might be the right career for you. If you like the idea of working outside in the community, it’s a great option. You won’t need to spend time in college and the training is pretty short.
If you want to become a mail carrier, use the steps above. Getting the process started means you can start working sooner.