Career and Job Search Guide

Mailman, Mail Carrier and Postal Service Worker

The United States Postal Service ships billions of letters and packages throughout the entire country weekly regardless of weather. Over 615,000 people work for the postal service sorting, delivering, and resolving customer concerns. Postal service employees usually work as carriers, clerks, sorters, or mail processing machine specialists. Clerks assist customers inside the post office while processing specialists sort mail entering and leaving the post office. Carriers deliver letters and packages to all urban and rural regions of the country.

Postal Service clerks, commonly referred to as window clerks, sell stamps and other postal products, such as post office boxes, and weigh packages to verify shipping rates. They provide customer service by helping customers insure and certify important letters and file claims when mail is damaged or lost. Mail processors, sorters, and processing machine specialists, often know as handlers or processing or distribution clerks, sort and process mail entering and leaving the post office and mail processing centers. These specialists move mail with carts and forklifts and unload and stock mail trucks. Machine specialists operate the processing equipment.

Mail carriers transport and deliver mail to home and businesses throughout the United States. Carriers who deliver mail in urban and rural areas have similar responsibilities, and carriers usually have set delivery routes. Carriers arrive at the post office during the early morning hours to organize mail for their routes; however, computerized equipment has lessened the time carriers spend sorting mail, so they spend most the day delivering mail.

Carriers either walk or drive a mail truck while covering their routes. If they walk during their shift, they use a satchel to carry mail, but most carriers in populated areas drive a truck while carriers delivering mail in densely populated rural areas use their own vehicles for which they receive mile reimbursements.

Carriers get mail recipients' signatures for insured, certified, or registered mail and collect payment if postage has not yet been paid. If carriers deliver a package to a home where the recipients are not home, they leave a note that informs recipients where they can pick up the package. Once they have made their deliveries, they take collected mail to the post office. After completing their routes, carriers return to the post office with mail gathered from homes and offices to be sorted and delivered.

Certain carriers only deliver parcel or retrieve mail from collection containers. Carriers with rural routes usually have more responsibilities than carriers working in urban areas since they sell postage stamps and assist customers who need to insure or send their mail certified. Urban and rural carriers must be knowledgeable about postal services and laws so they can answer questions. All carriers also provide postal customers with address change cards and other documents.

Work environment. Postal clerks usually spend their days helping customers at the post office usually never working evenings. The job can be stressful since they often deal with angry customers and are on their feet all day. Sometimes at smaller post offices, clerks sort letters.

Working in mail sorting and processing can be physically exhausting since workers move heavy bundles of mail in bags or carts and are on their feet most the day. They often work evening and weekends since mail is usually sorted in the evening. The job can also be stressful since strict deadlines must be met. Carriers usually begin their days early in the morning. Carriers delivering in the business quarter sometimes must be at work by 4 a.m., and carriers working in the city frequently work overtime. They spend most of the day outside covering their routes in good and bad weather, and although they can get injured from slipping on an icy street or being attacked by a dog, most carriers' injuries result from lifting heavy loads and constantly bending joints which can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.