Mail Carriers


Employment Prospects


The USPS has 497,157 career employees and 137,290 non-career employees. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of mail carriers work for private delivery companies. Although most mail carriers are employed by the USPS, many others are employed by private delivery companies such as FedEx, United Parcel Service, and DHL. The postal service isn't limited to the United States. In fact, the USPS delivers about 47 percent of the entire world's mail volume. Because mail is delivered everywhere, there are no geographic limitations to this job. Mail carriers work just about anywhere; however, there will be more opportunities in places with higher populations.

Starting Out

The only way to get a job as a mail carrier for the USPS is to apply through the civil service examinations. Contact your local post office to find out the date and time of the next test in your area. You can also apply for jobs and sign up for the examinations online at the USPS Web site, If you pass these examinations, you'll have a chance for a permanent position.

Examinations are scored numerically. If you receive a passing score, you are then listed on registers in numerical order according to score. When postmasters have a vacancy, they examine the registers for those who are eligible to fill the position and may select any of the top three available people for the job. The names of those people who were not chosen for the position remain on the register for consideration when other vacancies occur.

New carriers are taught how to "case" or arrange their mail on the job. They often learn their routes while working as substitute carriers or by working with full-time carriers. In postal service work, most employees must satisfactorily complete a probationary period of one year.

Breaking into the field in a private delivery company is similar to most other jobs. Applicants must apply directly at that company or through an employment agency. UPS, DHL, and FedEx list job opportunities on their Web sites. Previous experience delivering any type of item will be helpful.

Advancement Prospects

Most mail carriers—especially those in urban areas—begin as substitutes and advance to positions as regular carriers when vacancies occur. In general, the opportunities for promotion are limited. Carriers employed in city delivery service may sometimes advance to special, nonsupervisory jobs, such as carrier-technician, carrier foreman, or route examiner. In most cases, through seniority of service, carriers may anticipate assignments to preferred routes and regular periodic pay increases. Large city post offices undoubtedly have more vacancies and promotional opportunities than smaller offices.

Private delivery companies prefer to promote from within the company, so employees start with entry-level positions and advance according to job performance and education level.

Tips for Entry

Visit the Web sites of USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL to learn more about how each organization is structured and to find job opportunities.

Talk to mail carriers about their careers. Ask them for advice on breaking into the field.

Join unions to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.