How To Become a Mail Carrier (With FAQ)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 23, 2021 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated July 23, 2021

Published February 4, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Mail carriers are federal employees who need to complete an extensive application process to get a job offer. In this article, we'll explain what a mail carrier does, how much they earn, and the steps to become one. We'll also answer frequently asked questions about a mail carrier career.

What does a mail carrier do?

Mail carriers collect and deliver an assortment of letters, packages, messages, documents and products to private residences and businesses. They travel daily to cities, towns and suburban areas to deliver and collect mail. They can deliver mail by foot in cities, or they drive a mail truck from one drop-off point to the next in suburban or rural areas.

Here are the most common duties of mail carriers:

  • Sorting mail and preparing it for delivery

  • Delivering and collecting mail on an assigned route

  • Collecting payments for cash-on-delivery items and mail marked "postage due"

  • Entering change-of-address forms for customers who are relocating

  • Collecting signatures for certified, insured and registered mail

  • Adhering to strict schedules for mail deliveries

  • Returning mail with incorrect addresses

  • Answering customer questions and concerns while on route

  • Reporting any issues preventing the delivery of mail

  • Selling stamps and money orders at the postal office

Average salary of a mail carrier

The average salary of a mail carrier is $18.95 per hour as of November 2019, though the range can be from $7.25 to $37.40 per hour. Experience, education and the location of mail carriers affect their wages. The typical tenure for mail carriers is from one to three years.

How to become a mail carrier

Before you can succeed in becoming a mail carrier, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Acquire a high school diploma or GED.

  2. Meet the minimum job requirements.

  3. Pass the postal exam.

  4. Complete the interviewing process.

  5. Get additional training.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

1. Acquire a high school diploma or GED.

To become a mail carrier, you must obtain a high school diploma or GED. Although most applicants are 18 years of age or older, a 16- or 17-year-old graduate is still eligible for this position.

2. Meet the minimum job requirements.

To become a mail carrier, you must be able to meet these minimum requirements:

Physical standards

You should be comfortable with actions such as walking, kneeling, bending, pushing and pulling. You should also be able to lift at least 50 pounds regularly. Mail carriers who work in cities may walk 10 miles per day, so it's important to be prepared to meet this requirement.

Driving record

Since driving is often a requirement for mail carriers, you need to have a clean driving record for five years in any state where you've had a driver's license.

Criminal background check

You must be able to pass a criminal background check to become a mail carrier since it's a federal job.

Drug screening

You must be able to pass a drug test that shows you don't use illegal substances.

Medical assessment

You'll also need to pass a physical assessment. This determines your health and ability to perform the physical duties of a mail carrier.

3. Pass the postal exam.

Also known as the 473 Postal Exam, this written exam has four parts:

  • Forms completion. This portion tests your ability to properly and efficiently fill out forms.

  • Address cross-comparison. Maintaining the accuracy of addresses is vital to the timely delivery of mail, so applicants must demonstrate an ability to check and type/retype an array of addresses.

  • Memory and coding. This portion determines your memorization abilities and how well you can match delivery route codes to addresses.

  • Personal characteristics and experience. The purpose of this section is to find out about your physical and mental ability, as well as any experience that allows you to become a successful mail carrier.

You can complete some of the exam portions online at home, while others might require you to schedule a testing appointment at an approved site. Each portion could take up to an hour to complete.

4. Complete the interviewing process.

Those who achieve a high score on the 473 Postal Exam can continue in the hiring process. However, if you receive a high score and are not invited to complete an interview, you can still apply using the score for up to six years.

Related: 125 Common Interview Questions and Answers (With Tips)

5. Get additional training.

If you get a job as a mail carrier, you can complete additional training to earn promotions in the organization. For instance, there are managerial leadership programs, a supervisory training program or advanced managerial training, which can qualify you to become a supervisor or manager.

Related: How to Find Your Passion

Jobs similar to mail carriers

If you're considering a career as a mail carrier, you might be interested in positions that also involve outdoor work or delivery. Here are 10 jobs that are like mail carrier:

1. Postal service clerk

2. Meter reader

3. School bus driver

4. Train engineer

5. Truck driver

6. Package delivery driver

7. Rideshare driver

8. Utilities technician

9. Parks maintenance worker

10. Campaign canvasser

Now that you know more about the duties of a mail carrier and how to become one, you can determine if it's a good career fit for you. Indeed is here to help you prepare, and you can start with this Guide: How to Choose a Career.

Frequently asked questions

What skills do you need to be a mail carrier?

Mail carriers have a unique skill set that allows them to perform their jobs successfully, including:

  • Stamina

  • Attention to detail

  • Communication

  • Time management

  • Organization

  • Customer service skills

Do I need certification to be a mail carrier?

You don't need to earn a certification to work, but you will need a valid driver's license in order to drive mail trucks.

How do you study for the 473 Postal Exam?

You can find various practice exams online. If you review these regularly, you'll be much more prepared for the exam. Additionally, if you find that you struggle with any area of the exam, you should spend extra time to ensure you are prepared for those areas.

What are the average hours worked by a mail carrier?

In general, mail carriers work about 40 hours per week. However, many mail carriers may work overtime to complete their routes.

How do you get the best routes?

The best routes are assigned based on seniority and skill level. If you are a newer employee, you'll need to work hard to create a positive track record in order to make yourself eligible to get more preferential routes.

Explore more articles