How To Become a Mail Carrier (And How Much They Make)

Updated April 25, 2023

Mail carriers are federal employees who deliver letters, packages and other items. They complete an extensive application process to get a job offer, so it's important to review what steps to take if you want to pursue this role. Understanding the skills and qualifications required for this position can help you determine if it's the right role for you.

In this article, we explain what a mail carrier does, describe how much they earn, outline the steps you can take to become one and answer frequently asked questions about this role.

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's an overview of mail carriers' job duties:

  • Delivering mail: Mail carriers deliver mail to residential and business addresses on their assigned route.

  • Collecting outgoing mail: They also collect outgoing mail from homes and businesses.

  • Sorting mail: Mail carriers sort the mail before delivering it to ensure it's organized properly.

  • Obtaining signatures for registered, certified, and insured mail: Mail carriers obtain signatures for certain types of mail to ensure delivery to the intended recipient.

  • Handling packages: Mail carriers handle packages of various sizes and weights frequently.

  • Updating delivery records: They update delivery records, including the delivery of registered, certified, and insured mail.

  • Interacting with customers: Mail carriers may interact with customers on their route, answering questions and providing information about postal services.

  • Reporting mail delivery problems: They report delivery problems such as incorrect addresses or damaged mail to their supervisors.

  • Maintaining a clean and safe work environment: Mail carriers, including their delivery vehicle, maintain a clean and safe work environment.

Related: 8 Pros and Cons of Being a Mail Carrier

How much do mail carriers earn?

The national average salary for a mail carrier is $41,218 per year. Experience, education and location can impact how much mail carriers earn. The typical tenure for mail carriers is from one to three years. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: How To Get a Career With USPS: Types of Jobs and Benefits

How to become a mail carrier

Before you can succeed in becoming a mail carrier, ensure to complete the following steps:

1. Acquire a high school diploma or GED

To become a mail carrier, a high school diploma or GED is necessary. Although most applicants are 18 years of age or older, a 16- or 17-year-old graduate is still eligible for this position so long as they have a degree.

Related: GED vs. High School Diploma: What's the Difference?

2. Meet the minimum job requirements

To become a mail carrier, there are certain minimum requirements to consider, such as:

  • Physical standards: Be comfortable with actions such as walking, kneeling, bending, pushing and pulling and ensure you can 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, a clean driving record for five years in any state where you've had a driver's license is necessary.

  • Criminal background check: You must be able to pass a criminal background check to become a mail carrier because it's a federal job.

  • Drug screening: It's essential for you to be able to pass a drug test that shows you don't use illegal substances.

  • Medical assessment: A passing physical assessment is also necessary. This determines your health and ability to perform the physical duties of a mail carrier.

Related: What Can Be Revealed in a Background Check?

3. Pass the postal exam

The exam measures your aptitude for performing tasks such as sorting and delivering mail. You may be able to take it online, and it's essential to score well enough to be placed on the eligibility list for hiring consideration. 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 demonstrating an ability to check and type/retype an array of addresses is beneficial.

  • 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, and 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.

Related: How To Apply for Post Office Jobs in 5 Steps (With FAQs)

4. Complete the interviewing process.

After passing the exam, you can apply for open mail carrier positions on the USPS website or at your local post office. The USPS may require you to pass a driving test, as many mail carriers use USPS vehicles to make deliveries. 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: 19 Top Interview Questions in 2023 (With Sample Answers)

5. Get additional training.

After an employer hires you as a mail carrier, you can expect to attend training that covers the procedures and policies of the USPS and the safe handling of mail and packages. This training lasts about one month and prepares you for your new role.

Related: 15 Ways To Find Your Passion in Life

6. Complete your evaluation period

As a new mail carrier, you typically have an evaluation period of 90 days to demonstrate that you can perform the job duties effectively. This allows you to highlight your skills and competencies and show that you're a trustworthy and timely mail carrier.

Related: Mail Handler vs. Clerk: Responsibilities and Differences

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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 carriers:

  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

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 a valid driver's license is necessary to drive mail trucks. Pursuing certifications can help you improve your appeal to companies, negotiate higher salaries or enable to you to drive special mail routes, such as rural delivery routes.

How do you study for the 473 Postal Exam?

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

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