Become a Mail Carrier: Education and Career Roadmap

Apr 27, 2020

Learn the steps for becoming a mail carrier. Explore the education and application requirements for starting a career as a mail carrier and advancing in the United States Postal Service.

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Mail Carriers

Mail carriers retrieve and deliver mail to homes and businesses. Some carriers may be required to have certain packages signed for by addressees, distribute incoming mail, and sort letters and packages. Career opportunities vary from large cities to rural locations. Letters and packages may be delivered by foot or using vehicles. Walked routes may be tiring, and mail must be delivered in all sorts of weather conditions.

Career Skills & Info

Education Level High school diploma or equivalent
Licensure/Certification Postal exam; driver's license with safe driving record; criminal background check and drug test; US citizenship
Key Skills Customer service; detail-oriented; strong work ethic; physical stamina
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 20% decrease (for postal service mail carriers)
Median Salary (2019)* $51,310 (for postal service mail carriers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*; U.S. Postal Service

Mail carriers must be citizens of the United States, have a driver's license and a safe driving record, and pass a criminal background check. Mail carriers need good customer service skills and physical stamina. They should also be detail-oriented and have a strong work ethic.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postal service mail carriers can expect a 20% decrease in employment from 2018 to 2028. As of May 2019, the median annual salary for a postal service mail carrier was $51,310.

In these next few sections we'll take a look at some of the educational and hiring steps you'll need to follow to become a mail carrier.

Step 1: High School Diploma

Mail carriers need to have a high school diploma. High school graduates under the age of 18 are also eligible for a mail carrier position. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), applicants must also have a basic competency in English.

Success Tip: Get in shape before applying to the USPS

According to the BLS, applicants must demonstrate their ability to lift 50 pounds and walk for an entire shift without injuring themselves. Developing a physical fitness routine will be beneficial while still in school or before applying.

Step 2: Postal Exam

The USPS requires that applicants pass the 473 Postal Exam. This is a written exam that tests applicants in four different areas, including address cross comparison, forms completion, memory and coding, and personal characteristics and experience. This exam is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long.

Success Tip: Take practice tests and utilize study materials

The USPS offers numerous practice tests that aspiring mail carriers can take advantage of before sitting down for the actual exam. A study guide is also available that can help applicants prep for the test.

Step 3: Interview Process

In order to ensure that applicants are qualified to work for the USPS, the organization requires them to go through an interview process. High-scoring applicants are invited to participate in an interview process to ensure they are right for the job. The interview consists of three parts: an introductory, middle, and final phase. The introductory phase includes the greeting and small talk, while the middle phase is the time when the interviewer asks the applicant questions. The final phase is an opportunity for the applicant to ask the interviewer questions.

Step 4: Further Training

The USPS offers several career advancement programs including a supervisory training program, a managerial leadership program, and an advanced managerial program. Once mail carriers finish these programs, they can advance into field supervision or managerial and planning positions. Mail carriers should be aware in advance that route preferences are awarded on a seniority basis.

Let's review. Requirements for USPS mail carriers include a high school diploma, a clean criminal background check and driving record, and proof of US citizenship. They must also pass the 473 postal exam and go on an interview.

Expert Contributor: Christiane Warren Christiane has M.Phil & PhD degrees in American Intellectual History. She's been an academic/career advisor, assistant dean and higher ed consultant.

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