How To Become A USPS Worker: The Essential Guide

Have you ever heard rumors about working for the USPS? Rumors abound about whether or not there is great job security, how much the USPS pays, and whether or not it’s a tough job.

How To Become A USPS Worker

The way to become a USPS worker is through the USPS website. The site has job listings for currently available jobs. There are few requirements to apply for a job with the USPS. One of those requirements is being a permanent resident or citizen of the United States.

How To Become A USPS Worker: The Essential Guide

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to become a worker at the USPS, continue reading! We are going to go over what the USPS is, what job positions are available, and how to apply. We’ll also address the salary and benefits that the Postal Service offers.

What Is The USPS or United States Postal Service?

The United States Postal Service is a government entity that delivers mail to over 160 million houses, businesses, and post office boxes. They are responsible for delivering all the mail no matter the weather conditions. The Postal Service receives no money from tax dollars and relies on obtaining funds through selling postage and packing materials in their retail stores.

The United States Postal Service History

The USPS was founded in 1775 by the 2nd Continental Congress and it was continued by a clause added to the US Constitution in 1787. The Constitution gave Congress the power to create roads for the Postal Service. The Post Office Act of 1792 was Congress’s push to make the Postal Service a federal entity.

How To Become A USPS Worker: The Essential Guide

The Postal Service has remained a vital part of the nation’s infrastructure even with digital correspondence becoming a major part of our communication networks. The USPS provides a secure method of transporting mail and communication and as a result, it’s the most reliable method of getting mail.

Today the Postal Service delivers 48% of the world’s mail and is one of the United States’ largest employers, employing over a half-million employees according to their website.

What Job Positions Are Available At The USPS?

There are a variety of job positions available at the USPS, some that are more well-known such as carrier positions and retail facing positions, and others that are a little more obscure.

Positions Include:

  1. Automotive Mechanic – An Automotive Mechanic is responsible for troubleshooting and detecting problems within the Postal Fleet’s vehicles as well as performing routine maintenance of all vehicles.
  2. Automotive Technician – Automotive Technicians are responsible for more extensive repairs and services on the Postal Fleet vehicles. Automotive Technicians may use computerized equipment to assist them.
  3. City Carrier and City Carrier Assistant – City Carriers are responsible for delivering mail in the city. They are often referred to as Postal Carriers or Mailmen by laypeople. City Carriers must perform their duties no matter the weather and depending on the location will be on foot or in a vehicle.
  4. Custodian – Custodians are responsible for taking care of and maintaining the buildings they are assigned to work in. Common responsibilities include cleaning and other manual labor.
  5. Industrial Engineer – Industrial Engineers are responsible for overseeing mail processes and determining how to make these services run more smoothly and cost-effectively. The Industrial Engineer improves designs and processes to ensure the system is running efficiently.
  6. Mail Handler Assistant – The Mail Handler Assistant is responsible for loading and unloading bulk mail and processing mail.
  7. PSE Mail Processing Clerk – A PSE Mail Processing Clerk is responsible for sorting and processing mail, sometimes by hand and sometimes by using mail processing equipment.
  8. PSE Sales or Distributions Associate – PSE Sales Associates are the front-facing postal workers that sell a variety of postal products including postage stamps. The PSE Sales Associate must work directly with customers of the Post Office and is required to be knowledgeable about most Postal regulations and laws.
  9. Rural Carrier or Rural Carrier Associate – A Rural Carrier is responsible for delivering mail in a rural area. They are often referred to as Postal Carriers or Mailmen by laypeople. Rural Carriers must perform their duties no matter the weather and case, collect, and deliver mail via a vehicle.
  10. Tractor Trailer Operator – A Tractor-Trailer Operator must operate a tractor-trailer in a variety of circumstances including city shuttle service and trailer spotting operations.
  11. Corporate Positions – The USPS has many corporate careers available as well, including those in accounting and finance, business, sales and marketing, and human resources. Each position is an integral part of the administration of the Postal Service.

What Compensation And Benefits Do the USPS Provide?

Each job at the United States Postal Service comes with a full package of compensation and benefits.

Compensation

Compensation at USPS is based on the position you work in. Depending on the job, many employees are eligible for overtime pay and premium pay for working on Sundays.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2020, the average wages for a mail carrier are $25.57 per hour with an average annual salary of $53,180. The average wages for a mail clerk are similar at $24.62 per hour and an average annual salary of $51,200.

Health Insurance

The United States Postal Service has excellent health insurance benefits provided through the Federal Employees Health Benefits or FEHB. The Postal Service pays for most of the cost for these health plans, but employees can pay for premium health insurance without incurring taxes on those payments. There is a multitude of plans available making health insurance flexible to fit the needs of each employee.

Dental And Vision Insurance

Like with Health Insurance, the Postal Service provides their employees with the option to have dental and vision insurance through the FEDVIP or Federal Employee Dental Vision Insurance Program. Unlike health insurance, the Postal Service doesn’t pay for the premiums for this program. However, employees can choose to purchase these insurances without incurring taxes on the payments.

Flexible Spending Accounts

After a year of employment, eligible full-time employees can participate in a Flexible Spending Account. An FSA is a special type of account for health care and dependent care including daycare services that an employee can put aside a portion of their income for future health costs. The money set aside in an FSA isn’t subject to taxes and employers can add money to an FSA for their employees, as well.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Employees are eligible to enroll in long-term care insurance through the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program which covers long-term care such as nursing homes or assisted living. Medical Insurance typically doesn’t cover long-term care, so this insurance is an added benefit to allow for that type of coverage.

Thrift Savings Plan

The Thrift Savings Plan or TSP is a type of retirement account similar to a 401k that is available to long-term employees of the Postal Service. Like a 401k, payments into the TSP are tax-deferred and the Postal Service matches up to 5% of payments made into the TSP automatically.

Social Security and Medicare

All new employees working for the USPS are covered by Social Security and Medicare plans as part of their employment. 

Life Insurance

Coverage for life insurance is offered through a federal program called the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance or FEGLI. The Postal Service pays for the basic plan as part of the benefits of the job. There are additional plans available, as well. These types of plans are typically paid for through deductions from payroll.

Commuter Program

The USPS offers a commuter program that covers expenses from tax-free purchases such as public transportation and parking costs up to the amount allowed by the IRS to help employees offset costs.

Leave

The Postal Service offers a comprehensive leave plan that includes 13 days of leave for new employees annually. The number of days of leave increases as an employee works for the company. As an example, someone who works for the USPS for more than 3 years would have 20 days of paid leave. After 15 years, a career employee is eligible for 26 days of paid leave per year.

Additionally, the USPS offers 4 hours of earned paid sick leave for each pay period for full-time employees. This is generally used in case of being sick or having an emergency or accident. The sick leave accrues over time.

Additionally, the Postal Service observes 10 holidays each year that are given as time off for Postal Service employees.

Career Development

The USPS offers training and development for career advancement opportunities.

Retirement

USPS employees are eligible for retirement under the Federal Employee Retirement System or FERS. FERS is a three-part system comprising a basic benefit plan, the previously mentioned TSP, and Social Security benefits. The basic benefit plan is paid automatically through payroll. 

Additionally, the USPS has an early retirement program called VERA or Voluntary Employee Retirement Authority. This program is to allow employees that could be laid off during a Postal lay-off to choose early retirement.

Minimum Job Requirements For Being A Postal Worker

The USPS has several minimum requirements for working as a Postal Worker. These job requirements include: 

  • Must be a US Citizen or Permanent Resident with a Green Card.
  • Must be 18 years or older except in special circumstances.
  • Must have recent verifiable employment history.
  • Must be able to pass an employee criminal background check.
  • Must be able to pass a drug test.
  • Must be able to meet the physical requirements for the position being applied for. Carriers must be able to lift 70 pounds. Employees must be able to see and hear well, though glasses are allowed as a means to correct vision.
  • Must have a clean driving record if applying for a position that requires operating a vehicle. 
  • Must be registered with Selective Service if male.
  • Must be able to pass the Postal Service exam required for the position being applied for.

How To Become A USPS Worker: The Essential Guide

Transitioning To The USPS

There are programs available to transition to the USPS if you are a graduate, student, or military member. 

Graduates and Students

There are programs available to recent graduates and students. These include: 

Professional Development Program (PDP)

The professional Development Program allows recent graduates a chance to build their work history in their chosen field as well as network with other employees. 

The PDP is an 18-24 month rotational program in the Washington, D.C. area. It’s a type of internship program that allows interns to build their skills and build their work history with a chance for promotion. Interns are placed in a permanent position at the end of the program with continuing education as an option. 

To be eligible for the program, applicants must be a recent graduate (within the last 2 years unless you are a military veteran, in which case you have up to 6 years) of an accredited school. They must have completed a course of study resulting in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate. They must also have completed a course of study relevant to the position they are applying for.

Intern Program

The intern program is a program designed to match innovative juniors or seniors in college with a need from the USPS. The program is 10 weeks long and focuses on providing work experience for driven students. 

Interns will receive training and professional development, as well as interact with senior-level management and build a network of contacts through the USPS. To be eligible, the student must have completed 60 credit hours through an accredited school. They must also be completing a course that’s relevant to the USPS. 

Operations Industrial Engineer

The USPS is seeking industrial engineers to help them streamline their mail processing services. As a result, they have created a two-year training program for potential industrial engineers. The program teaches engineers how to use multiple software programs, including AutoCAD.

The program lasts for 24 months in multiple Postal Service locations and provides a competitive salary and benefits for the duration. Eligible applicants must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in industrial engineering or Professional Engineering program accredited by ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission. Applicants must be willing to travel for work and work nights or weekends.

Emerging Professionals Program (EPP)

The EPP or Emerging Professionals Program is a 24-month, full-time program designed for graduates. The program is a professional program designed to teach potential leaders with skill-building and training. The program gives participants a chance to build a network of contacts, build skills, and offers chances for promotion upon completion of the program.

Like the PDP, this is a 24-month training program located in the Washington, D.C. area. There are multiple positions available to train for including controller, finance and strategy, pricing and costing, supply management, and treasury. Each position has specific degree requirements as outlined on the USPS website.

Military

Like with graduates and students, there are positions available that give preference to military members. In addition to receiving preference as a member of the military transferring to civilian life, the Postal Service treats military service as prior employment. 

To receive preference when applying to the USPS, you must clearly state your claim for veteran’s preference on your applications. They may require additional documentation including your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, which is otherwise known as a DD-214. 

What Are Postal Exams?

In addition to meeting other eligibility requirements, you may need to pass a postal exam to qualify for a position with the Postal Service. These are online exams that an applicant must take as part of the job screening. There are four exams in total.

Some people who applied before 2019 may have taken the old exam that was required for application, which was known as Exam 473. This exam is no longer valid and neither are the scores from the exam. As a result, applicants applying after 2019 should be familiar with the new exams.

The exams include: 

  1. Virtual Entry Assessment MC 474 – This test is required for those that wish to hold a city or rural carrier position. 
  2. Virtual Entry Assessment MH 475 – This test is required for those that wish to hold a position as a mail handler or mail handler assistant.
  3. Virtual Entry Assessment MP 476 – Several roles require this exam, including mail processing clerk, PSE mail processing clerk, casual mail processing clerk, data conversion operator, PSE data conversion operator, and casual data conversion operator.
  4. Virtual Entry Assessment CS 477 – This test is required for those that wish to hold a position as a sales and service distribution associate, PSE sales and service distribution associate, or casual sales and service distribution associate.

A passing score for the exams is a score of 70 or higher. Unfortunately, a score below 70 receives an ineligible status. The exam is only able to be retaken after one year. The Postal Service ranks the applications it receives by the exam scores of the applicants. How high an applicant’s score is determines how quickly they’ll get an interview.

How To Apply For A Job At The United States Postal Service

There are 21 total steps to applying for a job at the USPS. We’ll walk you through the steps.

Completing The Application

Step 1: Navigate to the United States Postal Services website. 

Step 2: Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link for careers. 

Step 3: Click on the “Search Jobs” button on the right side of the screen.

Step 4: Choose a location where you’d like to be employed. 

Step 5: Click Start and the page will display all job positions available in the chosen location.

Step 6: Select the position you are most interested in applying for and click apply.

Step 7: Register for an account on the Postal Service Website. 

Step 8: Fill in your personal data on the next page of the application.

Step 9: Fill in your work experience on the next page of the application. 

Step 10: Fill in your education and training on the next page of the application.

Step 11: Answer general eligibility questions on the next page of the application.

Step 12: Answer general willingness questions on the next page of the application.

Step 13: Answer questions about driving and related offenses on the next page of the application. 

Step 14: Answer veterans’ preference questions on the next page of the application.

Step 15: Fill in a cover letter on the next page of the application. 

Step 16: Add any attachments, such as a resume, on the next page of the application.

Step 17: Fill in the summary of accomplishments and references on the next page of the application.

Step 18: Answer driving history questions on the next page of the application.

Step 19: Complete the authorization and release for a criminal background check on the next page of the application.

Step 20: Fill out the equal employment opportunity and disability questions on the next page of the application.

Step 21: Send the application.

More about postal service workers HERE

Next Steps

If the USPS determines that you need to complete a virtual entrance assessment, they will send you an email with a link to the assessment that’s required to be completed. You will have 72 hours to complete the assessment. 

Monitor your email closely, because questions about your application, links to take an assessment, and invitations to interview are all sent via email.

Conclusion

The process to get a job at the USPS is fairly simple. You simply need to fill out an application, answering to the best of your ability. You must pass a background check and you may need to complete an entrance assessment. Then you wait for an interview. This process can be time-consuming, but it’s well worth it. A job at the USPS has comprehensive benefits and competitive pay.

Related Questions

Do You Have To Pay For A Postal Exam? 

No. You should never pay to take the postal exam. The exam is free and is sent directly from the USPS to an applicant’s email. 

Do You Have To Pay To Apply For A Job At The Postal Service?

No. You should never pay to apply for a job with the USPS. There are several scams that involve paying a third party who promises you that they can get you a job at the USPS. This is not true.

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.