Thousands apply each year for postal jobs, and those who understand the hiring process and study for entrance exams – when required – will dramatically improve their chances. The Postal Service never charges fees to take an exam or to apply for jobs. Don’t be misled by ads that offer postal employment and charge a fee for their services. You will find what you need on this site and in our Post Office Jobs Study Guide.
This site provides an overview of what is available, including many jobs that don’t require written tests, and how to apply for them. Over half of all workers are mail carriers and clerks; however, postal workers are employed in hundreds of diverse occupations, from janitors and truck drivers to accountants, personnel specialists, electronics technicians, and engineers.
Post Office Jobs Overview
Getting in is half the battle. If you are qualified in an occupation that currently has no openings, apply for positions that require the 473 exam for entry level positions such as Postal Clerks and Mail Carriers to get in the door. You can also apply for related occupations that you meet the qualifications for. The Postal Service generally advertises jobs in-house first to offer qualified workers opportunities for advancement. If the position can’t be filled in-house it advertises the jobs to the public. You will have the opportunity to bid on other jobs if you have the qualifications and a good track record.
Another option is to apply for supplemental work as a casual or transitional part time employee. The Postal Service hires many casual workers to assist with mail-delivery during peak periods, and hires transitional employees to backfill for career carrier positions. You don’t have to pass an exam to be hired, and if you do well in the position you will be able to take the 473 exam when jobs do open up. Many current employees started out as supplemental workers. Casuals can work two 89-day employment terms and 21 days during the Christmas holiday each year and transitional employees can work up to one year to backfill for letter carriers. Also consider applying for rural carrier positions in your area.
Supplemental workers earn a fair wage, and you will get exposure to what the Postal Service has to offer. These jobs are demanding and have flexible schedules and often require long hours on short notice.
Adding benefits, overtime, and premiums, the average bargaining unit annual compensation rate was $77,000. The Postal Service is huge by any standard, employing over 644,000 workers with an annual operating revenue of $72 billion. It pays over $2 billion in salaries and benefits every two weeks to workers in 300 occupations for positions at 35,000 post offices, branches, and stations throughout the United States. Hiring is needed each year to backfill for retirements, transfers, deaths and to replace employees who choose to leave for other reasons.
Starting pay is $18.77 per hour for (Grade 4) part-time flexible mail carriers. Mail handlers’ full time annual basic rate is $37,533 per year for Grade 4, and clerks start at $30,598 per year. Workers are initially hired under the part-time flexible pay scale and typically work 40 or more hours per week.
The largest pay system in the Postal Service is predominantly for bargaining unit employees. There are also executive and administrative annual Pay-For-Performance schedules for non-bargaining unit members that pay from $25,619 up to an authorized maximum of $129,792. The PS pay scale is the largest pay system in the USPS and is predominately for bargaining unit employees.
Bargaining unit employees initial appointments are either casual or transitional (temporary) or Part-Time Flexible (Career). Hourly rates for Part-Time Flexible employees vary depending upon the position’s rate schedule. Some positions are filled full-time such as the Maintenance (Custodial) classification. Corporate non-tested positions are classified differently. Click here for Corporate job information.
Full-Time and Part-Time Flexible (career) employees compose the Regular Work Force. This category includes security guards. Part-Time Flexible employees are scheduled to work fewer than 40 hours per week and they must be available for flexible work hours as assigned. Part-Time Flexible employees are paid by the hour. Hourly rates vary from $16.72 for PS Grade 3 Step BB to $31.62 for PS Grade 11 step P. See page 15 for a complete pay scale listing.
A Supplemental Work Force is needed by the Postal Service for peak mail periods and offers casual (temporary) employees two 89-day employment terms in a calendar year. During Christmas an additional 21 days of employment can be offered to Supplemental Work Force employees. Transitional (temporary) employees can work up to 360 days in carrier positions
College students may be considered for casual (temporary) employment with the Postal Service during the summer months. The rate of pay ranges from $6.55 to $22.50 per hour. Tests are not required and appointments can not lead to a career position. Apply early for summer work. Contact Post Offices in your area by no later than February for summer employment applications. Casual temporary positions are also advertised on the Postal Services’ employment and job listing web site. Visit the “Resources” section for direct links to their site.
Various standards from age restrictions to physical requirements must be met before you can take one of the Postal Service exams.
You must be 18 to apply. Certain conditions allow applicants as young as 16 to apply. Carrier positions requiring driving are limited to age 18 or older. High school graduates or individuals who terminated high school education for sufficient reason are permitted to apply at age 16.
Applicants for clerk, carrier and other specific jobs must pass an entrance exam. Specialties such as mechanic, electronic technician, machinist, and trades must also pass a written test. The overall rating is based on the test results and your qualifying work experience and education. Professionals and certain administrative positions don’t require an entrance exam or written test. They are rated and hired strictly on their prior work experience and education.
The Postal Service schedules exams for applicants who apply for specific jobs online at https://www.usps.com/employment. Exams are scheduled within 14 days from the date you first apply and you can use that same exam results to apply for other vacancies.
The 473 Postal Examination covers the following entry level positions:
- City Carrier
- Mail Processing Clerk
- Mail handler
- Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate
The 473 Postal Examination covers the majority of entry level hiring, although some offices also maintain custodial registers which, by law, are reserved for veterans’ preference eligibles. The USPS also maintains motor vehicle and tractor trailer registers and some highly skilled maintenance positions such as building equipment mechanic, engineman, electronics technician, and general mechanic. All the skilled maintenance positions require examination 931. A separate announcement, examination 932, is required for Electronics Technician positions.
Eight sample exams are presented in Chapter Four of Post Office Jobs, and a sample 473 Battery Test is included in Chapter Five, along with a comprehensive study guide. The 473 examination and completion of forms will require approximately three hours. Jobs with the U.S. Postal Service are highly competitive due to the excellent salary and benefits offered. It’s essential that you pass the test with the highest score possible to improve your chances. The higher your score the better chance of being hired.
Applicants do not have to be U.S. citizens. If you have permanent alien resident status in the United States of America or owe allegiance to the United States you can apply for Postal Service jobs.
Physical requirements are determined by the job. Carriers must be able to lift a 70-pound mail sack and all applicants must be able to efficiently perform assigned duties. Eyesight and hearing tests are required. Applicants must have at least 20/40 vision in the good eye and no worse than 20/100 in the other eye. Eyeglasses are permitted.
Driver’s License (State)
Applicants must have a valid state driver’s license for positions that require motor vehicle operation. A safe driving record is required and a Postal Service road test is administered for the type of vehicle that you will operate.
Drug Testing (Substance Abuse)
The Postal Service maintains a comprehensive program to ensure a drug-free workplace. A qualification for postal employment is to be drug free, and this qualification is determined through the use of a urinalysis drug screen. When you are determined to be in the area of consideration for employment, you will be scheduled for a drug screening test.
Rural Carrier Update
The Postal Service eliminated the Rural Carrier 460 exam in 2008. They must now take the same 473 exam that mail carriers and handlers must pass. You will find rural carrier jobs listed on the Postal Services job search page and you can sort by Sate and city.
This information is excerpted from the all new fourth edition of Post Office Jobs. This title includes everything you need to land a Post Office job. You can also visit your local Library’s Reference Department to review this informative book, order a copy on-line.
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