In order to work for the USPS, applicants must be a minimum of eighteen years of age. He or she must be a U.S. citizen or have permanent alien-resident status. Men must be registered with the Selective Service program.


Originally, letter carriers worked fifty-two weeks a year, typically nine to eleven hours a day from Monday through Saturday, and, if necessary, part of Sunday. In 1884, Congress passed legislation granting them fifteen days of leave per year. In 1888, Congress declared that eight hours was a full day's work and that carriers would be paid for additional hours worked per day.

You must have what is described as a “basic competency” in the English language. This will be determined in a written test that checks your speed and accuracy in dealing with names and numbers, as well as your ability to comprehend mail distribution protocols.

A physical exam is also required, the thrust of which is that you must be able to lift and carry sacks weighing seventy pounds. There is also the ubiquitous drug test. Those applying for letter-carrier positions must have a driver's license and a good record, and the USPS will administer its own road test in one of its vehicles.

Interested applicants should visit their local post office, or the one where they would like to work, to see when and where examinations will be given. Scores will be posted, with names in descending order of the highest grades. You get a bonus of five points if you are an honorably discharged veteran and an extra ten points if you are a veteran wounded in combat. When vacancies open, the appointing officer picks one of the top three applicants. The others remain on the list for future consideration for two years after the test date.

There is much competition for window-clerk and letter-carrier jobs, and there is a waiting period of between one and two years after the test. Do not wait at home to hear from them. The vast majority of hires leave other jobs to go to work for the USPS. If hired, you will be trained by a veteran worker. You may also be obliged to take courses in safe and defensive driving. You will, of course, be trained on any equipment by a seasoned old hand familiar with the machinery.

You will need, if you do not already have them, the virtues of courtesy and tact. You will be dealing with the general public, and that can be trying to one's soul. You should also be able to deal with your colleagues in a professional manner. Some USPS workers begin as part-time employees before being promoted to full-time status. With seniority comes the chance to bid on preferential shifts or routes.

Because of increased automation and competition from private delivery companies like Fed Ex and UPS, opportunities at the USPS are expected to decline over the next several years. Of course, there will always be the need to replace retiring workers, but you can expect the competition to be great. The best opportunities will be in rural areas, but there will not likely be many opportunities in large urban centers.


In 1860, postmasters took the following oath: “I, _______________, do swear/affirm that I will faithfully perform all the duties required of me, and abstain from everything forbidden by the laws in relation to the establishment of the Post Office and post roads within the United States. I do solemnly swear/affirm that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”

The average annual salary of letter carriers ranges from $37,590 to $50,580, depending on length of service. Window clerks earn between $37,880 and $44,030. The average for sorters, processors, and process-machine operators is between $36,240 and $42,620. All have very good benefits, including vacation pay and health coverage similar to other federal government jobs. You will also be represented by one of these unions, depending on your job: the American Postal Workers Union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, or the National Rural Letter Carriers Association.

Visit your local post office and/or state employment service office for details about entrance examinations and specific employment opportunities for USPS workers. You can also visit the USPS on the Web at

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