How To Get A Job At The United States Postal Service

By Abby McCain - Nov. 23, 2020

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Getting a job at the post office can mean anything from delivering mail to maintaining trucks to optimizing the organization’s operational processes.

Whatever your work experience or education level is, chances are there is an opportunity for you at the United States Postal Service. This is usually a relatively stable career option since there is always mail that needs to be delivered, and there are jobs available all across the country.

In this article, you’ll learn more about what it’s like to work at the USPS and how to apply for a job there.

Working at the Post Office

While the particulars about your salary and qualifications will depend on the position you apply for, here are some details about what it’s like to work for the USPS.

Whether you want to be the one out driving mail trucks or would rather be working from a corporate office, there are more positions available at the post office than you might think. Here is a list of just the job categories from the USPS website:

Salary and Benefits

The median pay for postal workers in 2019 was $52,060 per year or $25.03 per hour. This will obviously vary depending on where you live, how much experience you have, and what your job is, but it’s a good baseline to use as a reference point.

Some additional benefits come with a job at the post office, especially since it’s a government job. In addition to a variety of federal health and savings plans, postal workers also get a generous number of paid vacation days and discounts on commuter tickets.

Required Qualifications

Post office hiring managers will want to examine your employment history and hold a few interviews with you before offering you a position, just as hiring managers do at any company.

However, there are some additional qualifications you need to have before you can be offered a job at the USPS.

  1. You need to be at least 18 years old. The only exception to this is if you are 16 years old and already have a high school diploma. You can typically apply for a position before you’re eligible, but you’ll need to meet the age criteria before you can receive and accept a job offer.

  2. You need to be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. Basically, you just need to be able to legally live and work in the U.S. or the U.S. territories, whether you’re technically a citizen or not.

  3. You have to pass a drug test and criminal background check. This is a pretty common requirement for job applicants, especially when you’re applying for a job with a federal organization like the USPS that will have you regularly handling sensitive information.

  4. Depending on the position you apply for, you need to have a driver’s license and a good driving record. If you’re applying for a position where you’ll be driving trucks, you’ll need to have an excellent driving record in addition to a current license.

    You might also need to take an additional driving test with the post office before you’re hired for a position like this.

  5. You need to be registered with the Selective Service, if applicable. Since it’s a federal organization, the USPS requires you to be registered with the draft, or the Selective Service, before you can be hired. This is only if you’re eligible to do so, though.

  6. You’ll have to meet any applicable physical skills requirements. Once you’re hired, you’ll have to go through a medical assessment to make sure that you’re physically able to do your job long-term.

    Depending on your position, you might also have to meet more specific requirements, such as lifting a certain amount of weight and passing hearing and vision exams.

Skills You’ll Need

While the particular skills you need to have for a job at the USPS depends on the position you’re applying for, there are some more general abilities that you’ll need to have as well.

  • Technical skills. One of the requirements for nearly all post office jobs (except corporate positions) is a passing score on the Postal 473 Exam. This free test has a portion that you can do online, but the majority of it needs to be completed in person with a proctor. Here are the skills that the exam will cover:

    Once you complete this exam, you can use your score in any of your applications for post office positions for several years.

  • Soft skills. In addition to the skills on the exam, USPS hiring managers generally want to see that candidates have some specific soft skills.

    1. Communication skills. Since the USPS is composed of such an extensive network of physical locations and employees across the country, communication skills are critical for its employees.

      Even if you’re just going to be working with a small team of people, being able to communicate with them effectively is key to keeping operations running smoothly.

    2. Adaptability. Remember the mailman’s creed? “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

      Mail delivery can’t stop, even when current events and weather conditions don’t cooperate. Whether you want to be the one delivering the mail or prefer to work behind-the-scenes, you’re going to need to be able to tackle unexpected challenges and changes cheerfully.

    3. Reliability. Every company wants to rely on its employees to show up and get their jobs done well, but this is especially true in a business where millions depend on the organization to perform effectively.

      As a result, your hiring managers will want to know that you’ll be a worker they can count on.

    4. Cooperation/teamwork. Being a good team member is important for any career, and working for the post office is no different.

      Interviewers will want to see that you’re ready and willing to support your team, both by doing your job well and by giving them a helping hand when they need it. Come to the interview with examples of how you’ve done this in the past to show that you will be a valuable addition to their team.

Tips for Getting a Job at the Post Office

Because the USPS is such a large organization, much of its application process is automated, which means your application may not make it through if you don’t complete it correctly.

Ensure you read all of the instructions as you go and make sure you fill everything out completely. You should also follow these tips:

  1. Give yourself enough time. The application can take an hour and a half to complete, so make sure that you have enough time to give it your full attention until it’s finished.

    Even if you don’t take the whole hour and a half, it’s better to leave too much time so that you don’t feel rushed than not enough.

  2. Make sure your computer is ready. You’ll need to make sure the computer you’re using has an Adobe PDF reader and at least one of these browsers that supports the USPS’s system:

    • Internet Explorer

    • Mozilla Firefox

    • Chrome

    • Safari

  3. List relevant experience. There will be some sections of the application where you need to write about the skills and accomplishments that qualify you for the position you’re applying for.

    When you complete these sections, make sure you’re listing the qualifications related to the job description. Try to go item by item in the posting and provide an example of how you’ve demonstrated each skill in your past experience.

Preparing for the Postal 473-Exam

Once you complete your application, you’ll need to take the Postal 473 Exam, where you’ll need to get a score of 70 or higher to pass. A higher score will help you get a job more easily, so even if you’re confident you’ll pass without studying, it’s worth the effort to do a little extra preparation to make sure you perform well.

  1. Find resources to help you study and prepare. From practice tests to study guides, there are plenty of resources out there, and many of them are free.

  2. Practice your pacing. Completing the test quickly is key to getting a good score, so try to keep track of this when completing your practice exams. See if you can speed up without sacrificing accuracy and keep practicing until you can.

  3. Be intentional about when you schedule your exam. Many people choose to complete the online portion of the postal exam before they complete the in-person sections.

    If you choose to do this, just make sure you can schedule the rest of the sections for a date less than two weeks from when you took the first part. If you select a date later than that, you will probably have to retake the section you did at home.

  4. Take care of yourself. No matter how much you studied, your exam isn’t likely to go well if you go into it tired and hungry.

    Get a good night’s sleep the night before and eat a nutritious meal before you arrive. Just make sure you don’t eat so much that it makes you sleepy again.

    Plan to arrive at the testing location early and give yourself more than enough time to get there. This will allow you to get settled in once you arrive and collect your thoughts before you have to start taking the test. It will also keep you from being late if you make a wrong turn or can’t find a parking space.

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Abby McCain

Abby is a writer who is passionate about the power of story. Whether it’s communicating complicated topics in a clear way or helping readers connect with another person or place from the comfort of their couch. Abby attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in writing with concentrations in journalism and business.

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