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Postmaster General Gets Executive Salary but Few Perks
The postmaster general (PMG) of the United States Postal Service (USPS) is the organization’s top administrator. In 2015, the USPS Board of Governors appointed a woman as the 74th postmaster general, the first female in the organization’s history to serve in the role. For every glass ceiling that’s shattered or traditional “boys’ club” environment penetrated, more opportunities become available for women, including working mothers. The PMG’s duties are similar to that of any company’s head/CEO. As such, it’s fitting that her salary should be at an executive level. In most large companies, however, executives are rewarded with hefty bonuses based on performance, even when the company is not doing well. This is not quite the case with the USPS.
A Strategic Goal-Setter
As the top administrator, the PMG doesn’t handle the day-to-day operations of individual post offices or of the USPS organization. Each post office has its own postmaster, and the USPS has many managers who oversee individual departments. Rather, the PMG is a strategic thinker with goals and plans for improving the postal service in the near future and for the long term.
PMG Megan J. Brennan, who was appointed in 2015 and continues to serve as of February 2018, set her goals, focusing on innovations and speed:
- To continue to find better ways to use data and technology;
- To look for advances in products and services that will improve customer service;
- To continue to improve processes throughout the organization; and
- To fully utilize the talents of the USPS’s 640,000 employees.
Salary and Perks
The PMG’s salary was $287,620 in 2017. Brennan also received a bonus of $9,500. While such a salary is well above the national average, it is not commensurate with the salaries of typical top executive in the public sector. Most large companies pay their chief executives more than $1 million in salary a year, and, with bonuses, their total compensation package is easily several million dollars.
While it’s true that the USPS has not been profitable for many years, profitability is not a factor in the public sector when determining top executives’ bonuses. Instead, bonuses are considered an incentive for executives to strive to reach the goals they and the company have outlined.
Alas, there is also no corporate jet for the PMG to use for quick access to branch offices or board meetings. No corporate apartment to borrow, either. Perks such as these may seem ridiculous to the average worker, but they are nevertheless a standard among top executives in the public sector.
How to Become Postmaster General
The PMG is appointed by the USPS Board of Governors, which is similar to a company’s board of directors. The board of governors is composed of nine people appointed by the president of the U.S. with counsel and approval from the Senate. The PMG then becomes a member of the board as well.
PMGs are usually career postal employees who have served in numerous capacities with increasing levels of responsibility. Therefore, they have direct knowledge of the many different departments in the USPS and how they operate.
Brennan, for example, started working at the USPS as a letter carrier. She received promotions throughout her 30-year career, most recently serving as vice president of the Northeast and East area operations, executive vice president of USPS, and chief operating officer before being appointed postmaster general. She has a master of business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Since there is only one postmaster general in the USPS, your chances (or anyone’s chances) of becoming PMG are very small, just as anyone’s chances of becoming CEO of any company are small. However, there are many other managerial positions within the USPS that working mothers can aspire to and, in fact, in which they are successfully employed.
Other USPS Jobs
Every post office has a postmaster who is the manager of that branch, overseeing operations and employees. The median annual salary for postmasters was $71,670 in May 2016. A median salary is the midpoint in a list of salaries, with half earning more and half earning less.
For the same time period, USPS mail carriers earned median salaries of $58,110; mail clerks earned median salaries of $56,790; and mail sorters and processors earned median salaries of $56,220. The median salary for USPS workers overall was $56,790. At the high end of salaries, there were 29 employees who earned over $200,000 in 2017, and 3,571 who made more than $100,000.
USPS employees are required to be at least 18 to be hired or 16 with a high school diploma. They must pass background and drug tests as well as physical and written tests. If you want to be a candidate for top management, though, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree in administration or business would make you even more competitive.
Bleak Job Outlook
As long as postal service exists, there will always be a PMG at the top. However, other USPS jobs are expected to decline by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026, mostly due to continued automation.
The need for mail carriers and clerks is expected to decrease by 12 percent each. Mail carriers will spend less time sorting mail also, which will leave more time for them to deliver mail. Routes can then be combined, thereby reducing the need for as many mail carriers. Continued and increased use of email and electronic bill pay will reduce the volume of first-class mail, leaving fewer positions for clerks to staff post offices. With a smaller amount of mail overall and automation doing more of the sorting and processing work, the need for mail sorters and processors is expected to decline by 16 percent.
- FedSmith: Postal Service: Highest Paid Postal Employees and Highest Averages
- BLS: Occupational Employment and Wages May 2016: Postmaster and Mail Superintendents
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postal Service Workers
- USPS: About Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer
- USPS: About the Postal Service Board of Governors
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area who has written about careers and education for work.chron.com, workingmother.com, classroom.synonym.com and more. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards for her writing.