Couriers are responsible for transporting documents and other items for businesses and individuals. In urban areas, they usually make their delivers by bike, while suburban or rural area couriers usually use cars. Many work part time and use the job as a secondary source of income. As a result, a great deal of turnover usually provides many opportunities for those interested in courier positions.
Couriers are given their assignments by phone, two-way radio or wireless data service. They learn where they must pick up an item and then deliver it to the intended receiver. In some cases, they may be required to request payment when they pick up an item. Couriers are usually responsible for obtaining a signature when they make a delivery so there is proof that the intended party has received the item. Some couriers work for one company and make all of their outside deliveries. Others are responsible for transporting documents through the company’s internal mail system. Many couriers also work for courier services, which make deliveries for various companies. They may also work as independent contractors and run their own business.
There are no formal education requirements for couriers, though many employers prefer workers who have a high school diploma or GED. Most couriers train on the job and may sometimes shadow an experienced courier to learn the duties and responsibilities. Couriers who transport medical specimens or organ donations may be required to receive special training in the proper handling. Most employers require couriers to have a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record as well. They must have a good sense of direction and strong communication skills. Most couriers are responsible for their own transportation, so they must own a car, bicycle, van, moped or motorcycle.
Couriers spend most of the day making deliveries, which allows them to work without much supervision. The job can be physically demanding, as many couriers use bicycles to ride from location to location and must often brave inclement weather and traffic to make deliveries. Couriers who use cars, vans or trucks to make their deliveries may have to transport heavy materials as well. In some cases, the materials may be highly sensitive or valuable, and they are responsible for the items until they reach their destination. Couriers must also make timely deliveries, which can be stressful. Most couriers work a standard week of Monday through Friday, though night and weekend shifts may be required.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wages of couriers and messengers were $11.22 per hour as of May 2008. The highest 10 percent were paid more than $17.77, while the lowest 10 percent were paid less than $7.88. The middle 50 percent were paid between $9.08 and $14.10. Medical and diagnostic laboratories were the highest-paying employer for couriers and messengers, with median hourly wages of $12.05.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be no change in employment for couriers and messengers between 2008 and 2018. Because documents, forms, files and other materials can now be sent digitally, the need for hand delivery services has decreased. Many openings will result in the field from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Candidates who work in urban areas should enjoy the best opportunities.