Mail sorters help carriers organize their routes so residences and businesses receive their mail on time. Without them, the efficiency of your local post office may fall somewhere between the Pony Express and the high-volume producer it is in the 21st century.
Mail sorters receive and cull mail from conveyors, and sort it according to various zip codes. They also load bags for mail carriers and transport them to their trucks. Between mail sorting duties, you may also assist customers with packages and stamp purchases, and distribute mail to customers' post office boxes inside the building. Rewrapping ripped or broken packages and canceling postal stamps by hand are other responsibilities of mail sorters.
A mail sorter checks and verifies the accuracy of addresses on letters and packages, and make corrections as needed. You also clean and repair mail processing equipment as needed, and straighten your area before your shift ends. If you are highly experienced, you may train new mail sorters on procedures and policies of the post office.
Most mail sorters work in warehouse environments or the back rooms of post offices. Most work 40-hour weeks but overtime, such as on April 15 when everyone's rushing to get taxes postmarked on time, may be required. Work can be either monotonous or hectic, especially during the holiday season when the volume of mail is greatest. You also spend most days on your feet or bent over sorting mail, so expect to have a few aches and pains on this job.
Education, Training and Qualifications
Those interested in the job of mail sorter must be 18 to apply. Post offices also prefer to hire those with high school diplomas or equivalent GEDs. Once hired, you must pass a Civil Service exam that tests your speed in recognizing names and distribution procedures, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Training usually includes a few days working with an experienced mail sorter.
Average Salary and Job Outlook
Mail sorters earned an average annual salary of $48,380 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. You can make over $53,100 if you are among the top 10 percent of earners. The top-paying districts or states were the District of Columbia, Connecticut and Delaware with salaries of $52,460, $51,490 and $50,940 per year, respectively. On the downside, the BLS forecasts a precipitous 49 percent decline in mail sorter jobs between 2010 and 2020 due to the automation of the mail sorting process.