Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Postal Service mail carriers are defined as city carriers or rural carriers. The former typically receive vehicles from the Postal Service; the latter must use their own vehicles and are then reimbursed. Both types, however, have the same duties in delivering and collecting mail on prescribed routes, collecting money for COD or postage-due fees, and getting signed receipts for registered or certified mail. Salaries for rural carriers depend on their location.
Rural carriers require no specific education to qualify. However, they must have solid English communication skills, be at least 18 years old and either be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens. They must pass a written examination that tests their ability to check names and numbers and memorize mail procedures. When accepted, they must pass a physical exam, drug test and background check. A clean driving record, as well as passing a road test, may be required. Individuals may begin as part-time carriers before transitioning to full-time status. Jobs are filled only as vacancies occur.
The average mail carrier earns a mean $24.16 per hour, or $50,250 per year as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest number of jobs for city carriers are in high-population areas such as New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. The best employment opportunities for rural carriers are in Kansas and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, which also have relatively high populations compared to other rural areas. Wages in both these regions average $22.21 per hour, or $46,200 per year. The highest-paying areas are in southwestern Wyoming, coming in at $25.26 per hour, or $52,550 per year; north-central Colorado, at $24.77 per hour, or $51,250 per year; and north and west-central New Mexico, at $24.60, or $51,160 per year.
As part of their compensation, rural carriers receive regular pay increases and overtime pay. They get health insurance, with most of the costs covered by the Postal Service, as well as basic life insurance, which requires no contributions. They may also participate in tax-free flexible spending accounts to pay for health care expenses not covered by insurance. Carriers are entitled to 10 holidays, 13 to 25 days of vacation and 13 days of sick leave per year. The federal retirement program provides a pension and disability coverage when rural carriers retire. Additional retirement options include a Thrift Savings Plan with matching contributions, as well as Social Security.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't break out the job outlook separately for rural carriers. However, it does predict little to no change in opportunities for all mail carriers from 2008 to 2018. This is due to a number of factors. Advanced technology reduces the time needed to sort mail, allowing carriers to spend more of their time on delivery. This increases the size of their routes and reduces the need for carriers. In addition, more people are switching to email and Internet communication and sending fewer letters. Those wanting to be mail carriers will experience keen competition, as applicants outnumber available positions. The best opportunities will be in areas of high population growth, where mail service is expected to increase.
Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.