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Postal Clerks & Mail Carrier Job Descriptions
Clerks, more commonly referred to as mail handlers, unload the sacks of
incoming mail; separate letters, parcel post, magazines, and newspapers;
and transport these to the proper sorting and processing area. In
addition, they may perform simple canceling operations and rewrap
packages damaged in processing after letters have been put through
Clerks operating electronic letter-sorting machines push keys
corresponding to the ZIP code of the local post office to which each
letter will be delivered; the machine then drops the letters into the
A growing proportion of clerks operate optical character readers (OCRs)
and barcode sorters, machines that can "read" the address and sort a
letter according to a code printed on the envelope. Others sort
odd-sized letters, magazines, and newspapers by hand. Finally, the mail
is sent to local post offices, sorted according to delivery route, and
Post Clerk Menu
Clerks and carriers are distinguished by the type of work they do. Clerks are
usually classified by the mail processing function they perform, whereas
carriers are classified by their type of route; city or rural. About 350 mail
processing centers throughout the country service post offices in surrounding
areas and are staffed primarily by postal clerks.
Postal clerks at local post offices sort local mail for delivery to
individual customers and provide retail services such as selling stamps and
money orders, weighing packages to determine postage, and checking that packages
are in satisfactory condition for mailing. Clerks also register, certify, and
insure mail and answer questions about postage rates, post office boxes, mailing
restrictions, and other postal matters. Occasionally, they may help a customer
file a claim for a damaged package.
Once the mail has been processed and sorted, it is ready to be delivered by
mail carriers. Duties of city and rural carriers are very similar. Most travel
established routes delivering and collecting mail. Mail carriers start work at
the post office early in the morning, where they spend a few hours arranging
their mail for delivery and taking care of other details. Carriers may cover the
route on foot, by vehicle, or a combination of both. On foot, they carry a heavy
load of mail in a satchel or push it in a cart. In some urban and most rural
areas, they use a car or small truck. Although the Postal Service provides
vehicles to city carriers, most rural carriers use their own automobiles.
Deliveries are made house-to-house, to roadside mailboxes, and to large
buildings. such as offices or apartments, which generally have all the mailboxes
on the first floor.
Besides delivering and collecting mail, carriers collect money for
postage-due and c.o.d. (cash on delivery) fees and obtain signed receipts for
registered, certified, and insured mail. If a customer is not home, the carrier
leaves a notice that tells where special mail is being held.
After completing their routes, carriers return to the post office with mail
gathered from street collection boxes, homes, and businesses. They turn in the
mail receipts and money collected during the day and may separate letters and
parcels for further processing by clerks.
The duties of some city carriers may be very specialized; some deliver only
parcel post while others collect mail from street boxes and receiving boxes in
office buildings. In contrast, rural carriers provide a wide range of postal
services. In addition to delivering and picking up mail, they sell stamps and
money orders and accept parcels, letters, and items to be registered, certified,
All carriers answer customers' questions about postal regulations and
services and provide change-of-address cards and other postal forms when
requested. In addition to their regularly scheduled duties, carriers often
participate in neighborhood service programs in which they check on elderly or
shut-in patrons or notify the police of any suspicious activities along their
Postal clerks and mail carriers are classified as casual, part-time flexible,
part-time regular, or full time. Casual workers help process and deliver mail
during peak mailing or vacation periods. Part-time flexible workers do not have
a regular work schedule or weekly guarantee of hours; they replace absent
workers and help with extra work as the need arises. Part-time regulars have a
set work schedule of less than 40 hours per week. Full-time postal employees
work a 40-hour week over a 5-day period.
Postal clerks usually work in clean, well-ventilated, and well-lit buildings.
However, other conditions vary according to work assignments and the type of
labor saving machinery available. In small post offices, mail handlers use hand
trucks to move heavy mail sacks from one part of the building to another and
clerks may sort mail by hand. In large post offices and mail processing centers,
chutes and conveyors move the mail, and much of the sorting is done by machines.
Despite the use of automated equipment, the work of mail handlers and postal
clerks can be physically demanding. These workers are usually on their feet,
reaching for sacks and trays of mail or placing packages and bundles into sacks
and trays. Mail handlers and distribution clerks may become bored with the
routine of moving and sorting mail. Many work at night or on weekends because
most large post offices process mail around the clock, and the largest volume of
mail is sorted during the evening and night shifts.
Window clerks, on the other hand, have a greater variety of duties, frequent
contact with the public, and rarely have to work at night. However, they may
have to deal with upset customers, and they are held accountable for the
assigned stock of stamps and for postal funds.
Most carriers begin work early in the morning, in some cases as early as 4 a.m.
if they have routes in the business district. A carrier's schedule has its
advantages, however: Carriers who begin work early in the morning are through by
early afternoon, and they spend most of the day on their own, relatively free
from direct supervision.
Carriers spend most of their time outdoors, and deliver mail in all kinds of
weather. Even those who drive often must walk when making deliveries and must
lift heavy sacks of parcel post items when loading their vehicles. In addition,
carriers always must be cautious of potential hazards on their routes. Wet roads
and sidewalks can be treacherous, and each year numerous carriers are bitten by
"Post Office Jobs" is the only career guide that includes guidance on how to
successfully handle the postal pre-appointment interview, prepare for the 473
Battery Test and it presents complete position descriptions for the Post
Office's top 25 job classifications. It also lists all 2,000 Postal Service job
classifications including the pay and total number employed in that occupation.
Job seekers looking for good pay with excellent benefits should pursue the
postal service job market and use this book's resources to begin their personal
job search. The
Job Hunter's Checklist will take you step-by-step through the process.
Also, explore and apply for all job vacancies in the government and private
sectors to improve you chance of employment. You can post your resume online
at no cost to expand your job search.
Office Jobs / 473 Postal Exam Study Guide / Government Jobs
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