Becoming a Postal Service Worker: Working for the U.S. Postal Service in Entry-Level Jobs (page 2)
Eligibility, Requirements, and Benefits
The official U.S. postal system was created during the American Revolution, primarily to facilitate the delivery of important messages among various divisions of the Revolutionary army. Meeting in July of 1775, the Second Continental Congress named Benjamin Franklin, who had been instrumental in devising the system’s framework and recommending it to the Congress, as the postal system’s initial Postmaster General.
Today, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is one of the nation’s largest civilian employers, currently employing more than 700,000 people in career positions throughout the country. A career position with the Postal Service can be rewarding work: the compensation and benefits packages are among the best you’ll find anywhere, and you’ll enjoy the additional satisfaction of knowing that you are part of a long tradition of providing vital services to the country and its people.
Understandably, Postal Service employment is attractive to many, many people, and the market for Postal Service career jobs is very competitive. Application exams such as Test 473 are one means that the Postal Service uses to screen applicants and identify those who are best qualified for various positions. Test 473 is officially known as Test 473 for Major Entry-Level Jobs and is also referred to as the 473 Battery Exam. (It replaces the old 470 Battery Exam.)
If you’re applying for a job that requires you to take one of the exams given by the Postal Service, it’s imperative that you gain a competitive edge by preparing thoroughly for the exam. This is especially true for Test 473 because more applicants take this exam than any of the other Postal Service exams. .
Postal Jobs Requiring Test 473 Scores
Applicants for most types of delivery, distribution, and retail jobs with the USPS must take Test 473 (or Test 473-C for City Carriers). There are four positions that fall into this category:
- City Carrier
- Mail Processing Clerk
- Mail Handler
- Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate
Applicants for permanent, or career, positions as City Carrier, Mail Processing Clerk, Mail Handler, or Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate must take and pass Test 473 in order to qualify for these positions. New employees in these four positions are usually paid an hourly wage and work on a somewhat flexible schedule, which varies depending on the work flow, especially the volume of mail during a particular day or season. Following is a brief description of each of these four positions.
Note: The Postal Service also offers temporary, or so-called casual, job positions in the same four categories. A casual job position may last from a few weeks up to a maximum of 90 days, usually during the Christmas holiday season. Applicants for casual positions do not need to take Test 473 or any other exam.
This is the USPS job that is in most demand. City Carriers deliver and collect mail, either on foot or by vehicle (or both), and sort and organize mail for delivery, usually in the mornings. Carriers serving residential areas deliver mail once during the day, but some carriers serving commercial areas deliver mail twice during the day. Carriers also collect payments for cash on delivery (C.O.D.) parcels and obtain receipts for certified, insured, and registered mail.
The job of City Carrier is physically demanding. To perform the job, you must be able to
- Carry mailbags weighing up to 35 pounds on your shoulders
- Unload parcels and mail containers and trays weighing up to 70 pounds
- Stand, walk, and reach for several hours at a time
- Perform the duties just listed under various weather conditions
All applicants for the job of City Carrier must take Test 473 or 473-C.
You must have a valid state driver’s license. You must also show that you have at least two years of driving experience and a safe driving record.
Mail Processing Clerk
Mail Processing Clerks operate, monitor, troubleshoot, and maintain automated mail-processing equipment, bar-code sorters, and optical bar-code readers. Mail Processing Clerks may also perform manual sorting, organizing, and bundling of mail; transfer mail from one area to another; and load mail into bins and trucks.
The job of Mail Processing Clerk can be somewhat physically demanding. To perform the job, you must be able to stand and reach continuously for hours at a time. You might also need to lift and transport heavy bundles and containers.
All applicants for the job of Mail Processing Clerk must take Test 473.
Mail Handlers load and unload containers of mail. Mail Handlers also transport mail, either manually or by forklift, to different areas of the same facility. Mail Handlers may also open and empty containers of mail.
The job of Mail Handler is physically demanding. To perform this job, you must be able to repeatedly lift and carry bundles, parcels, and containers weighing up to 70 pounds as well as push heavy rolling containers. You may also need to know how to operate a forklift.
All applicants for the job of Mail Handler must take Test 473.
Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate
Sales, Services, and Distribution Associates provide direct sales and customer support services in a retail environment and perform distribution of mail.
You must successfully complete an on-the-job training program. There are no special physical demands for this job.
All applicants for the job of Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate must take Test 473.
Jobs Requiring Scores from Other Postal Exams
The four positions described in the preceding section are the ones for which applicants must take Test 473 (or Test 473-C for City Carriers). If you’re interested in a USPS job other than one of these four, you might need to take a different exam. The two positions falling into this category that are most in demand are
- Rural Carrier Associate
- Data Conversion Operator
Like other delivery and distribution workers, these employees usually start by earning an hourly wage and work on a flexible schedule that varies according to work flow. Following is a brief description of each of these two positions.
Rural Carrier Associate
Rural Carrier Associates sort mail into delivery sequence, load the mail into a delivery vehicle, and deliver and collect mail by vehicle at designated addresses in a prescribed rural area. They also collect payments for cash on delivery (C.O.D.) parcels and obtain receipts for certified, insured, and registered mail.
To perform the job of Rural Carrier Associate, you must be able to handle bundles and parcels weighing up to 70 pounds. Also, you must have a valid state driver’s license, at least two years of driving experience, and a safe driving record.
All applicants for the job of Rural Carrier Associate must take Test 460, “Rural Carrier Associate Exam.”
Data Conversion Operator
Data Conversion Operators use a computer terminal to prepare mail for automated sorting equipment. They read typed and handwritten addresses from letter images on the terminal screen, then select and type essential information so that a bar code can be applied to the letter.
To qualify for this job, you must be proficient in typing and data entry, as determined by a performance test (Test 710, described briefly here).
All applicants for the job of Data Conversion Operator must take Test 710, “Clerical Abilities Exam.” This exam measures the per-minute rate at which you can accurately type a certain number of specified numbers and letters.