Education and Training: None
Salary: Median—$23,650 per year
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Mail clerks sort and deliver mail that comes to business offices. They prepare mail to be turned over to the post office or to a private shipping company. Mail clerks work for government agencies, insurance companies, advertising agencies, schools, mail order firms, and almost every business that receives or sends a great deal of mail.
Part of the mail clerks' job is to distribute mail to the different departments of the company. Mail clerks usually put sorted piles of letters, packages, and other mail into a large rolling bin that resembles a shopping cart. Then they follow a systemized route to deliver the mail to all parts of the building. They may collect outgoing mail from the departments at the same time. Mail clerks also carry memorandums and messages from one department to another. When companies have offices in more than one building, the mail clerks deliver mail from building to building.
Mail clerks also may be required to send out packages. Clerks wrap the packages according to standards set by the U.S. Postal Service and private shipping companies such as Federal Express. Mail clerks weigh packages and letters and put the correct postage on them. In some companies they operate computerized printing and mailing systems, which print out the shipping labels and postage for a package.
Mail clerks must know their company's policy for mailing letters and packages. If they use the wrong postal rate to send a letter, mail clerks could cost the company money and lost business. They may also have to decide for themselves the most efficient way to send mail. Therefore, they must know postal and shipping rates and regulations.
Education and Training Requirements
Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates. However, a high school education is not required for the job of mail clerk. Clerks are trained on the job to follow the company's mail handling procedures. Mail clerks usually begin by doing simple mail handling tasks, such as sorting letters or delivering mail. They should become familiar with the layout of the office building and with the names of the departments. They also should learn about postal rates and regulations. They must be comfortable with computers, because most mail rooms now use computerized mailing systems.
Getting the Job
High school placement offices may be able to help graduating students find jobs as mail clerks. Some companies hire students for summer or part-time jobs. These jobs often lead to full-time jobs after graduation. Check the classified ads of local newspapers or Internet job sites for openings. Some private employment agencies specialize in placing clerical workers. Interested individuals can also apply directly to organizations that employ mail clerks. If a person is interested in a government job, he or she can apply to take the necessary civil service test.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Advancement for mail clerks usually depends on their ability, education, and training. Some clerks become supervisors of mail rooms. Others go into other types of clerical work.
According to the employment predictions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of mail clerks was expected to decline through the year 2014. Electronic mail (e-mail) will cause a decrease in the number of workers needed, and the use of mail-handling machinery and computerized mail systems has eliminated some mail room jobs. But people are still needed to deliver mail. Mail clerk jobs will continue to provide good short-term employment opportunities.
Mail clerks work in many different settings. Some clerks who work in small offices do much of their work by hand. Others work in large mail rooms with noisy machines. Many mail handling tasks are repetitive. Clerks who distribute mail spend a lot of time on their feet. However, they get to meet many of their coworkers. Many mail clerks belong to labor unions that are active in the industry in which they work.
Where to Go for More Information
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries and benefits vary widely depending on the location of the job and the kind of mail handling tasks that are being performed. In their November 2004 Occupational Employment Statistics survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that mail clerks earned a median salary of $23,650 per year. Supervisors of mail rooms can earn more. Benefits often include paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, and retirement plans.