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Mail Service Worker

Mail Service Worker

Education and Training: High school

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Many nongovernmental agencies provide express delivery service of mail and packages in the United States and abroad. These shipping companies will guarantee overnight or express delivery, or customers are refunded their money. They also offer some additional mail-related services. Many employees are needed to keep these operations running smoothly and efficiently. Entry-level positions in these companies are customer service agents, drivers/couriers, and handlers.

Customer service agents work either in a shipper's branch location or at a telephone bank at a regional office. Customers typically call the agents or stop by a branch office in person to inquire about delivery rates, pick-up times, and other details. The agents need to be able to supply customers with price and delivery information for letters and packages being sent all over the world. Additionally, customer service agents can be asked to locate a package at any step along the delivery route. The agents do this by using a computer terminal linked by the Internet to the main office. The locations of packages are updated via computer by employees all along the route. The agents may also order supplies and do general office duties at branch stations.

Unless a customer brings a package into a branch office, a driver's/courier's truck must come and pick up the package. Some couriers carry handheld computers so that they can pick up a customer's package or letter within an hour or two of the call to the service agent. Couriers check each package that they pick up to make sure it meets the company's weight and mailing requirements. At the end of their shift couriers drive all the packages they picked up to a specified airport where handlers load the mail onto a plane. The plane flies to the shipper's central airport hub and sorting complex. At the central complex other handlers take the packages off the plane, sort the packages by destination, and load the packages onto waiting planes, which then carry the packages to airports near the delivery destinations. When the packages arrive at these destination airports, local couriers pick them up and deliver them to branch stations. They are then sorted once more, loaded onto the couriers' vans, and delivered to their destinations.

Employees in all three positions must be able to lift a package weighing a specified amount and to maneuver heavier packages using appropriate equipment. Handlers must also know how to use power and hand tools. Because they work so closely with the public, customer service agents and drivers/couriers must enjoy working with people and have good communication skills.

Education and Training Requirements

Most companies require a high school diploma. Because of the computer tracking system, an introductory course in computer use might prove helpful. Drivers/couriers need a valid driver's license and a good driving record. In mail and package services that are unionized, all workers must join the union.

Getting the Job

Applicants can get information about applying for jobs at their local branch agencies. Companies often place ads through the state employment agencies, the classified section of newspapers, or on the Internet.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Some companies promote their employees to supervisory positions almost exclusively from within. The greater use of electronic mail (e-mail) is expected to cause a moderate decrease in all mail handling. However, an increase in package handling is also expected.

Working Conditions

These jobs require lifting and moving heavy packages. Agents and couriers deal constantly with the public. All three entry-level jobs require overtime work, but employees are usually paid for their time. Some employees must work variable shifts, including weekends and holidays.

Where to Go for More Information

Office and Professional Employees International Union
265 W. 14th St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(800) 346-7348

Parcel Shippers Association
1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste. 610
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 296-3690

Earnings and Benefits

Wages vary widely by company, geographic location, and job description. Full-time customer service representatives in all industries made a median wage of $27,020 per year in 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Couriers who drove delivery trucks earned a median salary of $37,315 per year in 2004, and handlers made $20,300 per year. Many employees start part time with express mail companies; their salaries and benefits are figured on a part-time basis, and are therefore lower.

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