How to Apply for a Post Office Job

Postal Office Job Requirements – How to Apply for a Post Office Job

Learning how to apply for a post office job is more nebulous than you would think. Everyone has probably heard about the long “post office exam” that mail carriers and other postal workers are supposed to take. If you want to become a full-time postal employee in a major city, that’s probably the route you’re going to have to take. But there is another way to become a post office employee, and that is the path of the “temporary rural carrier” or TRC.

I’ll give ways to apply for a temporary postal job, then gives details on the standard post office job you probably imagine when you think of a job with the post office. What you need to know about the temporary rural mail carrier, though, is that the position is not really temporary, but an ongoing job and indefinite job. Most important to you, though, is the TRC does not have to take the postal exam. The post office always needs this kind of carrier as a fill-in or substitute, and is willing to wave the test requirements to keep these postal carriers employed. Consider them the substitute teacher position of the post office – though with better pay and benefits.

Apply To Be a Temporary Rural Carrier

The temporary rural carrier is a Post Office employee who fills in when a regular carrier has a vacation, a day off or a sick day. The TRC also works on Saturday. This person must have all the skills of the regular post office mail carrier, but doesn’t have to take the exam.

As the TRC performs his or her job, they learn all the skills needed to be a career mail carrier. This will prepare the temporary rural carrier to take the 473 Postal Exam, while also keeping that person in the loop about job openings at the local Post Office. This is extremely important, because the Post Office is notoriously uninformative when it comes to posting jobs information in the local papers and the like.

Temporary Rural Carrier Jobs Information

  1. Visit your local postmaster any time (besides lunch hour) between 9 and 5 on Monday through Friday.
  2. Ask the postmaster if the post office is accepting applications for the Temporary Rural Carrier (TRC) or Postmaster Relief (PMR) positions. If so, collect an application and fill it out. If not, ask if any post offices within commuting distance have similar job openings. In this second case, leave your name and phone number.
  3. Fill out the postal application and return it in the next business day, because this shows you are truly interested in the job. If the postmaster mentions particular documentation, make certan to include this information. For instance, the local post office might want to know about your criminal record.
  4. Be prepared to take a drug test. All post offices are expected to administer drug tests, so don’t let this catch you by surprise.
  5. Go to your job interview on time.
  6. Attend your physical in a timely fashion. This is a written “physical” examination, which might throw you off. You simply answer written questions about your physical health. Sometimes, if you have a concerning medical condition, you might have to do a follow up.
  7. Go to USPS job orientation classes. These classes last eight hours per day for 4 or 5 days. These pay at over $13 an hour, so you need not worry about wasting a week in unpaid classes. Be well-rested and prepared to learn the skills you need to become a mail carrier.
  8. Go to the “rural associate training” classes, which last approximately one week. Once again, you’ll be paid over 13 dollars per hour. This training gets you familiar with the different classes of mail, while giving you training in how to case mail, how to scan mail and how to deliver mail.
  9. In your spare time, practice how to drive and deliver mail from your passenger seat. This is a difficult skill to master, so be careful when practicing.
  10. Ride with your regular carrier to get to known his or her route and practice the skills you’ll need to fill in when they are away from the job. Keep in mind that you box the mail at the post office first, then deliver between two-hundred and eight-hundred boxes of mail per day. This means you’ll be required to learn a full route backwards and forwards.
  11. Be ready for the call that will send you out on a mail route on your own.

How to Apply For a Full-Time Post Office Job

U.S. Postal Service Requirements

  • You must be at least 18 years of age.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen.
  • You must have “basic competency” in the English language.
  • If you were born after December 31, 1959, you must be registered with the Selective Service System.
  • You must provide complete employment records for your previous 10 years of employment or back to your 16th birthday.
  • Veterans of the Armed Services must mention their service by submitting a Copy 4 of the DD Form 214, which you may know as a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. Mention your military service, since it is considered part of your employment history. Remember that military service counts extra points on your civil service exam.
  • Submit your criminal conviction history. A basic or local criminal check is done when you apply, and a more extensive check is performed when you are employed.
  • Submit your driving record, if you are applying for a position which requires you to drive on the job.
  • You must submit to a drug screening in the form of a urinalysis test. All U.S. postal employees are expected to be drug-free.
  • You must submit to a medical exam. THis is done to determine your suitability for the job in question.
  • You must take the 473 Postal Exam to become a full-time member of the postal service.

473 Postal Exam

The “473 Postal Exam” must be completed before a person is considered for the U.S. Postal Service. This test is also known as “Test 473 for Major Entry-Level Jobs”. In all, this exam covers up to 2 hours and 9 minutes of test-taking, with 398 questions asked. Here is the breakdown of the test.

  1. Address Checking – Part A – 60 Questions – 11 Minutes Allowed – You determine is two addresses are identical.
  2. Forms Completion – Part B – 30 Questions – 15 Minutes Allowed – You complete forms correctly using information identification techniques.
  3. Coding – Part C1 – 36 Questions – 6 Minutes Allowed – Assigning addresses to letters using the proper code.
  4. Memory – Part C2 – 36 Questions – 7 Minutes Allowed – Requires you to memorize assigned address codes.
  5. Inventory of Personal Experience & Characteristics – Part D – 236 Questions – 90 Minutes Allowed – These are “personal background” questions about your experience and other job-related characteristics.

Practice Exams – Postal Service Test

You can pick up sample exams to study and prepare for your upcoming 473 postal exam at This is a 256 page book which costs $19.95 and can be purchased with all major credit cards. Note that the site is not a federally-maintained website and is a for-profit site, so make your purchase decisions accordingly. I wish there were a preparation test put out by the Post Office itself, but there website is hard to navigate and their job information isn’t well-arranged. The test covers any major job description you’ll be applying for at the entry level.

As noted above, the post office does hire people for temporary or casual jobs without those people taking the 473 Postal Exam. Many people enter the postal service through these positions, becoming familiar with the skills and requirements of the post office, while studying for the postal exam. These people can also learn a great deal about the postal exam from other postal workers who have “passed” the exam. Ask about such jobs at your local post office.

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