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MODULE 1: Introduction to the United States Postal System

Welcome and congratulations on your wise decision to invest in this course. It is a step-by-step exam strategy that provides a simple overview to help candidates cut through the many distractions so they can learn what they need to pass the exam.

In the past, we watched many of our friends and family members who thought they were well-prepared fail to get into their chosen institution or get a job because they failed the exams.

We decided that there had to be a better way to prepare and wanted to give exam takers exactly what they need to make the most of their potential. Our aim is to make sure that our study materials enable students to get the highest possible scores on their entry exams to maximize their chance of success especially if in a competitive situation during the hiring process.

The course provides both a written guide and a consultation service to properly prepare for the USPS exams. The course format is intended to give students an easy to follow and complete method for anyone to pass the test, regardless of the USPS position you apply for, or your previous experience level. When you pass and begin creating income, you will far exceed the cost of this course and find that it was one of your best investments ever.

Consultation Services:

In addition to this written guide, you are also provided with a consultation service, available to you by telephone at 1 (888) 894-1657 or by email at support@postaljobs.net . This info is also at Contact Info at the bottom of every page on the website to answer any questions you might have about your purchase or its contents. Don’t forget you have this valuable resource available to you.

Study Guide Reentry:

If you choose to exit from this course temporarily, you can always reenter by clicking the LOGIN link at the top of the HOME page of the website and reentering your password if it has not been already stored at that location after first access. Bookmarking that page for easy reentry to the course would be helpful.

STEP 1: The USPS is a Great Place to Work

Lesson 1: Working Environment

The Postal Service is a preeminent, award-winning provider of global transportation services for news, goods and money around the world, everywhere, every day. Reliable. Secure. Valuable.

That’s what the Postal Service offers the American people. That’s what they’ve been providing to all their customers, like you, for more than 200 years. Since 1775.

They appreciate all of their employees, whose hard work and dedication help them fulfill their mission:

“To provide trusted, safe and secure communications and services between our Government and the American people, businesses and their customers, and the American people with each other. To serve all areas of our nation, making full use of evolving technologies.”

In short, USPS employees are the most important asset of the organization and are responsible for the delivery of about 40% of the mail in the United States.

They connect the nation through people’s personal, educational, literary and business correspondence to provide prompt, reliable and efficient service to customers in all areas and to provide postal services to all communities. They strive to make the Postal Service a great place to work and a great place for their customers to do business.

In 2021:

  • 128.9 billion pieces of mail processed
    • 425.3 million pieces of mail were processed every day
    • 17.7 million each hour
    • 295,000 each minute
    • 5,000 each second
    • 3.3 million pounds ever week
  • 36 million address changes
  • 41,683 zip codes
  • 516,636 career employees
  • 68,000 veterans work for the USPS
  • 63 countries are serviced by the Military Postal Service
    • 401 land-based Military Post Offices
    • 626 onboard ship based Military Post Offices
  • The USPS invests $600 million in training its workforce
    • 24,000 on-line courses
    • 28 educational partnerships offering discounts towards degrees and certifications
  • $2.15 billion dollars is paid out in salaries and benefits every two weeks
  • In 1912 Postmaster Frank Hitchcock authorized local postal employees to respond to letters addressed to Santa Clause
    • In 2021 4.3 million people visited USPSOperationSanta.com
    • Customers adopted 21,175 letters and shipped 21,443 packages to families and children who wrote to Santa

Since the USPS is the second largest employer in the United States, USPS jobs are in high demand. As expected, the many benefits and excellent pay make the USPS a great place to work.

Lesson 2: What they are looking for in the Exams

Postal Service employees deliver billions of pieces of mail each day and serve millions of Americans. Handling this volume of mail quickly and accurately requires certain skills and abilities related to providing this service, verifying addresses, sorting and delivering mail.

The USPS exam identifies individuals with these required skills and abilities important to these jobs.

Entry-level jobs and the corresponding exam requirements

Most career opportunities in the postal service involve sorting and delivering mail.

The following list provides a brief description of these jobs. Other postal service careers, such as office maintenance and special maintenance, require different exams that are not covered in this guide.

  • City and Rural Carrier:
    • Deliver and collect mail on foot or in a vehicle, serving customers in a designated outdoor area, in all weather conditions.
    • Carriers may be required to carry bags of mail on their shoulders.
      • – A full bag of mail can weigh up to 35 pounds.
      • – Delivery drivers must load and unload boxes and cartons of mail and parcels weighing up to 70 pounds.
    • Transport duties require long periods of standing, walking and reaching.
    • City Carriers must have a valid state driving license, a safe driving record and at least two years of documented driving experience.
  • Mail Handler:
    • Operates and monitors the performance of automated mail processing equipment and/or sorts mail manually.
    • Mail Handlers collect, bundle and transport processed mail from one area to another, sometimes lifting heavy loads or carrying heavy containers.
  • Mail Processor:
    • Loads and unloads mail containers.
    • Processing Clerks empty mail and equipment into the building.
    • They also open and empty mail containers.
    • They repeatedly lift and carry packages and containers weighing up to 70 pounds and push heavy containers.
  • Window Clerk:
    • Provides direct sales and customer service in a retail environment and performs mail distribution.
    • The associate must successfully complete an on-the-job training program.

Lesson 3: What is needed to meet the Eligibility Requirements

The postal service must ensure public confidence by maintaining the security and reliability of mail.

The postal service protects the confidentiality of mail.

Postal Service employees have the right to expect a safe working environment. Postal employees must have integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, reliability and courtesy.

Therefore, applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements to continue in the hiring process:

  • Age – 18 years old at the time of appointment or 16 years old with a high school
  • Citizenship – US citizen or permanent resident
  • Basic knowledge of written and spoken
  • Selective Service – Males born after December 31, 1959, must register for the Selective Service System upon reaching the age of 18.
  • Drug testing may be required for some positions.
  • Clean driving record for positions requiring driving.
  • Employment history check.
  • Military background check, if applicable.
  • Criminal record check.

Lesson 4: Veterans Preference Act of 1944

Applicants are screened in accordance with legal and regulatory requirements, including the rights required by the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944.

This law affects the USPS administrative structure for selecting and hiring applicants, including certain veterans and family members of disabled or deceased veterans who have met the veterans’ preference requirements.

  • Preference may include the following:
    • Adding 5 or 10 points to the selection exam score (see What is the selection exam score…).
    • Priority in selection decisions and the possibility to take exams that are not open to the public.

Veterans should know that the USPS was established in 1774 to not only deliver mail throughout the 13 colonies, but to ensure that the revolutionary troops received letters from home.

STEP 2: Compensation and Benefits

Lesson 1: Compensation

In recent years the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been paying its employees an average of $62,493 per year. USPS salaries average between $42,459 and $92,441 per year.

Working hours

Most postal employees work full time. However, overtime is sometimes required, especially on public holidays.

Because mail is delivered six days a week, many postal employees must work on Saturdays. Some also work on Sundays.

In addition to a competitive base salary and regular salary increases, most employees receive overtime, night and Sunday premium pay commensurate with their job responsibilities.

USPS Overtime

Overtime is compensation paid to eligible employees, in accordance with Postal Service regulations and applicable collective bargaining agreement provisions.

Time and a half of each employee’s basic hourly rate for actual hours worked in excess of:

  • 8 paid hours in a day
  • 40 paid hours in a workweek
  • Or, in the case of full-time bargaining unit employees, on an unscheduled day

Shift Differentials

  • USPS Night Shift
    • The night shift premium is the premium paid for work performed between 3 p.m. and 8 a.m.
    • This rate varies by location
  • USPS Sunday Premium
    • An employee is entitled to additional pay for work performed during a regular 8-hour basic work period that begins or ends on a Sunday.

Lesson 2: Benefits

In addition to a competitive base salary and regular salary increases, most employees receive a healthy benefits package.

Health Insurance

  • The Postal Service participates in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB), which provides excellent coverage and flexibility, with most of the cost covered by the Postal Service.
  • Several types of plans are available, including premium plans, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and higher, consumer-based health plans.
  • In many cases, employee premiums are not taxed, making health insurance more affordable.

Dental and Vision Insurance

  • Employees can enroll in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP).
  • Although the employee pays the full cost, this group insurance is very affordable and provides better coverage than other programs.

Flexible spending accounts

  • Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are available from the first year of employment.
  • Tax-free FSA contributions can cover most medical expenses and employee care costs (such as childcare).

Dependency insurance

  • Employees can enroll in the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Plan (FLTCIP).
  • This covers the cost of long-term care not usually covered by Medicare or Medicaid (e.g., nursing home or assisted living).


  • The Postal Service participates in the Federal Retirement System, which provides defined benefit (pension) and disability insurance.
  • Pension eligibility is based on age and credited service.

Savings plan

  • Postal employees may contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is similar to 401(k) retirement savings plans offered by private companies.
  • Employees make tax-deductible contributions to the TSP.
  • The Postal Service automatically makes an additional contribution.

Social Security and Medicare

  • Retired postal employees are covered by social security and Medicare.

Life insurance

  • The Postal Service provides coverage through the FEGLI (Federal Employees Group Life Insurance) program.
  • Basic premiums are paid in full by the Postal Service and additional insurance is purchased through payroll deduction.

Passenger Transportation System

  • This program waives the cost of public transportation and parking in areas where it is available.
  • A maximum amount is set by the Internal Revenue Service to ease the burden on employees who wish to participate.


  • The Postal Service provides full vacation and sick leave
  • Vacation days include 13 days per year during the first three years of service, 20 days per year after three years of service, and 26 days per year after 15 years of service.
  • Full-time employees are guaranteed four hours per pay period against loss of earnings due to illness or accident.
  • Annual leave and sick leave for part-time workers is calculated in proportion to the number of hours worked.

National holidays

  • The Post Office observes 10 public holidays per year.

Lesson 3: USPS Development Programs

The Postal Service is strongly committed to providing training opportunities to all employees who demonstrate an interest.

The Postal Service has developed and deployed several web-based self-service learning opportunities that reduce cost and increase the availability of training.

The Postal Service works collaboratively across organizations to provide on the job training that delivers maximum impact on operational performance, establishes policies that ensure fair treatment, provides developmental opportunities, recruits needed skills, retains the existing talent base, and prepares for the loss of existing postal leadership.

In essence it puts into place processes that connect the right people with the right job.

Professional development and training

The Post Office provides a learning environment for success through training activities that enable employees to develop the necessary operational and management skills.

Managers must meet defined performance criteria are provided with leadership development through a comprehensive, multi-level program:

  • The Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) is responsible for the Postal Service’s training and development systems and programs.
  • The District’s Human Resources Department is responsible for administering training and development policies and providing training to District staff.
  • The District managers, USPS managers and other operational managers training responsibilities are to implement staff training and development standards in line with national guidelines.
  • Supervisors and managers are responsible and accountable for ensuring that staff with supervisory duties are trained to develop their staff using the necessary training.

Employees are responsible for the following:

  1. Make effective use of professional development opportunities provided by management.
  2. Pursue personal professional goals in consultation with their supervisor to guide their own growth and development.
  3. Continue training throughout your career to enhance your knowledge, skills and abilities and to share what you have learned with other employees.

STEP 3: Job Descriptions

The primary duty of 95% of USPS workers is to get the mail where it needs to go. The other 5% support those employees.

Lesson 1: Postal Employee Tasks

Postal workers are classified according to the type of work they perform and typically perform a variety of the following tasks:

  • Collect parcels and letters arriving at the post office and prepare them for delivery.
  • Sort the mail that they deliver for routes and individual mailboxes
  • Use sorting equipment of various types
  • Operate various types of postal equipment
  • Deliver mail from postal trucks or on foot to homes, businesses in cities, towns and rural areas
  • Obtain customer signatures for registered, certified and insured mail
  • All postal employees answer customers’ questions about postal rules, services
  • Upon request, provide customers with change of address cards and other postal forms.

Sell stamps and other postal products, making appropriate change

Lesson 2: Job Descriptions

The largest number of postal employees are Mail Carriers, Mail Handlers, Mail Processors, and Window Clerks.

Mail Carrier

In this role employees typically work outdoors, delivering mail in all weather conditions.

Although carriers are exposed to many natural hazards, such as extreme temperatures, wet or icy roads and surfaces, the work is not particularly dangerous. However, lifting and bending can cause repetitive strain injuries.

Mail Carriers deliver and collect packages along routes in rural or urban areas during weekdays, weekends and holidays. They also provide a variety of services to customers along their assigned route. They may be required to use a personal vehicle if a postal vehicle is not provided. This position is ideal for candidates that enjoy staying active and working independently outdoors with occasional customer service interactions.

Job duties include:

  • Sort, lift and push moderate to heavy loads of mail and packages to prepare for delivery
  • Deliver mail along your assigned route
  • Pick up, collect mail from customers
  • Work indoors and outdoors in all weather: rain, snow, cold and heat

Mail Handler

Mail Handlers load, unload and move mail and packages. They also perform other duties incidental to the movement and processing of mail. If you enjoy staying active in a team environment that emphasizes safety and ergonomics this could be a great fit for you.

Job duties include:

  • Loading, lifting and carrying moderate to heavy mail from trucks and sorting equipment
  • Separate outgoing bulk mail and load onto mail trucks for distribution
  • Operate machinery and carry mail to distribution area
  • May perform a variety of duties such as rewrapping damaged parcels and weighing mail
  • Lifting or carrying mail and packages up to 70 pounds

Mail Processor

Employees perform a variety of clerical duties required to process mail using automated mail processing equipment or manual methods of sorting and distribution. If you enjoy working in a fast-paced, safe environment with occasional interaction with the public, this could be the right job for you.

Job duties include:

  • Sort outgoing and/or incoming mail using automated equipment
  • Ensure all necessary support equipment and that materials are organized for sorting
  • May provide services at public window for non-financial transactions
  • Lifting or carrying mail and packages up to 70 pounds

Window Clerk

In this role you will perform a variety of sales and customer support services. The job primarily involves providing services to customers over the counter at postal branches. If you enjoy working regularly with the public to serve your community, this may be an excellent fit for you.

Job duties include:

  • Greet and interact with customers, offer assistance with products, sales and promotions, and provide a good customer experience
  • Handle and process customer purchases and returns of products and services
  • Perform passport duties
  • Maintain appearance of retail lobby by setting up and arranging displays that are presentable to customers
  • Prolonged standing while interacting with customers
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