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How does one apply for a job at the USPS?

You cannot just walk into your local post office building and ask for a job application. That's not how it works. The U.S. Postal Service hires workers to fill job vacancies by giving out entrance exams called the Battery Exams. There are two types of entrance exam offered by the U.S. Postal Service:

  1. The 473-Battery Exam. This exam is for people who wants the position as a Mail Carrier (also called City Carrier), Clerk or Customer Services Counter clerk (also called Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate), Mail Processing clerk, Flat Sorting Machine Operators, Mail Handler, and Mark-Up Clerk.


  2. The 460-Rural Exam. This exam is for Rural Carriers (also called Rural Carrier Associates). The Rural Carrier Associates are non-career entry-level employees who serve on a rural route area before becoming eligible to be Regular Rural Carriers. This entry-level exam tests the general aptitude and/or characteristics and ability to perform duties as a Rural Carrier Associate and Regular Rural Carrier. This exam provides a screening process on job-related criteria for rural carrier job applicants and allows applicants to compete for positions based on their general aptitude (and overall) score.


Rural Carrier Associates deliver mail in the Rural areas. The starting pay for Rural Carrier Associates is $21.45 per hour. To qualify to be a Rural Carrier Associate, you must meet the following requirements:

  • >> Must pass the 460-Rural Carrier Exam.
  • >> Must be 18 years of age or older.
  • >> Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien (Green Card holders).
  • >> Must have at least a high school diploma or a GED or equivalent.
  • >> Must be drug-free and be willing to do drug screening test.
  • >> Must not have a felony conviction of any kind.
  • >> Must have a clean driving record in the past 5 years.


Note that the U.S. Postal Service makes use of the term Associate quite a lot when referring to job titles. The term Associate means diffferent things for different uses. For examples, when you see the term Associate tacked on to Sales, Services, and Distribution in the job announcement or exam announcement, like so: Sales, Services, and Distribution Associates, the U.S. Postal Service is referring to Mail Carriers, Mail Handlers, Customer Services Counter clerks, and Mail Distribution clerks in general.

In other words, the U.S. Postal Service is referring to a group of workers who work in customer services counter, mail distribution duties, mail handlers, and mail delivery duties (or Mail Carriers). That is quite a term referring to almost an entire workforce in the U.S. Postal Service System.

Now when the term Associate is being used with the Rural Carrier, such as in Rural Carrier Associates in the job announcement or exam announcement, the U.S. Postal Service is referring to part-time, non-career Rural Carrier workers in general. Please note that Rural Carrier Associates are different from Regular Rural Carriers. Rural Carrier Associates are part-time, non-career Rural Carrier employees, whereas Regular Rural Carriers are full-time, career Rural Carrier employees.

Usually, before becoming a Regular Rural Carrier, all Rural Carrier employees must start as Rural Carrier Associates. This means that there is no Battery Test for Regular Rural Carriers, but there is a Battery Test for Rural Carrier Associates [only].

As stated above, to become a Regular Rural Carrier, you must start as a Rural Carrier Associate by taking the 460-Entrance Exam. Once you are employed by the United States Postal Service as a Rural Carrier Associate, then you are eligible to become a Regular Rural Carrier. When a particular Regular Rural Carrier position becomes available as a result of that particular Regular Rural Carrier employee is retiring, transfering, quitting, promotions, and other causes of vacancy, the Rural Carrier Associate with the highest senority in that particular office location(s) gets that position. It's a senority based system.

Once you become a Regular Rural Carrier, your employment status as a Regular Rural Carrier is retroactive to the date that you first started as a Rural Carrier Associate--in terms of emplyoment benefits and retirement calculation are concern. This means that your retirement benefits and other employment benefits are calculated taking into account the date you first gained employment with the U.S. Postal Service as a Rural Carrier Associate--rather than using the date that you became a Regular Rural Carrier. So the time you spent waiting to become Regular is NOT wasted.

As stated above, Rural Carrier Associates are part-time, none-career Rural Carrier employees. Don't let that statement discourages you since all Regular Rural Carriers must start as Rural Carrier Associates. Even though Rural Carrier Associates are part-time, non-career employees in status, they generally are averaging about 38 to 48 hours of work per week. This is sufficient income for them to make a living for awhile until they become regulars--usually about 18 months to three years of wait. To get 38 to 48 hours of work per week, you will need to be flexible in your daily life scheduling and stay by your phone--ready for a phone to ring--between the hours of 5.00 A.M. and 8.00 A.M. (in the morning)--Monday through Saturday. If no phone calls after 8.00 A.M. (in the morning), you can very much write it off as your day off, since all assignments are all completely assigned by 8.00 A.M. (in the morning)

Most often you will be notified to show up for work in advance if the assignments open up prior to you leaving the office. Most often you will know in advance that you will need to come to work for the next day, the whole week, two weeks, three weeks, or even longer if that particular Regular Rural Carrier becomes unavailable to work as a result of sickness, injuries, and other causes of absent. If you're discouraged by the fact that you have to sit by your phone to get called or afraid that you might not get the necessary hours to make your living viable, don't be discourage or afraid--because you'll get plenty of hours without having to sit by your phone waiting for a phone to ring or without having to be sent home for lacking of work.

I can tell you this: At the United States Postal Service--snow, sleet, rain or shine-- the mail must go through. This means that the work is always recession-proof--regardless of what the economy is doing--and there are plenty of work for anyone who's willing to work. It is a fact that there are more hours than anyone[/you] cares to want. It is also a fact that most people complaint for having to work too much. So if you like to work and want more work hours, you will get plenty of work hours regardless of your employment status.

The 473-Battery Exam (or 460-Rural Exam) is administered when the U.S. Postal Service determines that it is necessary to fill its staffing needs. In big cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seatle, etc., the U.S. Postal Service usually gives out Battery Exam every 6 to 18 months, and smaller cities, the U.S. Postal Service usually gives out Battery Exam every 2 years or longer.

For Rural Carrier Associate positions, it is varied from area to area, with some are as little as two months of wait; and some are as long as three to five years of wait.

Each U.S. Postal Service district has a system called the "Register" for maintaining job applicants. When the exam applicants scored 70 or higher, their scores are placed in a "Register", with the highest score appears at the top and the next sub-sequent highest score appears one step lower from one another and continues down to the lowest score of 70. The U.S. Postal Service hires applicants with the highest score first and trickles down to the lowest score of 70. But, in reality, a passing score of 70 won't get you hired. You would need to get a score of 88 or higher in order to get hired. This is true for most districts, they start hiring applicants from the top score down to score 88 and then, they start replenish their "Registers" again by giving out exam(s) to new applicants. So if you scored under 88--don't hold your breath--you won't get hired. Period!!!

In order to get a high score of 88 or higher most people need outside help to show them ways and techniques on how to take the Battery Exam. Without outside help, most people have very little chance of getting a high score. Here is a snipet of the sample tests that you can test yourself to see if you need to order my Postal Exam Guide or not.

>> To take a sample test for the 6 listed positions,   Please Click Here.

>> To take a sample test for Rural Carriers,   Please Click Here.

When a particular U.S. Postal Service district determines that it needs to replenish its "Register", it gives out a Battery Exam to the general public by making announcement to the general public through its toll free (1-800) job hotline, through the local medias, such as newspapers, TV's, Radios, and through other means, such as on public bulletin boards in Post Offices and in local, federal, and state municipal buildings, state employment offices, community organizations, etc.

You often see the designations of either the 473 or 473-C in the Exam Announcements. These two designations are used to classify the positions that the exam is being offered for. When the U.S. Postal Service needs to fill its vacancies for all positions (City Carrier, Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate, Mail Processing clerk, Flat Sorting Machine Operators, Mail Handler, and Mark-Up Clerk), it uses a 473 designation in the Exam Announcement to refer to all positions. In other words, if you see a 473 designation in the Exam Announcement, that exam is being given to fill the City Carrier, Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate, Mail Processing clerk, Flat Sorting Machine Operators, Mail Handler, and Mark-Up Clerk positions. When it needs to offer exam to fill city carrier positions only, it uses a 473-C designation in the Exam Announcement to refer to only City Carrier positions. If you want to work in other positions other than the City Carrier position, this designation (473-C) tells you not to apply for this exam.

For Rural Carrier positions, you will only see the term Rural Carrier Associates in the Exam Announcement.

The 6 positions mentioned ealier are among the entry level positions offered by the U.S. Postal Service across the country throughout the year, and they are the most sought after by job seekers. You need only to take one Battery Exam to be eligible for all 6 positions. At the time of the test, you will be asked to sign up for which position(s) you want to be considered for employment at the U.S. Postal Service. You can sign up for multiple positions and place your exam score on up to 6 registers. If you signed up for multiple positions and a position becomes available and your exam score is next in line, you will be offered the option of either accepting or declining the position. If you decline the offer, your name will be removed from that particular register only. If you accept the offfer, your name will be removed from all registers.

For Rural Carriers (Associates), at the time of the test, you will be asked to sign up for which post office location(s) you want to be considered for employment at the U.S. Postal Service. You can sign up to three post office location(s) and place your exam score on up to three registers. If you signed up for multiple post office location(s) and a position becomes available and your exam score is next in line, you will be offered the option of either accepting or declining the position. If you decline the offer, your name will be removed from that particular register only. If you accept the offfer, your name will be removed from all three registers.

Other Ways of Getting Hired by the USPS

The most common way of getting a job at the USPS is the process just described thus far. But there are other ways of getting hired by the USPS as well, and this section describes the details.

Transitional Employees

Transitional Employees (orTEs) are part-time, non-career employees who, over a period of time--approximately 4 to 8 years (or maybe longer) on the job, will be transitioned or converted to full-time career employees. During TEs' tour of duty (meaning while they're under the TE status), they work for pays only and not for benefits. TEs don't get any retirement benefit, health insurance or other benefits that other full-time career employees get. When they're transitioned or converted to full-time career employees then their status as such will commence on that date as day number one as full-time career Postal employees. Thus, they start receiving full benefits from that date and onward, but ended up discarding or rendering their TE days useless and cannot be carried forward for benefits calculation consideration.

As stated above, TEs are part-time, none-career employees. Don't let that statement discourages you since a lot of full-time employees started out as TEs during their early days when they first started working for the U.S. Postal Service. You have to start somewhere and being a TE is not a bad way to start out your career. Here's why:

  • TE positions are hired sooner than traditional test taking positions. Traditional test taking positions can take anywhere from five to ten years depending on a lot of factors such as contract by-laws, economic turmoils and the negative effect the U.S. Postal Service by modern technology.

  • TE position pays the same rate as traditional hiring process employees. As of 1-1-13, TE position pays $23.11/hour (the same as traditional hiring process employees)

  • TE positions will be converted to full-time positions after a period of time.

  • Even though TEs are part-time, non-career employees in status, they generally are averaging about 50 to 60 hours of work per week. You can do the math on your own: $23.11 X 60 hours. This is more than sufficient income for them to make a living for awhile until they become regular full-time employees--usually about five to ten years of working as TEs.

  • Being a TE, you'll need to be flexible in your daily life scheduling and expecting to work long hours--sometimes 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week--Monday through Saturday, and sometimes 7 days a week. The extra day of work usually a half day of work driving mail truck around doing mail collection on holidays such as Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Jr, Veterans Day, Columbus Day, etc, where most businesses are open and mail drop boxes are usually full on those day. Because of 6 or 7 days of work per week that it is not unusual that TEs' paychecks are bigger than full-time regular employees since TEs work a lot of hours and thus earn more.

    Not all TEs work on holidays since only one or two people are needed to do the collection job per area station; so the majority of TEs get to have holidays off too. All TEs have major holidays like Christmast, New Years, Fourth of July and Labor Day off since those days all major businesses are closed.

    There's a saying at the United States Postal Service: snow, sleet, rain or shine, the mail must go through. This means that the work is always recession-proof--regardless of what the economy is doing--and there are plenty of work for TEs. It is a fact that there are more hours than anyone care to want. It is also a fact that most TEs complaint for having to work too much and not having sufficient time off. TEs have limited or no choice regarding time off or how much work they're given. Everything are being dictated to them and they have to take what being dictated to them. So if you like to work and want more work hours, you will like being a TE and get plenty of work hours.

  • Lower aptitude test score. All TEs have to take a test before being hired as TEs. TEs need only to pass the test score of 70 or above to get employment at the U.S. Postal Service. U.S. Postal Service won't hire TEs whose scores are under 70. See more description later.

  • While working as a TE you can request to take an in-house exam every six month to improve your score to be put on the register. And if the result of your score is very high you may be called to take a full-time career position, ending your TE status immediately. Remember that your score have to show dramatic improvement from one to the next in order to be granted an opportunity to take an in-house exam over and over every six month.

  • Lots of work hours. This means that you can make a living being a TE. But it comes with a price: no time off. I can tell you that a lot of TEs quit because either they have to work long hours without time off--day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year for up to 5 to ten years--or they have to wait so long to be converted to full-time regular or a combination of both. So if you like to work and want more work hours, you will like being a TE and this is music to your ears.
As of January 12, 2013, TE positions are being replaced by a new position called City Carrier Assistant. See more details about City Carrier Assistant in a later section.

Casual Employees

Casual Employees are seasonal part-time, non-career employees similar to TEs, but with only one difference: casual employees cannot transition or convert to full-time career employees. If they want to become full-time career employees, they will have to follow the process described thus far; meaning they will have to follow the traditional process described earlier by taking the test just like everybody else or become TEs just described above.

Casual employees are usually hired during the holidays season like Christmas and New Year to meet with the holidays mail rush. Other casual hiring occurs during the summer months when a lot of regular full-time employees usually take their vacations, leaving the Postal Service in need of replacements. Casual employee positions are the least desired positions by job seekers since by contract law forbids them to work past six months tour of duty--meaning, they can only work six months straight out of a year; and if they want to work another six months, they will have to wait six months and re-apply for the same position next year. This is why it is called casual or casual seasonal employees--they work part-time seasonal and on-demands. These positions are popular among college students who get summer time off from school and also is popular among homemakers who just want to get extra cash for the holidays spending spree. Unlike TE positions, you cannot make a viable living being a casual employee. Avoid applying for casual positions unless you're a seasonal worker.

City Carrier Assistant (or CCA)

As of January 12, 2013, TE positions are being replaced by City Carrier Assistant positions after a new 5-five year contract have been agreed and signed by the USPS and the unions. So TE and casual positions are eliminated from the hiring process for at least for five years and maybe longer starting in 2013. The new five-year contracts in the future (after 2016) may bring TE/casual positions back into the hiring process; however, the precedent of the current new five-year contract (2011-2016) will dictate the course of any future contracts being negotiated. This means that future contracts will look similar to the current five-year contract (2011-2016) unless there are substantial changes in the economic and political systems the USPS faces in the future. So TE/casual positions are not likely to come into play any time soon because of the 2011-2016 contract precedent, and City Carrier Assistant will be the main source of employment offering by the USPS for some time to come.

City Carrier Assistant is similar to TE but with two differences:

  1. CCA is a career employee position with full benefits as regular full-time employees, whereas TE is not a career position with no benefits at all.

  2. CCA starting pay is lower than TE but the steps increases are much more quicker and bigger and thus CCA pays will reach maximum pays in a very short period of time. The new system is designed to backload the pays--meaning start slow and after a few years the pay increases are more frequent and bigger. As of January 12, 2013, CCA starting pay is $16.25 per hour. But the new quicker and bigger steps increases will speed up the hourly pay in quite a short time, making CCA hourly pay on par with the rest of the USPS regular employees that have been in the organization for a long time.

    As noted above, CCA employees are exactly alike TE employees except the two noted differences. Other than that, CCAs have to work long hours without time off or choice of work. CCAs don't have much choice of how much (or little) hours they want to work; everything is being dictate to them and they will have to take what being dictate to them. But when they become regulars, usually in about 3 to 5 years, and be able to bid on regular positions, then they will have more control of their [lives or] choices.

    But for the time being [as CCAs], they have no control of their choice of work--CCAs can't bid on regular positions. CCAs are fill-in helpers who fill in positions absent by regular employees. CCAs get sent out to different area working locations regularly to fill in--in an event any area location is in need of assistance.

    Lower aptitude test score for CCAs. All CCAs have to take a test before being hired as CCAs. CCAs need only to pass the test score of 70 or above to get employment at the U.S. Postal Service. The U.S. Postal Service won't hire CCAs whose scores are under 70. See more description later.

Labor Contracts can effect Transitional Employees, City Carrier Assistants and other Employees

The U.S. Postal Service workforce is unionized, including supervisors and middle tier management. Only top management are not unionized. Every five year the U.S. Postal Service renegotiates new contracts individually for each workforce craft and the results of the renegotiated contracts can effect the hiring of new workforce. This is especially true for mail carriers workforce and windows clerks, and to some extend, mail handlers and mail processing clerks.

The U.S. Postal Service wants more casuals and TEs and less full-time careers employees since casuals and TEs don't receive benefits and thus cost the U.S. Postal Service less money. Unions, on the other hand, want no casual or TE since those non-career workforce don't pay union dues. The two sides usually end up agreeing on something in the middle with each side get something and lose something. That's usually the case in every contract negotiations. As of January 12, 2013, a new five-year contract is signed, effectively eliminated casuals and TEs from its hiring process for at least for the next five years.

So the usual agreed contract looks something like this:

  • The U.S. Postal Service can hire TEs for a certain number head count (total number of TEs per 5-year contract), but the U.S. Postal Service cannot hire any casuals during the 5-year contract. The total head count for TEs usually between 25,000 to 40,000 during a 5-year contract, nation-wide.

    OR

  • The U.S. Postal Service can hire as many full-time career employees as it needs through the test taking process described in this website earlier and the unions have no objection on that. But the U.S. Postal Service can also hire casuals for seasonal needs as well in the stated head count agreed in the contract. The total head count for casuals usually between 15,000 to 20,000 during a 5-year contract, nation-wide.

    OR

  • Continues on its current course of hiring CCAs with no casuals or TEs in the hiring process.
Those are the three scenarios the two sides usually agree on, but the number of head count usually varied between 20,000 to 50,000 for TEs; and the same thing for CCAs: 20,000 to 50,000; while 10,000 to 20,000 for casuals. If TEs are in the hiring process, casuals are not in the hiring process, and vice versa; while if CCAs are in the hiring process, neither casuals nor TEs are in the hiring process, and vice versa. Unions rarely allow TEs and casuals to be in the hiring process in the same contract years, unless unions get something else that it is too good to give up.

The Best Way to Get in The U.S. Postal Service Workforce is to start as a City Carrier Assistant (or CCA)

  • Be patience and take whatever comes up, except casuals. Don't take casual positions--they're seasonal only. If a TE or CCA position comes up first, take it. Starting as a TE or CCA is the quickest way to get into the U.S. Postal Service workforce and once you're in the workforce as a TE you can request to take an in-house exam every six month to improve your score to be put on the register. [CCAs need not try to take an in-house exam if they already passed the score of 70--they're career employees with full benefits]

    For TEs, if the result of your score is very high you may be called to take a full-time career position, ending your TE status immediately. Remember that your score have to show dramatic improvement from one to the next in order to be granted an opportunity to take an in-house exam over and over every six month.

    TEs and CCAs have to take test before being hired as TEs/CCAs and the process goes like this: The U.S. Postal Service puts out a job announcement to the general public saying it is hiring TEs/CCAs. Job seekers inquire or apply for the TE/CCA positions. At the time of application, job seekers are notified to show up for the test or in some cases make arrangement for the test to be taken at an agreed time to accommodate job seekers schedule conflict. After about a week or two job seekers are notified of their scores, and for some--if not all--instructions are given to those who pass a score of 70 or higher to show up to further complete their TE/CCA employment process.

    Remember that the U.S. Postal Service can hire a certain number of TEs/CCAs per contract years and if more job seekers seek more TE/CCA positions than available, the U.S. Postsl Service will hire the top most scores down to TE/CCA quotas. So test scores do play a role; just because you pass a 70 threshold score doesn't quarantee you a TE/CCA position.

  • If you're not on the register waiting to be called to take the full-time career employment, get started as soon as you can by studying the exam taking process offered by this website and also offered by other services. DO NOT wait until the day of the exam to get your self prepared; prepare yourself as soon as you can by practicing the process and trying to improve your scores. This website offers you great techniques to do just that. Remember that getting a job at the U.S. Postal Service is not, and never was, easy. It takes time and patience.
The good news is that most people don't want to work as a TE (in TE contract years) because they perceive as a non-career employee and have no benefits--not to mention TE have to work long hours without holidays pays and time off. Because of those reasons that allow people who don't mind the workloads to get into the U.S. Postal Service workforce quicker. CCA positions also are NOT very appealing to many job seekers due to in part of its low starting pay. Because of this reason that allows people who don't mind the low starting pay to get into the U.S. Postal Service workforce quicker.

You have to balance or compare your situation you're in vs the situation you're going to face working as a TE. If you're making good money at your current job then there's no need for you to take the TE position; and if your current situation at your current job offers little in terms of pays and benefits then taking a TE position is the best way and right way to go. Make it a long term commitment to go through the process and in the end you'll end up making a good living for yourself and your family. Job security and descent retirement benefits when you mention USPS career.

If your current job offers pays of $18-$20 per hour and little or no benefits or little or no over time, then working at the U.S. Postal Service as a TE getting $23.11 per hour with lots of over time (approx. 50 to 60 hours of total working hours per week with 10 to 20 hours of 1 1/2 pay rate) gives you great income and rendering the "no benefits" argument usless since the extra pays and extra work hours basically take care of the void.

Unlike full-time career positions, which take a long time to open, TE positions (and also CCAs) are constantly available to be had by job seekers during contract years that have TEs/CCAs bylaw. So check this website regularly for TEs/CCAs hirings. Starting as a TE/CCA is a great way to get into the U.S. Postal Service workforce and jump start your secure career on the right path.

The Oil Boom: Strike it Rich!!

The Williston/Bakken Oil Field area in Northwest North Dakota and Northeast Montana is experiencing tremendous growth due to oil activity in the area. In fact, the Census Bureau has recently noted that Williston may be the fastest growing metro area in the United States as a result of the oil boom.

The Dakota District of the U.S. Postal Service is experiencing shortage of workforce there and currently is desperately looking for prospective employees to fill its staffing needs there. This critical shortage may present you an opportunity to gain employment with the U.S. Postal Service quicker and easier than otherwise possible. This critical shortage of staffing need will continue in the years to come due to the tremendous growth causes by the oil boom activity. The U.S. Postal Service is paying for your lodging, expenses, and moving expenses. So if you're interested, please contact (Manager Operations Programs Support) Jan Cassaw at 605-333-2610.

Strike it Rich!!! And good luck!!!