How Much Do Postal Workers Make? A Guide to USPS Salaries and Benefits

The USPS Pay Scale and Steps

The USPS pay scale is based on a system of levels and steps, which determine the base salary of postal workers. There are different levels for different positions, such as clerks, carriers, mail handlers, supervisors, etc. Within each level, there are steps that correspond to the years of service and performance of the employee. The higher the level and the step, the higher the base salary.
According to the USPS website, the base salary range for postal workers in 2021 is from $32,160 to $77,400, depending on the level and the step. For example, a level 5 clerk at step A (the lowest step) earns $32,160 per year, while a level 5 clerk at step O (the highest step) earns $46,992 per year. A level 8 carrier at step A earns $40,516 per year, while a level 8 carrier at step O earns $58,308 per year.
The base salary does not include overtime pay, night shift differential, Sunday premium, or other allowances that postal workers may receive. These can significantly increase the total income of postal workers, especially during peak seasons or when there is a shortage of staff. One former mail carrier claimed that he made close to $25 per hour in his last year, and that he often worked more than 8 hours a day, earning time and a half or double time pay. He said that the most he ever made in one day was $625, and that he was talking about a six-figure job when factoring in pay and government benefits.


The USPS Unions and Bargaining Agreements

Another factor that affects the pay and benefits of postal workers is the union membership and the bargaining agreements. The USPS has four major unions that represent different categories of workers: the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU), and the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA). These unions negotiate with the USPS management on behalf of their members, and set the terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, hours, health insurance, retirement, grievance procedures, etc.
The unions also provide various services and benefits to their members, such as legal representation, education, training, scholarships, discounts, etc. The union dues vary depending on the union and the level of membership, but they are usually deducted from the paycheck of the postal worker. Some postal workers claim that the clerks have the largest and most powerful union, the APWU, and that it is the only union that actively organizes and fights for the rights of the workers. Others say that the NALC is adequate at lobbying but weak at organizing, and that the NPMHU is a joke of a union that is either incompetent or in bed with the USPS.

The USPS Working Conditions and Challenges

While the pay and benefits of postal workers may seem attractive, they also come with some challenges and drawbacks. Postal workers have to deal with various working conditions, such as weather, traffic, dogs, customers, management, etc. Some of these conditions can be stressful, demanding, or even dangerous, and affect the physical and mental health of the workers.
One of the main complaints of postal workers is the harassment and pressure from the management, who often impose unrealistic expectations and deadlines, and monitor the performance and efficiency of the workers. Some postal workers say that they are harassed to the point where they have to go to the bathroom in bottles in their trucks to save time, and that efficiency is rewarded with more work under the same toxic demands. Some also say that the USPS’s relationship with Amazon has made the conditions even more brutal and anti-worker, as they have to deliver more packages with less resources and support.
Another challenge that postal workers face is the job security and stability. The USPS is a self-funded agency that does not receive any tax dollars from the government, and relies on its own revenue from postage and services. However, the USPS has been struggling financially for years, due to various factors, such as the decline of mail volume, the rise of online communication and e-commerce, the competition from private carriers, the pre-funding of retiree health benefits, the political interference, etc. The USPS has been losing billions of dollars every year, and has been cutting costs, reducing services, closing facilities, and laying off workers. Some postal workers fear that the USPS may go bankrupt or be privatized, and that their jobs and benefits may be at risk.

The USPS Career Opportunities and Advancement

Despite the challenges and uncertainties, the USPS also offers some opportunities and advantages for postal workers who want to advance their careers and increase their income. The USPS has a variety of positions and functions, such as clerks, carriers, mail handlers, supervisors, managers, technicians, inspectors, etc. Postal workers can apply for different positions within the USPS, or transfer to different locations, depending on their qualifications, preferences, and availability. The USPS also provides training and education programs for postal workers who want to improve their skills and knowledge, or prepare for promotion exams.
One of the benefits of working for the USPS is the seniority system, which gives preference to postal workers who have more years of service and experience. Seniority affects the pay, schedule, vacation, bidding, and other aspects of the job. Postal workers who have more seniority can choose their shifts, routes, days off, and assignments, and have more flexibility and control over their work. Seniority also protects postal workers from layoffs, as the USPS follows the principle of “last hired, first fired”.

The USPS Retirement and Pension Plans

Another benefit of working for the USPS is the retirement and pension plans, which provide income and security for postal workers after they retire. The USPS offers two main retirement plans for its employees: the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). The CSRS is a defined benefit plan that covers postal workers who were hired before 1984, and pays a monthly annuity based on the years of service and the highest salary. The FERS is a three-tiered plan that covers postal workers who were hired after 1984, and consists of a basic annuity, a thrift savings plan, and a social security benefit.
The retirement eligibility and the amount of the pension vary depending on the plan, the age, and the years of service of the postal worker. For example, under the CSRS, a postal worker can retire at age 55 with 30 years of service, or at age 60 with 20 years of service, or at age 62 with 5 years of service. Under the FERS, a postal worker can retire at the minimum retirement age (MRA) with 30 years of service, or at age 60 with 20 years of service, or at age 62 with 5 years of service. The MRA ranges from 55 to 57, depending on the year of birth of the postal worker.
The USPS also offers health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and other benefits to its retirees, depending on their eligibility and enrollment. However, some postal workers complain that the USPS does not contribute enough to their health and pension plans, and that they have to pay high premiums and deductibles. Some also say that the USPS has not been fulfilling its obligation to pre-fund the retiree health benefits, and that this has contributed to the financial crisis of the agency.


Working for the USPS can be a rewarding and challenging career, with various pros and cons.
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