Is Being a PSE Mail Processing Clerk at USPS a Good Job? An In-Depth Look - Marketing Scoop (2024)

When you think about jobs at the United States Postal Service (USPS), the first thing that likely comes to mind is your friendly neighborhood mail carrier. But before letters and packages make their way to your doorstep, they pass through the hands of many other hardworking USPS employees behind the scenes – including Postal Support Employee (PSE) Mail Processing Clerks.

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As of 2023, the PSE Mail Processing Clerk is an entry-level, non-career position that plays a vital role in the USPS mail distribution process. But is it a good job? In this comprehensive article, we‘ll take an in-depth look at what the role entails, the pay and benefits, requirements to apply, and the pros and cons of working as a PSE Mail Processing Clerk. By the end, you‘ll have a clear idea of whether this job may be a good fit for you.

Duties of a PSE Mail Processing Clerk

PSE Mail Processing Clerks are responsible for sorting and routing mail using automated equipment to ensure letters and packages end up at their intended destination in a timely manner. A typical day involves:

  • Operating and troubleshooting various mail sorting machines
  • Loading mail onto automated equipment
  • Sorting and separating different classes of mail
  • Examining mail to determine correct postage
  • Lifting and transporting heavy containers of mail, often weighing up to 70 pounds
  • Maintaining a fast and efficient pace to meet strict distribution deadlines

Most of the work takes place in large mail processing facilities, distribution centers, and on loading docks. There is little to no interaction with the public in this behind-the-scenes role. The environment is industrial, with clerks spending most of their shift on their feet operating noisy machinery.

Pay Rate and Compensation

According to Glassdoor salary data, the average base pay for PSE Mail Processing Clerks is around $19 per hour as of 2023. However, the pay rate can vary depending on location and ranges from about $16-24 per hour.

One of the big draws of the job is the opportunity for overtime pay. PSE clerks are paid time-and-a-half for any hours worked over 8 in a service day and over 40 in a service week. Many employees report working 50-60 hours per week with plenty of overtime. For those willing to put in the extra hours, this can significantly boost total compensation.

However, it‘s important to keep in mind that as non-career employees, PSE Mail Processing Clerks are not eligible for the full suite of USPS benefits. During their first 360-day term, the only benefit is paid time off accrued at a rate of 1 hour for every 20 hours worked. But after completing that initial term, PSEs gain access to health insurance through the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program. They also become eligible for vision and dental coverage, as well as the ability to purchase additional life insurance and long-term care insurance.

So while the base pay may not be the highest, the potential for overtime along with access to affordable health benefits after the first year makes the total compensation package quite competitive, especially for an entry-level role not requiring a college degree. Just be prepared to work a lot of hours.

Flexibility and Scheduling

Another important factor to consider with this job is the variable and sometimes unpredictable hours. As a flexible, supplemental workforce, PSE Mail Processing Clerks are scheduled based on the needs of the USPS mail volume, which can change week to week and day to day.

Clerks are often required to work early morning, late evening, overnight, weekend and holiday shifts. The schedule typically involves 5 days per week, 8-10 hours (or more) per day, but the actual days and shift times frequently change. Getting two consecutive days off is not guaranteed.

For those who value a consistent schedule and work-life balance, the lack of predictability can be one of the biggest drawbacks of the job. It requires flexibility and a willingness to adapt, which can be difficult for those with childcare needs, school commitments, or other obligations outside of work. However, some people enjoy the variety in their schedule and the ability to earn a lot of hours in a compressed timeframe.

Physical Demands

In addition to the variable schedule, another potential downside of the job is the physically strenuous nature of the work. PSE Mail Processing Clerks are on their feet for most of their shift, operating machinery, lifting heavy mail containers, pulling, pushing, reaching, and bending.

According to the official job description, clerks may be required to lift up to 70 pounds. The work also involves repetitive motions like grasping, placing, and turning. It‘s a fast-paced environment that requires both strength and endurance.

As a result, the job has a high rate of occupational injuries. Clerks frequently report back strain, knee and foot pain from prolonged standing on hard surfaces, wrist and elbow issues, and injuries to fingers and hands from working with the machinery. There is also the risk of more serious accidents involving the industrial equipment.

To be successful in this role long-term, it‘s important to be in good physical condition, use proper body mechanics, and strictly follow all safety protocols. But even with precautions, the cumulative strain can take a toll. Those with pre-existing joint issues, limited mobility, or an inability to lift heavy loads may find the physical aspect of the job too demanding.

Eligibility and Requirements

To be considered for a PSE Mail Processing Clerk position, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • At least 18 years old at the time of appointment (or 16 with a high school diploma)
  • U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or citizen of American Samoa or other U.S. territory
  • Pass a criminal background check and drug screening
  • Safe driving record (if applicable)
  • Ability to physically perform the essential job functions

In addition to these basic qualifications, applicants must also take and pass an online assessment called Exam 476. This test covers several areas:

  • Work scenarios and situational judgment
  • Tell Us Your Story survey (work experience and background)
  • Describe Your Approach survey (personality assessment)
  • Check for Errors (verifying information)

A score of 70 or above is considered passing, but a higher score can improve your chances of being hired. If you don‘t pass on the first attempt, you‘ll need to wait a full year before retesting. If you do pass but want to try for a higher score, the wait time is two years.

Career Advancement Opportunities

While the PSE Mail Processing Clerk is a non-career position, it can serve as a stepping stone to a permanent role within USPS. After your initial 360-day term, you‘ll be considered for reappointment based on staffing needs and your performance. Each additional appointment is another 360 days.

Many PSEs are ultimately converted to career Mail Processing Clerk positions as vacancies become available. Career clerks receive a higher pay rate, generous benefits, pension, set schedules, and full union protections.

Beyond that, USPS has a strong culture of promoting from within. With experience, there may be opportunities to advance to other roles like supervisor, expedition, and plant manager. The PSE role provides a good foundational knowledge of postal operations that can be leveraged for future growth.

However, conversion to career status is not guaranteed and is based on seniority within the district. In some areas, PSEs have reported waiting years for a career position to open. Still, getting your foot in the door with USPS in any capacity can provide a clear pathway to a long-term, stable career for those who stick with it.

Is It Worth It?

So back to the original question – is being a PSE Mail Processing Clerk a good job? As with most things, the answer is that it depends on your situation and priorities.

On the plus side, the job offers competitive hourly pay with ample overtime opportunities, affordable health benefits after the first year, a clear path to career advancement, and the stability that comes with working for a well-established government agency. It can be a great option for those without a degree who are looking to gain experience and start a long-term career.

However, the unpredictable schedule, physical demands of the work, industrial environment, and lag time between PSE and career appointment may be deterrents for some. It requires a certain type of resilience and grit to succeed in the role long-term.

If you‘re someone who thrives in a fast-paced, goal-oriented environment, can adapt to change, and has a strong work ethic, working as a PSE Mail Processing Clerk can be a solid choice. The satisfaction of playing a crucial role in keeping the country‘s mail moving while earning a steady paycheck and good benefits is appealing to many.

But if you value a predictable schedule, struggle with physical labor, or get overwhelmed in high-pressure environments, the job may not be an ideal fit, at least as a long-term career. The rotating shifts can strain your personal life and the physical toll can lead to burnout. It‘s important to carefully consider how the role would fit into your overall lifestyle and well-being.


Working as a PSE Mail Processing Clerk at USPS can be a great opportunity for the right person. It offers competitive pay, benefits, job security, and room for growth – without requiring a college degree. However, it‘s a demanding job that requires flexibility, physical stamina, and a strong work ethic.

It‘s not for everyone, but for those with the right temperament and circ*mstances, it can be a gateway to a fulfilling, long-term career with the postal service. Carefully weigh the pros and cons to determine if this job aligns with your skills, needs, and aspirations.

If you do decide to pursue a PSE Mail Processing Clerk position, be sure to put in the time to prepare for Exam 476 to ensure you score well. With the right qualifications, attitude, and a bit of perseverance, you could soon be on your way to playing a vital role in keeping the nation‘s mail moving as a USPS employee.


Is Being a PSE Mail Processing Clerk at USPS a Good Job? An In-Depth Look - Marketing Scoop (2024)
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