Mail clerks sort incoming and outgoing mail and provide customer service for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and for any number of businesses, organizations and institutions. Although a college education is not normally required for the position as a result of on-the-job training, you'll need to have the proper skills to do the job. If you want to become a mail clerk for the USPS, you'll be required to pass an exam demonstrating your ability to check addresses and address coding and memorize address ranges. Some positions will require math skills, as well as customer service skills, data entry skills and record-keeping skills.
Although you won't need to go to college to become a mail clerk, many companies want you to have a high school diploma and some mailroom experience. This is not a requirement, however, and you might be able to get a mail clerking job without finishing high school as long as you can do the work. If you plan to become a mail clerk as a stepping stone to advancement within a company, you might want a college degree for the advancement opportunities it will provide.
If you want to become a mail clerk for the USPS, you will be required to pass the 473 Postal Exam. The exam has several parts and tests you on address checking, forms completion, address coding and memorized address ranges. The longest portion of the exam is an inventory section that reviews your experience and personal characteristics. After you pass the 473 Postal Exam, you can apply for most entry-level jobs within the USPS and won't be limited to mail clerk positions.
Some mail clerks also perform other duties, including answering telephones, performing data entry and maintaining company records. Computer and customer service skills are a great benefit for positions that require these additional tasks. Duties related to mail organization include everything from sealing envelopes and using letter openers to sorting mail and seeing that it gets to the intended recipient. Knowing shipping schedules and being able to gauge shipping charges for particular items also can be beneficial. Math skills are also very useful, whether you work for a company or the USPS.
You will receive on-the-job training if you're hired, and you'll need to learn how to use the office machines and how the departments in the company are structured. You'll need an eye for detail to learn how to distribute mail throughout the organization. If you end up working at the mail counter in a post office, you will need to learn how the checkout system works, how to print labels and how to package items according to postal rules and regulations.