Mail Clerks and Messengers Career Information
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Nature of the WorkCouriers and messengers move and distribute
information, documents, and small packages for businesses, institutions, and
government agencies. They pick up and deliver letters, important business documents,
or packages that need to be sent or received quickly within a local area. Trucks
and vans are used for larger deliveries, such as legal caseloads and conference
materials. By sending an item by courier or messenger, the sender ensures that
it reaches its destination the same day or even within the hour. Couriers and
messengers also deliver items that the sender is unwilling to entrust to other
means of delivery, such as important legal or financial documents, passports,
airline tickets, or medical samples to be tested.
Couriers and messengers receive their instructions either by reporting to their office in person, by telephone, by two-way radio, or wireless data service. They then pick up the item and carry it to its destination. After each pickup or delivery, they check in with dispatch to receive instructions. Sometimes dispatch will contact them while they are between stops; they may be routed to go past a stop that has very recently called in a delivery. Since most couriers and messengers work on commission, they are carrying more than one package at any given time of the day. Consequently, most couriers and messengers spend much of their time outdoors or in their vehicle. They usually maintain records of deliveries and often obtain signatures from the persons receiving the items.
Most couriers and messengers deliver items within a limited geographic area, such as a city or metropolitan area. Items that need to go longer distances usually are sent by mail or by an overnight delivery service. Some couriers and messengers carry items only for their employer, which typically might be a law firm, bank, or financial institution. Others may act as part of an organization's internal mail system and mainly carry items among an organization's buildings or entirely within one building. Many couriers and messengers work for messenger or courier services; for a fee, they pick up items from anyone and deliver them to specified destinations within a local area. Most are paid on a commission basis.
Couriers and messengers reach their destination by several methods. Many drive vans or cars or ride motorcycles. A few travel by foot, especially in urban areas or when making deliveries nearby. In congested urban areas, messengers often use bicycles to make deliveries. Bicycle messengers usually are employed by messenger or courier services. Although e-mail and fax machines can deliver information faster than couriers and messengers can and a great deal of information is available over the Internet, an electronic copy cannot substitute for the original document for many types of business transactions.
EmploymentCouriers and messengers together held about 141,000 jobs in 2009. About 9 percent of couriers and messengers worked for law firms, another 10 percent worked for hospitals and medical and dental laboratories, and 29 percent were employed by local and long-distance trucking establishments. Financial institutions, such as commercial banks, savings institutions, and credit unions, employed 10 percent. The rest were employed in a variety of other industries. Technically, many messengers are self-employed independent contractors because they provide their vehicles and, to a certain extent, set their own schedules but, in many respects, they are like employees because they usually work for one company.
Job OutlookEmployment of couriers and messengers is expected to through 2010 despite an increasing volume of parcels, business documents, promotional materials, and other written information that must be handled and delivered as the economy expands. Employment of couriers and messengers will continue to be adversely impacted by the more widespread use of electronic information-handling technology. For example, fax machines that allow copies of documents to be immediately sent across town or around the world have become standard office equipment. The transmission of information using e-mail also has become commonplace and will continue to reduce the demand for messengers. Many documents, forms, and application that people used to have delivered by hand are now downloaded from the Internet. However, couriers and messengers still will be needed to transport materials that cannot be sent electronically—such as legal documents, blueprints and other oversized materials, large multipage documents, securities, passports, financial statements, and airline tickets. Also, they still will be required by medical and dental laboratories to pick up and deliver medical samples, specimens, and other materials.
Related OccupationsMessengers and couriers deliver letters, parcels, and other items. They also keep accurate records of their work.
Sources of Additional InformationInformation about job opportunities may be
obtained from local employers and local offices of the State employment service.
Persons interested in courier and messenger jobs also may contact messenger
and courier services, mail-order firms, banks, printing and publishing firms,
utility companies, retail stores, or other large firms.