Working for the United States Postal Service is no sinecure, especially mail carrier positions, which may entail less-than-ideal working conditions – bad weather, unpredictable dogs, and other disruptions.
One position you may have heard of is the Rural Carrier Associate job, but does this job entail? How does it fit into the grand scheme of positions at the Postal Service? If you’d like to find out, keep reading!
What Is The USPS Rural Carrier Associate Job In 2023?
United States Postal Service Rural Carrier Associates serve as part-time fill-ins for regular rural carriers on their days off – normally Saturdays – or any other time they are off for vacation, holidays or short/long-term leave. Rural Carrier Associates receive a variety of benefits, including generous pay, overtime, paid training and sick leave in 2023.
To learn more about what’s in the Rural Carrier Associate job description and duties list, what the hours and pay are like, and if it’s a good job to nab, keep reading for all the details and more!
What Is The USPS Rural Carrier Associate Job Description?
USPS Rural Carrier Associates (or RCAs) have the same job description as regular Rural Carriers, and the only difference is the hours worked.
So, RCAs can expect to drive either a USPS-owned or self-owned vehicle to deliver mail in rural and suburban settings.
Unlike City Carriers, who tend to park in one place and then walk the blocks distributing mail, RCs and RCAs stay in the vehicle (a specially outfitted one, where they can sit on the right).
This is because in rural and suburban settings the houses are much farther apart, so mail delivery would take much longer if they walked their mail route.
In fact, according to FederalJobs.net, RCs and RCAs can drive up to 100 miles per shift!
The main difference in the RCA/RC job description is that RCs’ schedules reflect a more typical 9-5, Monday-Friday schedule.
In contrast, RCAs are their fill-ins, working Saturday (a typical business day for the Postal Service) and other times when the regular RC is unavailable.
For example, if the regular RC goes on vacation or takes sick leave, the RCA steps in.
Since RCAs are not working the 40-hour workweek of an RC, they work part-time only positions. However, the pay is still well above the federal minimum wage and includes benefits.
RCAs are considered “on-call” for the duration of their employment, meaning that if there’s a sudden need for them to come in, they are expected to show up.
What Are The Duties Of A USPS Rural Carrier Associate?
Some of the duties of an RCA include the following:
- Sorts, delivers and collects mail on a given rural/suburban route from a vehicle
- May need to cover a variety of routes, if the need arises
- Sells stamps, supplies and money orders
- Loads and unloads containers of mail weighing 70 lbs. max
- Interacts with customers on route, as needed, answering questions
- Writes up a trip report for each shift
- Keeps an eye on supplies inventories
- Ensures mail security at all times
The duties listed above are just some of the most pressing; for a much-expanded list, you can check out this excellent resource here.
What Are The Hours Of A USPS Rural Carrier Associate?
Postal Service RCAs can generally count on Saturday hours, and they may also work Sundays for special delivery services (like Priority Mail Express Sunday delivery, etc.).
Beyond that, their schedules are less structured, and work on an as-needed basis. For example, if the regular Rural Carrier takes time off for or calls in sick, the RCA is expected to step in and take over the shift.
Being on-call is part of the job description, and unfortunately if you miss too many call-ins, you’ll likely be let go.
How Much Do USPS Rural Carrier Associates Make?
USPS RCAs make well above the federal minimum wage (which is just $7.25 USD as of 2023).
According to Indeed and Glassdoor, RCAs make, on average, $18-20/hour. However, new hires will start lower, probably in the $16-17/hour range, but long-term RCAs can make upwards of $38/hour.
Do USPS Rural Carrier Associates Get Benefits?
USPS RCAs do get benefits, and while they are not quite as thorough as regular, full-time career employees, they’re still generous.
According to USPS.com, alongside the very competitive wage, RCAs receive sick leave and vacation, overtime pay (for weeks of more than 40 hours) and paid training. As well, they’re also given the opportunity to buy into a group health insurance plan.
In addition, after one year of ongoing employment as an RCA, employees can “bid” on full-time regular RC positions if any are available.
Overall, RCA positions are beneficial both to people who prefer the flexibility of part-time work and those who want to use the job as a jumping-off point to full-time employment with USPS.
Is A USPS Rural Carrier Associate A Good Job?
Make no bones about it: As an RCA, you’ll work hard, likely struggle to meet deadlines and endure many inconveniences, from torrential downpours to being jumped on by dogs.
However, many current RCA’s who rated the position on CareerBliss.com found that the money made it worthwhile, at least for a certain period of time.
Commenters noted that it can be a stressful position, especially as the USPS has high expectations and KPIs for their mail carriers.
For example, bad weather and long days can add to frustration, and some found that the work/life balance was difficult to maintain.
However, the pros include excellent pay, getting to enjoy beautiful weather, having good people to work with and being genuinely helpful to customers along your route.
If you want to know more, you can also read our posts on the USPS mail handler, USPS delivery instructions, and USPS carrier facility.
As a USPS Rural Carrier Associate, you work part-time and on-call, filling in on rural routes when the regular carrier is off work.
While it’s a demanding and stressful position, the excellent pay and ability to interact with customers along the route make being an RCA a worthwhile job for many.