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US Postal Inspector Career Guide

US Postal Inspectors generally examine cases or allegations of criminal wrongdoing that involve the sending or receiving of mail using the United States Postal Service. They may interview potential perpetrators, perform analysis of strings of deliveries or receipts to uncover patterns of wrongdoing, or work with other federal, state, and local agencies to develop more evidence for a case. Unlike other federal law enforcement positions, the training for US Postal Inspectors is a separate program in Maryland, and testing is also different from other federal agencies.

US Postal Inspector Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

US Postal Inspectors conduct surveillance of prospective perpetrators, gather and analyze evidence, interview witnesses, and attempt to obtain confessions. Unlike some state or local detectives, US Postal Inspectors are involved in Homeland Security issues and may be involved in tasks related to counterterrorism, such as pattern analysis and identifying potential examples of terrorist activity. Like Secret Service agencies, the United States Postal Service may require postal inspectors to investigate and to spearhead anti-fraud efforts that involve the use of mail services. Aspiring US Postal Inspectors must be prepared to carry and to use a firearm, to arrest suspects, to testify in court, to write in-depth reports, to serve individuals with subpoenas, and to do whatever necessary to protect oneself and others in dangerous situations.

How to Become a US Postal Inspector: Requirements and Qualifications

All entry level candidates must have a bachelor’s degree, unless they can provide evidence of one consecutive year of employment with the same organization within the previous two years, must be at least 21 but no older than 37 by the hire date, and must have previous USPS experience, military or law enforcement experience, or must provide proof of a mastery of a foreign language. Candidates start the process by applying online. The United States Postal Inspection Service only accepts applications during the open hiring period. The application process includes:

  • Submit the online application.
  • After submitting an application, applicants will be informed whether they are eligible to move forward with the application process.
  • Eligible candidates must successfully complete an online examination within three days, or 72 hours, of submitting the online application.
  • Candidates, who pass the examination, must complete and submit the Electronic Comprehensive Application Packet (ECAP). Failure to complete the ECAP within five days will disqualify candidates from the application process.
  • Those candidates who pass the ECAP then move on to the Electronic Questionnaire Investigations Process, or eQIP. The eQIP must be submitted within seven days or the candidate will be disqualified.
  • Select candidates are invited to an Information Exchange with an employee of the United States Postal Inspector Service. Failure to accept the invitation within 48 hours removes the candidate from the applicant pool.
  • Candidates attend the Information Exchange, during which time they will take the second part of the online examination. Those who pass will move on to take a business writing test. Those who do not pass are removed from the applicant pool.
  • Those candidates who speak another language fluently must take and must pass a proficiency test.
  • Successful candidates may be invited to take an Assessment Center evaluation.
  • Those who pass the assessment may be administered a polygraph exam.
  • Passing of the polygraph exam may result in an invitation to an interview with US Postal Inspection Service Management.
  • Candidates, who have passed all steps thus far, may be offered conditional employment and must then pass a drug test, a medical exam, and 12 weeks of training.

US Postal Inspector Job Training

All newly hired US Postal Inspectors must successfully complete basic training or will have the offer of employment rescinded. Training, which runs for 12 weeks in Potomac, Maryland, is divided into four sections. New hires will complete courses on the agency’s investigation and administration processes and must successfully complete three exams. Firearms training will teach new US Postal Inspectors how to safely use their weapons. All US Postal Inspectors must also undergo physical fitness and tactical training in addition to participating in practical exercises. Graduates may be placed on a probationary period depending on their status. Veterans, who enjoy preference status, for example, must successfully complete a one year probationary period.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

The United States Postal Inspection Service prefers those candidates who are highly qualified. A highly qualified job candidate has one or more of the following:

  • Speaks a foreign language fluently. The agency has specific needs for specific languages at different times. Candidates will be required to successfully complete a proficiency exam and to provide evidence of having worked one consecutive year with the same organization in the previous two years.
  • Possesses recent experience – within the previous two years – as a contractor, an employee, or an intern with the US Postal Service.
  • Has a standout academic background, according to the Postal Inspection Service’s guidelines, which includes a bachelor’s degree and two years of work experience, a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or greater, a graduate degree and one year of work experience, or one consecutive year of work experience with the same organization in the previous two years. Work experience must be full time.
  • Has specialized experience, such as having been in the military, holds a degree in law, has law enforcement experience, is a current or a former bioterrorism investigator, is a current or a former Certified Public Accountant, or has extensive experience with computers.

Those candidates who do not possess any of the previous criteria will be considered “minimally qualified,” according to the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • Postal inspector
  • Postal investigator

Career Opportunities and Employers

The United States Postal Inspection Service employs postal inspectors. US Postal Inspectors have the opportunity to move through the ranks in the USPS and may also take positions in law enforcement.

US Postal Inspector Salary and Outlook

A postal inspector’s salary is based on the General Schedule pay scale which can be found at the US Office of Personnel Management. The employment outlook largely depends on the number of vacancies each year. The United States Postal Inspection Service only accepts applications when a position is open and during an open hiring period.

Frequently Asked Questions About This Career

How long does the application process take?

The application process can move quickly or it can be lengthy depending on the number of open positions. Applicants should expect strong competition for a position.

What does the background investigation entail?

Background investigations are thorough and include a careful look at a candidate’s credit history, criminal history (if applicable), education verification, and a check of professional and personal references.

What kind of hours do postal inspectors work?

US Postal Inspectors work full time. Hours are often long and irregular, according to the United States Postal Inspection Service. However, employees generally receive all federal holidays off. Candidates should be prepared for relocation, if necessary.

What employee benefits does the United States Postal Inspection Service offer?

US Postal Inspectors will receive such benefits as vacation time, sick leave, holiday leave, health insurance, life insurance, and a retirement program.

Additional Resources