US Postal Inspector: Career Guide
US postal inspectors investigate criminal allegations or incidents involving the sending or receiving of mail using the United States Postal Service (USPS). They may interview suspects and witnesses, 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. The United States Postal Inspection Service employs postal inspectors. US postal inspectors have the opportunity to move up through the ranks in the USPS and may also take positions in law enforcement.
Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks
US postal inspectors conduct surveillance of suspects, gather and analyze evidence, interview witnesses, and attempt to obtain confessions. US postal inspectors are involved in homeland security and may be involved in tasks related to counterterrorism, such as pattern analysis to identify terrorist activities conducted by mail. Aspiring US postal inspectors must be prepared to carry and use a firearm, arrest suspects, testify in court, write in-depth reports, and do whatever necessary to protect oneself and others in dangerous situations.
Steps for Becoming a US Postal Inspector
Entry-level candidates must have a bachelor's degree, 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 provide proof of mastery of a foreign language. The United States Postal Inspection Service only accepts applications during the open hiring period. The application process outline you should expect as an applicant is as follows:
- 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 72 hours of an eligibility notice.
- 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.
- 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.
- Candidates who speak another language fluently must take and must pass a proficiency test at this stage.
- 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. Training runs for 12 weeks in Potomac, Maryland, and 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 are placed on a probationary period, the length of which depends on their overall qualifications. Veterans, for example, enjoy preference status and have a one-year probationary period.1
Other Helpful Skills and Experience
The United States Postal Inspection Service seeks 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 experience within the previous two years as a contractor, employee, or intern with the US Postal Service.
- Has a standout academic background, 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; or a graduate degree and one year of work experience. Work experience must be full time.
- Has specialized experience, such as having military service; 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.
Candidates who do not possess any of the above criteria will be considered “minimally qualified,” according to the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Possible Job Titles for This Career
- Postal Inspector
- Postal Investigator
- US Postal Inspector
US Postal Inspector Salary and Job 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.
Research more law enforcement careers:
- Conservation Officer
- Criminal Investigator
- FBI Agent
- Fire Investigator
- First-Line Supervisor of Correctional Officers
- Fish and Game Warden
- Homicide Detective
- Police Officer
- United States Park Police
- US Marshal
- Victims Advocate
- Crime Scene Investigator
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How long does the application process take?
Answer: 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.
Question: What does the background investigation entail?
Answer: 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.
Question: What kind of hours do postal inspectors work?
Answer: US postal inspectors work full time. Hours are often long and irregular. However, employees generally receive federal holidays off. Candidates should be prepared for relocation.
Question: What employee benefits does the United States Postal Inspection Service offer?
Answer: US postal inspectors receive such benefits as vacation time, sick leave, holiday leave, health insurance, life insurance, and a retirement program.
- The United States Postal Inspection Service: The federal law enforcement and security arm of the US Postal Service
- US Postal Inspection Service: The US Postal Inspector Entrance Examination Preparation Guide.
1. The United States Postal Inspection Service: https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/