What Does a U.S. Postal Inspector Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Postal inspectors work for the United States Postal Inspection Service. They're specialized government agents who are tasked with investigating all allegations of criminal activity that pertain to or affect the U.S. Postal Service and mail system. They work throughout the United States and the world to stop fraud and mail-related crimes.
Postal inspectors and uniformed postal officers are also responsible for ensuring the safety of postal service employees around the country, as well as the safety and integrity of the mail itself.
U.S. Postal Inspector Duties & Responsibilities
The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:
- Making arrests
- Preparing reports
- Providing courtroom testimony
- Preparing and executing arrest and search warrants
- Conducting extensive investigations
- Working closely with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies
Postal inspectors are fully empowered federal law enforcement agents. They carry firearms and have the power and authority to make arrests.
U.S. postal inspectors are tasked with investigating mail fraud, mail theft, money laundering, extortion, identity fraud, robbery, mail and mailbox destruction, obstruction of mail, and counterfeit stamps.
In addition, they play a large role in investigating instances of child exploitation through enforcement of the Comstock Act, which regulates the distribution of obscene materials through the mail. This is one of the primary statutes used to fight child pornography, and the service has been recognized as a leader in the fight to protect children.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has also taken the lead in investigating fraud through electronic means, such as email and websites. They also look into misuse and theft of equipment, such as credit card scanners, secured computers, and financial and identification information.
U.S. Postal Inspector Salary
Base pay for postal inspectors is determined by pay grade (based on type of job) and pay step (based on seniority or performance). In 2019, that base pay ranged from $19,048 to $138,572. Postal inspectors are also eligible to receive extra pay based on law enforcement availability pay (LEAP) and locality.
Education, Training, & Certification
Aspiring postal inspectors must be between the ages of 21 and 37 prior to appointment, with the exception of retired military personnel or current federal employees. They must also be U.S. citizens and hold a valid driver's license. They must have a clean background, with no prior convictions for felonies or misdemeanor domestic violence.
Education: All applicants must possess at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited university.
Certification: Candidates participate in an assessment center to measure their ability to clearly read, speak, and write English. They will also be required to demonstrate the ability to comprehend oral and written directions, interpret verbal and nonverbal communication, identify relevant facts, and interact with other people professionally to gather information.
Postal inspector candidates who meet the minimum requirements will undergo several assessments, including an eye exam, medical physical, and physical abilities test. They will also be required to submit to an extensive background investigation and a polygraph exam.
Training: Inspectors who are hired attend a 12-week training course at the agency's Career Development Unit in Potomac, Maryland. It includes rigorous courses in investigation techniques, firearms training, physical training and defensive tactics, and practical exercises.
U.S. Postal Inspector Skills & Competencies
Like FBI agents, postal inspectors are hired through one of four special knowledge tracks:
- Language skills: Candidates for this track must have advanced competency in one of the languages identified by the Postal Inspection Service as necessary for carrying out investigations.
- Past postal experience: This track requires candidates to have been an employee of the U.S. Postal Service within the last two years.
- Non-postal special experience: This includes prior law enforcement, military, or investigative experience.
- Academic achievement: To be eligible for this track, candidates must have a high GPA (3.0) or an advanced degree.
Candidates who do not fall into one of these special knowledge categories are unlikely to be hired. If they do fall into one of these categories, then, they're also evaluated on communication skills, personal responsibility, problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, and leadership abilities.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the field of postal work in general will decline 13 percent through 2026. (Overall employment is expected to grow 7 percent for all occupations in the country.)
With a wide range of duties and investigative responsibilities, working as a postal inspector is sure to provide challenges and variety. Postal inspectors must also be willing to relocate and work anywhere the service has a presence.
Inspectors may work long and irregular hours, which can include evenings and weekends.
How to Get the Job
Obtaining a job as a postal inspector is highly competitive. Applications are accepted only periodically, and jobs are highly sought after.
A good way to get your foot in the door is with an internship. College students in their junior and senior years can participate in the Postal Inspection Service's unpaid internship program.
You can get more information by emailing USPISinternship@uspis.gov.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People who are interested in becoming U.S. Postal Inspectors may also consider other careers with these median salaries:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019