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Significant Points

This series includes all classes of positions the primary duties of which are to supervise or perform general messenger work, such as receiving, delivering, and collecting incoming and outgoing mail or other documents or items, including correspondence, memoranda, publications, records, files, packages, and other similar material. Positions in this series may also involve the performance of light manual or mechanical work, or general office tasks of a simple and routine nature, or the operation of a motor vehicle.

Nature of the Work

Couriers and messengers move and distribute documents and packages for individuals, businesses, institutions, and government agencies. They pick up documents and packages from customers and deliver them to their final destinations, usually within a local area. Because they only travel to nearby locations, couriers and messengers often specialize in same-day delivery. Some offer faster service, such as delivery within one hour. Couriers and messengers also deliver items that senders are unwilling to entrust to other means of delivery, such as important legal or financial documents, passports, airline tickets, medical specimens, and occasionally donated organs.

Couriers and messengers receive their instructions either in person or by mobile telephone, two-way radio, or wireless data service. They then use that information to pick up items and deliver them to their destinations. They may take payment upon pickup, and are often responsible for obtaining signatures upon delivery.

Some couriers and messengers carry items only for their employers, often law firms, banks, medical laboratories, or financial institutions. Others act as part of organizations’ internal mail system and carry items mainly within an organization's buildings or entirely within one building. Many couriers and messengers work for messenger or courier services. Those with experience may open their own courier and messenger business and work as independent contractors.

Couriers and messengers reach their destination by several methods. Most drive vans or trucks, but some drive cars or ride motorcycles. In congested urban areas, messengers sometimes use bicycles to make deliveries. Some may travel by foot.

Work environment. Couriers and messengers spend most of their time making deliveries alone and are not closely supervised. Those who deliver by bicycle must be physically fit and be able to cope with all weather conditions and the hazards of heavy traffic. Car, van, and truck couriers must sometimes carry heavy loads, either manually or with the aid of a hand truck. They also have to deal with difficult parking situations, traffic jams, and road construction.

Couriers and messengers are responsible for the items they deliver until they are in the hands of the customer. Often, deliveries contain valuable or sensitive information and with it, expectations of safe and timely delivery making the job stressful at times. The pressure of making as many deliveries as possible to increase one's earnings can also be stressful and may lead to unsafe driving or cycling practices.

The typical workweek is Monday through Friday; however, evening and weekend hours are common.

Messenger, GS-0302-01

Nature and variety of workThese positions include the performance of routine repetitive messenger work involving the general collection and delivery of a variety of mail, documents, and other papers or materials on a predetermined route and time schedule to designated individuals or offices within one or a group of closely situated buildings or in buildings that are widely separated when the stops are part of an established messenger route. The mail, documents, or other papers picked up or delivered do not include materials classified under security regulations when this requires a continuing knowledge of the procedures and regulations for handling such documents but may include regular mail that does require some special handling because it is Insured, registered, marked for special handling, etc. These positions may also include the performance of simple and routine clerical, mechanical, or manual tasks as required, when these tasks do not exceed this grade level in difficulty and responsibility.

Typically messengers:

Receive mail and administrative material previously separated according to routes.

Sort the mail to be delivered on their specific route according to prescribed stops.

Arrange material in order of delivery.

Deliver material by office number, code, individual name, or organizational unit.

Pick up at prescribed stops and sort material to be delivered along the messenger route in returning to the mail or messenger room.

Occasionally, make special trips to offices, inside or outside the building, to pick up or deliver special mail or materials; or to deliver or pick up classified material. (Specific special instructions are usually provided for each special trip of this type.)

Perform other simple and routine manual, mechanical, or clerical duties as prescribed.

Messenger, GS-0302-02

Nature and variety of work. -- These positions consist of messenger work involving some responsibility and requiring some judgment and a knowledge of a limited number of pertinent regulations. These positions involve work as described in one or more of the following typical situations. Other miscellaneous tasks are performed as assigned:

1. Collects and delivers security classified mail and material which requires special precautions and a knowledge of security regulations and administrative procedures applicable to the handling of such materials by messengers. Messengers in this work situation typically:

Pick up and inspect classified material to see that security regulations pertaining to messenger service have been complied with, i. e., material is properly sealed and addressed, receipt card or form is attached, security classification is indicated, etc.

Advise persons at pickup points, as requested, on the correct procedure in preparing security material for purposes of delivery by messengers.

Safeguard material in transit by taking all precautions not to lose or mislay and precautions to retain personal possession of classified material at all times. Locate and identify the prescribed person to whom the material is addressed.

Deliver individual pieces of mail, obtain and turn in necessary receipt or signature.

Tactfully refuse to deliver material to unauthorized personnel.

Refer to supervisor or security officer any unusual incident or situation involved in handling classified material.

2. Serves as the principal or special messenger to the top-ranking official (and his assistants) of a department, agency, bureau, commission, or similar organization, with responsibility for the collection and delivery of security classified and unclassified mail, documents, and other papers requiring special handling. The mail and material involved are usually urgent and important and require prompt and efficient service to facilitate receipt and delivery in and out of the office or to outside buildings or points. This requires some initiative and judgment in furnishing routine information, locating lost or delayed mail, providing special messenger services, or performing other phases of messenger work requiring special attention and involving direct personal contact with high-ranking officials. The individual tasks involved in collecting and delivering classified and unclassified material are otherwise similar to those described in example 1 above or at the GS-1 level.

3. Collects classified or unclassified mail or special administrative material from several widely separated buildings or points, and delivers to designated individuals or offices which, because of the distances involved, may require the operation of automotive equipment to facilitate the performance of the messenger work. Avoids unnecessary delays, and selects the most expeditious route for special delivery or collection. Incumbents perform a full range of individual messenger tasks pertinent to the delivery and collection of classified or unclassified mail and other material.

4. Also at this level are positions of working leaders with limited quasi-supervisory responsibility over the day-to-day work of 2 or 3 messengers in the same or lower-graded positions. The duties and responsibilities of working leaders consist essentially of assigning and checking work and-seeing that schedules are maintained.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Most couriers and messengers train on the job and are not required to hold more than a high school diploma. Communication skills, a good driving record, and good sense of direction are helpful.

Education and training. Most courier and messenger jobs do not have formal education requirements; however, a high school diploma may be helpful in getting a job. Couriers and messengers usually learn as they work, sometimes training with an experienced worker for a short time.

Those who deal with hazardous or sensitive packages such as medical samples or donated organs may need to take a course in safely and effectively handling these items.

Licensure. Almost all couriers and messengers are required to have valid State driver’s license. Having a clean driving record is usually helpful.

Other qualifications. Couriers and messengers need good knowledge of the area in which they travel and a good sense of direction. In addition, good oral and written communication skills are important because communicating with customers and dispatchers is an integral part of some courier and messenger jobs.

Many couriers and messengers are required to provide and maintain their own vehicles, especially those who work as independent contractors. Almost all two-wheeled couriers own their own bicycle, moped, or motorcycle.

Those who own their own courier and messenger business must be able to keep basic accounting records and pay their own taxes.

Advancement. Couriers and messengers have limited advancement opportunities. However, some companies may offer experienced workers preference when assigning jobs, which means they receive higher-paying contracts and more work when business is slow.

Some independent contractors become master contractors. Master contractors organize routes for multiple independent contractors for courier agencies.


Little or no employment change is expected through 2018. The need to replace workers who leave the occupation will create the majority of job openings.

Employment change. Little or no change is expected over the 2008-18 decade. Although individuals and businesses continue to value package delivery services, the need for document delivery services has been greatly reduced due to the widespread use of computers and the Internet. Many documents, forms, and other materials that were once hand-delivered are now transferred in digital format. Wider acceptance of digital signatures has reduced the number of legal and financial documents that need to be moved from place to place.

Nonetheless, some demand for courier and messenger services will continue to arise, especially for items that cannot be sent electronically, such as blueprints and other oversized materials, securities, and passports. Couriers will also be required by medical and dental laboratories to pick up and deliver medical specimens and other materials.

Job prospects. Job opportunities will arise out of the need to replace couriers and messengers who leave the occupation. Additionally, a continued need for parcel delivery, both within urban areas and between cities, will result in some jobs for couriers and messengers. The vast majority of openings are expected to be in large urban areas.


Median hourly wages of couriers and messengers in May 2008 were $11.22 per hour. The middle 50 percent earned between $9.08 and $14.10. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.88, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $17.77. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of couriers and messengers in May 2008 were:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $12.05
General medical and surgical hospitals 11.85
Legal services 10.83
Couriers and express delivery services 10.75
Local messengers and local delivery 10.00

Couriers and messengers who are full-time employees usually receive the same benefits as most other workers. About 21 percent are union members, which may lead to higher earnings, better benefits and more job stability. Most independent contractors do not receive benefits, but may have higher earnings. If uniforms are required, employers generally provide them or offer an allowance to purchase them.

Related Occupations

Workers in a number of other occupations also type, record information, and process paperwork. Among them are:

A growing number of secretaries and administrative assistants share in managerial and human resource responsibilities. Occupations requiring these skills include:

Sources of Additional Information

Local employers and local offices of the State employment service can provide additional information about job opportunities. People interested in courier and messenger jobs also may contact local courier and messenger services.

Information on careers as couriers and messengers is available from:

  • Messenger Courier Association of the Americas, 750 National Press Building, 529 14th St., NW, Washington, DC 20045. Internet:

Information on obtaining Messenger positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
  • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

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