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If you look at the USPS website (www.usps.com) and search for career opportunities, you will see various USPS locations looking for Rural Carrier Associates. This is a long-term relief position and as such is not a career-track opportunity. That means that RCAs do not receive benefits and are only paid by the hour. The wages they receive average $18 per hour, although this can be higher or lower depending on the USPS location they are assigned to.
RCAs essentially take over the place of full-time Rural Carriers when they are not available. This usually happens when they are out sick, on vacation, or have their days off. RCAs have no set work hours. They may only be called once a week or a couple of days a week. To get more hours, the RCA may be able to cover for other Regular Rural Carriers in nearby postal facilities.
Most of the time, RCAs are required to have their own vehicles which they must use in delivering mail. The USPS pays the mileage for the personal vehicles used. The postmaster of that particular postal facility will tell you what the rates hour per mile and the other expenses that the USPS will shoulder regarding your vehicle use.
One good thing about being an RCA is that it helps you get into a regular career position the longer you are on the job. Most of the time, the RCA who has been working for a particular post office for a long time gets offered the full time job when one is available. Although it can take years for this to happen, you don’t have to go through the eye of the needle when a vacancy does become available. Postmasters are most likely going to choose RCAs whose performance have already been proven rather than fresh applicants who they will have to train all over again. Most of the time, interviews will be mere formalities if you are already an RCA.
Those interested to become RCAs will need to take the postal exam 473-e. This is an aptitude test that will test your ability to check addresses and complete forms. It will also test your ability to code and code from memory. In other words, this test will help you determine if you have what it takes to do the job of a letter carrier and meet the pressures that come with being one. Deadlines that have to be met are simulated by the time pressure that you are under when taking the exam. Your ability to memorize routes and postal codes so you can deliver the mail efficiently are also tested in the postal exam 473-e.