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Messenger Service Worker Job Description, Career as a Messenger Service Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: None

Salary: Median—$20,190 per year

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

The efficiency of every business depends in part on the flow of letters, paperwork, and packages. This flow may be between departments in the same company and building or between businesses in different locations. It is the job of a messenger service worker to make pickups and deliveries of some of this material. Most of the letters and packages messengers transport need immediate attention.

Messengers or couriers who make deliveries between businesses may travel by foot, public transportation, bicycle, motorcycle, or truck. They must be familiar with the geographic area, know the fastest routes, and be able to maneuver through heavy urban congestion. Most messengers transport items only within a defined delivery area, such as a city's financial district.

With the increased use of facsimile machines and computer networks to transfer documents, many messenger services now specialize in transporting items that cannot be sent electronically. For instance, some may transfer medical specimens from hospitals to medical laboratories. Others transport emergency spare parts for aircraft and other equipment.

Law firms, brokerage houses, banks, and some other businesses deal with large numbers of original documents such as stock certificates. Often these documents need to be transported from one place to another. Some large businesses hire messenger services to run not only these messenger operations but also their mail rooms. If a business does not employ its own outside messengers, it may use an independent messenger service.

Education and Training Requirements

Some employers prefer to hire high school graduates. More important than having formal education, however, is being responsible, independent, and very punctual. Good references are also necessary, because most companies bond, or insure, their messengers.

Training for new messengers is brief, informal, and done on the job. New outside messengers are given assistance in planning their routes. Couriers may be expected to know their area well when they join a messenger service.

Getting the Job

A high school placement office may be able to help an interested individual find a job as a messenger. Internet job sites and local newspapers in large metropolitan areas often carry job listings for messengers. Candidates can also apply directly to companies that usually employ messengers. Even if there are no openings at the time of applying, a person's application may be kept on file until positions become available. If a person is interested in a government job, he or she should apply to take the necessary civil service test.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Some companies hire messengers who have more qualifications than the job demands with the intention of promoting them to positions of greater responsibility. Banks, for example, often promote messengers to bank clerk jobs after an introductory period. Other firms expect messengers to remain in that job for the course of their employment.

Couriers and messengers held 147,000 jobs in 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of messengers was expected to decline through the year 2014. The spread of electronic document delivery technologies such as e-mail and fax will continue to erode at the courier industry. Employment is also very dependent on the economy. When workers are laid off, messengers are often the first to go. Full-time jobs with commercial messenger services may offer greater security. Still, messenger work is plentiful, easy to obtain, and provides a good source of short-term employment and income.

Working Conditions

Messengers employed full time usually work between thirty-five and forty hours per week. Those employed by banks and newspapers sometimes work in shifts. Messengers employed by independent services often work very irregular hours and operate more like self-employed independent contractors. Many messengers work flexible part-time hours and provide their own transportation. Their hours fit their schedules and the work available.

Inside messengers and those who deliver on foot are on their feet all day. They are also under pressure to complete several deliveries at once. Couriers using cars and vans or bicycles are constantly on the move. They have the stress of dealing with heavy traffic while trying to make their deliveries as fast as possible. All messengers must be very efficient and reliable. They must be able to plan their routes quickly and remember many detailed instructions.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary widely depending on the location of the job. Messengers working full time in 2004 could expect a median wage of $20,190 an nually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest-paid 10 percent of messengers earned more than $30,510 annually.

Where to Go for More Information

Office and Professional Employees International Union
265 W. 14th St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(800) 346-7348

Couriers working for messenger services are usually paid by the errand. Those who use their own cars are paid a mileage allowance for each mile they drive. Many of these couriers work part time, so their earnings depend on how many hours they work and how many errands they complete.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesBusiness