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City Carrier Assistant vs. Regular City Carrier: Is It Worth the Wait?

This delighted young City Carrier Assistant just found out he was promoted to Regular.  Will his load be lightened?

This delighted young City Carrier Assistant just found out he was promoted to Regular. Will his load be lightened?

You Can Check In, but Can You Check Out?

So you're a City Carrier Assistant (CCA) who has been patiently awaiting your turn to make Regular—your satchel getting more mileage than a long haul trucker carrying Arctic ice to the Equator as you bounce from office to office, delivering a new route every day and then reporting devotedly to CCA church on Sunday to haul Amazon packages. Now, at last, you get the word that you are going to be promoted to Regular. You tremble in anticipation as you prepare to bridge that vast chasm that has heretofore separated you from real people—meaning regular postal employees who are treated humanely, as opposed to the second-class citizen, postal peonage, indentured servitude approach you have been subjected to. You ask yourself if it has been worth it. You wonder if this is really what you want to do for a living.

There are no easy answers to these questions! A cushy, guaranteed postal income can either be a lifesaver or a death sentence for destinies and dreams. Sometimes when the money increases, the motivation to pursue one's lifelong goals decreases.

For this reason, there are practical and spiritual aspects of your promotion that need to be discussed. The dollars and cents are easy to grasp, and the potential pratfalls to your health should be obvious to you after your grueling service as a CCA. But what about your happiness? When all is said and done, will this be a satisfying career choice, or should you drop your satchel and run away screaming while there is still time?

Postal Math for Dummies

The letter carrier pay chart above is small, fuzzy, and difficult to read, but with your sharply focused young CCA eyes, you should be able to discern its numbers, although battle-hardened postal vets with sun-blasted pupils like me have to scrounge for our glasses. If you click on the source below the chart, it will take you to a much more readable version.

I'm not going to dwell much on the practical aspects of postal employment. I'm not a practical person. I find that practicality makes me fall asleep and drool on my computer, and there are dozens of practical postal people out there who can cover this topic much more accurately, efficiently, and enthusiastically than I do.

Suffice it to say that you will be getting an approximate $2.50 hourly bump in pay as a newly hatched Regular. After this, you will receive step increases every 46 weeks, which hike your rate about 80 cents an hour each time until you max out at 12.4 years. Additionally, the contract with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) is renegotiated every three to five years and generally results in a slight pay increase.

Now for the bad news. As a newly fledged Regular, you will also be eligible for Health Insurance. If you are a working Mother or Father supporting a family, of course, you need a health plan, but this is going to come at a cost. Payroll deductions for health insurance are going to be taking a significant bite out of that extra $2.50, and your early checks as a Regular City Carrier might not be as satisfying as you dreamed about while you were groaning beneath the whip of your slave-master supervisors.

This CCA was worried about relocation but found himself blessed to be transferred to an office where there is nothing but driving routes!

This CCA was worried about relocation but found himself blessed to be transferred to an office where there is nothing but driving routes!

Ready for Relocation?

A young CCA in my office was recently promoted to Regular, but instead of doing happy backflips like a squirrel on a trampoline, he was downright despondent. Turns out they were going to relocate him to an office about twelve miles farther up the road. Perhaps 12 miles do not sound like a lot where you live, but here in Southern California morning traffic, 12 miles can add an extra hour to your commute. Who really wants to wake up at 5 AM to beat the traffic for work at 9—in the meantime, being forced to wait in the swing room, enduring the shifty, suspicious gazes and uncomfortable questions of letter carriers who don't know you yet?

Unless you serve as CCA for a single facility city or county post office, chances are you are going to be relocated. Of course, as a Regular Carrier, you now have the right to bid on your own route, so perhaps you will be lucky enough to be able to bid back where you came from, but maybe not. In my delivery unit, for instance, the minimum seniority required to have a route or T-6 string is around 15 years. We are a station that leans toward the geriatric. We're so old we have postal nurses emptying our bedpans and checking our pulse on a daily basis, just to see if there is one. If your current CCA situation is like this, you are in for a long wait.

On a happier note, the post office they are sending you to might turn out to be better than the one you started at. Just because you are used to something doesn't mean it is good. For example, I carried a kidney stone for several weeks, and even though I got used to the pain, I certainly was glad when the damn thing passed. In a similar vein (or ureter, if you will, not really a vein), another newly ordained Regular in our office was somewhat anxious about her impending transfer.

Once she got there, however, she discovered they only had driving routes! Now she never has to walk and has put her satchel in permanent storage. Of course, she'll probably get fat, but she gets an annual uniform allowance to accommodate her growing waistline, so what's the problem?

This new regular thought he bid on an overburdened route, but now his problem is where to hide for his afternoon nap.

This new regular thought he bid on an overburdened route, but now his problem is where to hide for his afternoon nap.

Your Feet Will Find the Way

As I mentioned in the above segment, as a newly minted Regular, you can bid to become the permanent carrier on routes or T-6 strings posted on the bid sheet. Right now, you might not feel overcome with joy at this prospect. In fact - you might be saying to yourself, I've carried dozens of routes in the last couple of years, and they pretty much all sucked. There were varying degrees of suckiness, but for the most part, I've never carried a route that I really liked.

I can certainly understand this sentiment, but let me assure you that being the permanent Regular on any route is better than no route at all. Even the worst route at your station, the overburdened beast that the old-timers at your station dodge like a Zika-laden mosquito swarm, is better than being a homeless pup, wandering like an unwanted refugee from route to route, never settling down and eventually withering on the vine because you didn't put down roots. Here's why:

The reason lies in your feet. This information has yet to be verified by biological science, but I have confirmed through years of assiduous research that our postal feet have little brains of their own that allow us to zip between delivery points like a three-year-old on a sugar rush. Here's my proof:

I used to have a route in an older section of town where the sidewalks were significantly cracked and buckled with age and seismic activity. Walking along them could be a dicey and dangerous proposition for pedestrians out for a casual stroll. For a letter carrier burdened down with a full satchel and distracted by an armful of letters, they were potential knee and ankle killers. My right knee still has not recovered from the beating it took during this brief period of my postal history.

In front of one mailbox on this route lay a portion of the sidewalk that buckled at least six inches above the rest of the concrete. Being distracted getting the mail ready, the first few times I encountered this obstacle, I stumbled on it. Then one day, without having really made a conscious decision to avoid the pratfall, I realized I wasn't tripping over it anymore. That was when I understood that independent autopilots in my feet had calculated the course correction and were automatically leading me around the obstruction.

The brains in your feet are not only handy for avoiding obstacles but also for guiding you in general. As a regular, you will find yourself unconsciously following the computers in your feet as they calculate and recalculate the shortest route between mailboxes. Before long, that nine-hour route the old-timers laughed at you for bidding on will be down to eight, then seven and a half, and finally seven! Every day your feet will be shaving off seconds, which will accumulate into minutes, then hours!

Now, instead of wondering if you are going to have time to eat lunch, your constant dilemma as a CCA, your new problem will be—where can I hide so I can take a nap?

Unlike the sour faces he regularly encountered as a CCA, this new Regular's customers are overcome with joy to see him.

Unlike the sour faces he regularly encountered as a CCA, this new Regular's customers are overcome with joy to see him.

Feeling the Love

As a CCA, customers regularly greeted you with ugly, sour, unappreciative looks because, in their minds, you were intruding upon the regular carrier's territory. Postal customers are very possessive about their regular, and anytime he or she is absent, they assume the new guy is an impostor, holding their favorite letter carrier hostage in a wooden box buried six feet beneath a livestock pen.

It is next to impossible to shake them of this belief. Not only that, but even if their beloved regular made a mistake the day before, as the diabolical CCA usurper, you were going to get blamed for it, even if you were working at a post office 20 miles away, on a research vessel drilling holes in the Arctic ice, or locked up in the local drunk tank when it happened.

When you finally have your own route, the attitude of the customers you serve on a daily basis will change immeasurably. Where they previously shooed you off the grass like a stray dog, they will now treat you like a family member since you now belong to them. You will be invited into their homes. They will sit you down and feed you. You will be introduced to their daughters or sons as a potential candidate for marriage. Sometimes they will even give you the keys to their houses to avail yourself of the comfort facilities as nature demands.

As the evil, interloping "sub," you were blamed for everything from the national debt to the holes in the ozone layer, but as the lovable and hugable regular, the customers will make deliberate, calculated, often conspiratorial efforts to cover up your mistakes. I know a carrier who is not the most accurate of mail deliverers, often mixing up streets and crisscrossing numbers with unbounded, unrestrained dyslexia. Yet, because of his quick wit and charming personality, his customers adore him. Even when he owns up to a mistake, he is reassured by his idolizing customers that it couldn't be him because he was off that day. In the mother of all customer cover-up paradoxes, "that day" might even be today. They will walk six blocks with a smile in 100-degree weather to drop off a misdelivered letter or package so as not to traumatize their adopted child.

This is the kind of love you can receive as a newborn regular who has finally finished passing through the painful CCA birth canal. With one caveat: You have to give that love back.

Are you ready to join the proud ranks?  Welcome aboard!

Are you ready to join the proud ranks? Welcome aboard!

Highway to Happiness or Boulevard of Broken Dreams?

Maybe you never intended to make carrying mail a career when you signed up. Fair enough. Perhaps, as a freshly baked regular, you are looking at postal employment as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Word of warning: That stone is slippery, and the surrounding stream bed is full of quicksand that can suck you under forever.

Maybe you are a young man or woman in pursuit of a college degree, a magic paper talisman that will allow you to leave your postal vehicle stranded in a highway ditch and become an air-conditioned cubicle jockey instead. Certainly, you tell yourself, the Postal Service appreciates these ambitions and will do what it can to push you along the path.

My sad response is that the Postal Service isn't overly enthusiastic about your academic aspirations. They most likely won't let you leave early for class and might not even give you the day off to attend your own graduation. I have seen that happen.

Of course, with the recent proliferation of adult-oriented after-hour colleges, getting a degree is not impossible. With a little moxie, it is a highly achievable feat. Just realize that you are going to be reporting to class dog-tired and sometimes a little sweaty.

But will a college degree further your advancement up the postal ranks? Sadly to say, at the lower levels of management, a college degree is not necessary and might even be a liability. Jealous managers could see your brains as a threat. You will soon come to realize that a lot of your so-called superiors don't have any higher education but got where they were by using the corpses of their fellow supervisors as stepping stones.

That's not to say that enlightened managers who will be impressed by your dedication, persistence, and discipline in achieving a college degree don't exist. I know for a fact there are postmasters and supervisors who read my articles, and these few are obviously paragons of intellect, virtue, and wisdom. They are out there, just not as plentiful as we would like to see.

So now you've earned your stripes, you are part of the postal family, and we're happy to have you. Will the satchel weigh you down into the murky depths, or will you use it as a sail to soar into the stratosphere? Your own attitude will dictate your job satisfaction. Embrace the independence this job gives you, embrace the loving attitude of the American public, and you will still go home tired but fall asleep satisfied.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How long do I have to wait to become regular? I have been a CCA for 2 years 5 months.

Answer: The answer depends on where you work and how many CCAs are in line ahead of you. CCAs are promoted as Regular positions are vacated due to retirement or other factors. There is no one size fits all answer for the entire country.


Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on November 11, 2019:

I train the newbies as well, Meg, and my route is set up for it, with just about every kind of delivery imaginable. I love my customers too and I believe they reciprocate the feeling. I have about thirteen years total on the same route now, in two different stints. Since I am a trainer, I am currently contemplating writing hubs outlining my training philosophy.

Thank you for your kind comments.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on November 11, 2019:

My husband did a spell as a postman many years ago. He had to get up at 4am but he spent time on a route that was used for training new postal delivery workers and his customers were pleased with him because he delivered early and accurately. I love reading your postal worker Hubs.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on November 20, 2018:

Not until after making regular, WONH. It's like being the wife of your new hire, no benefits until he says I do, right? The wait could be 2 to 3 years. Thanks for reading and dutifully doing hubbies research for him.

wife of new hire on November 20, 2018:

Do the CCA get benefits, such as health insurance etc?

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on November 09, 2018:

Thank you Jessica. Sorry I replied late, I've been working long nights and no days off during the California political mail hell. It's not always easy being a regular. Glad things are working out for hubby, and I really appreciate you reading my articles.

Jessica from Southern Indiana on October 22, 2018:

I found your articles a couple years ago when my husband first started as a CCA and I just wanted to share that he was recently converted! CCA vs FTR is night and day, he actually gets off on time, he has more respect from the managers, and there's much less stress. He's an unassigned regular so he doesn't even have his own route and it's still less stressful than being a CCA. And best of all, no more Amazon Sundays!

XXX on October 03, 2018:

Thank you.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on October 02, 2018:

XXX I personally don't like to rat on my fellow carriers but if they are doing something illegal it might be different. Question is, will management care or will you just make yourself look like a problem child. If you do plan to do something, I suggest you call the Postal Inspectors.

As for you having so much more mail to deliver than the other guys, you kind of brought that on yourself. If you try to slow down now you will indeed look like a problem child. You're probably just going to have to ride it out until you make Regular and then get an attitude.

Thanks for reading! Good luck.

XXX on October 02, 2018:

Im currently a cca and i cover an 8 hr route including no less then an 1hr 15 min split. Today i carried all my redplums and manage to do a 2hr and 15min split including 3 bundles of redplums. I found out today that my mother who lives in the neighborhood next to my split ( different block ) did not recieve any mail nor redplum and she states that no one on her block got mail. What should i do? Tell the postmaster and my supervisor or let others do less work then me and get away with it. I dont want to mix bad blood with my coworkers. Be mindful that im just a cca but other ccas at my station are lazy. Yes we are overworked ( from my experince ) but when i do 8hr route and 2 hr splits everyday Mon-Sat and others get 45min its not fair to me. I once had to carry a 2 hr split when someone brought back, did it the next mkrning cane back got my route together then had to carry another split on top 1hr 30min. Any suggesstions?

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 13, 2018:

Happy freedom J. I never made that much as a regular and I probably never will. We are CCA top heavy here in San Diego.

J on September 06, 2018:

My last year on as a CCA my tax return said I made over 56k. There were at least a couple ODLers that made over 100k. Got converted and left for another station, my paychecks have been cut in half. I don't care. I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...ish

J. Tun on April 07, 2018:

City carrier 51, What is WA?

CityCarrier51 on April 06, 2018:

I was a CCA for almost 34 months and was converted to regular status about a year ago. What I noticed immediately was the drop in pay. The difference in pay was about $600 a paycheck. No more Amazon Sunday, overlapping routes and you are not asked to "go back out" like when you were a CCA.

Most recently I got off the overtime list and went WA. Best decision ever because the stress level dropped considerably. Pay difference was about $100 per check and my piece of mind is worth much more. Besides, I already had gotten used to living with $600 less in my pocket!

Andrew on March 31, 2018:

I am a CCA and going on 2 years. It is the toughest job i have ever had in my entire life. I've been through other jobs that were tough, but by far being a CCA is the toughest. I tell myself is this what I want to do until I retire. But hey, nothing is easy in this life and until I win the lotto I guess ill be hanging on to that satchel.

" When life seems to hard, just imagine those who have it harder"

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 04, 2017:

It's not for everyone Lori. If there was a way you could give it a whirl and go back if you don't like it I would say do that, but I don't know your situation. Thanks for reading.

Lori on January 04, 2017:

I am grateful that I have read your articles. I have been offered a job as a cca making 16$. I currently make 19$ and have an office job. I am not exactly happy where I am at atnd thought the post office job would be worth the pay cut to have insurance and a job that has stability and room for growth.

However, I am totally frightened now and am thinking I better just sucks it up where I am at. I just could have never imagined it was this bad.

Thank you for all your input.

It is surely leaning me a different direction. With 2 children and a very busy life, I just don't think this is a good fit.

It is disappointing but I'm glad to realize this sooner rather than later.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 30, 2016:

Jessica I try to prepare people for a worst case scenario, but if you keep your nose clean and work hard management leaves you alone most of the time. I am glad hubby is doing well and I hope he makes regular soon. Thanks for reading.

Jessica from Southern Indiana on September 30, 2016:

Add me to the list of folks who love your postal articles!

My husband is a CCA and strangely enough, it's been one of his favorite jobs. He's coming from years of temp work at terrible factories for $8-10/hour. The CCA job gets him out of the darkness (well, until winter rolls around) and into the sunlight and he doesn't have a supervisor breathing down his neck all of the time (just some of the time). The massive pay increase over the temp jobs doesn't hurt either.

I enjoy reading your articles because I can relay things to my husband to look out for and also thank my lucky stars that his job has been nothing like you've warned about thus far. But because I read your articles, I know what to look for and hopefully, he can avoid some of the worst parts of the job.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 23, 2016:

Scott, in a perfect postal world your words would be true, but it ain't no perfect postal world. I am a regular of 22 years. I never went through the abuse CCAs do. Yes I work hard, but not to the point where I have to skip lunch to meet impossible expectations. In my station, CCAs get a full route on Monday then an hour on another route. That is hard. Fortunately, the road to regular is a short one. Thanks for reading.

Scott on September 21, 2016:

CCAs shouldn't be made to think they've had it harder than past PTFs or regulars or at least a lot of past mailmen. And yes a person can sleep better tired some knowing they did their best . Big problem is through time has it's tole . Overwork eventually leads to health problems later on even if it hasn't injured a person when younger to any extent. Carrier longevity is affected as mailmen continue to be overworked into the future . Separating CCAs from regulars is wrong in my opinion as far as work loads . There are some who are always overworked more and others who aren't and believe it has to do more than just that. The past mailman or many have had it worse than current CCAs . That's was suppose to be the reason they where hired , to assist regulars who have too much work and mail after being overworked before they where hired .

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 05, 2016:

That might be true Deb, but I think in Colorado, Washington and now Oregon, I think, you could come close. You basically have to get out of the Bible Belt more. Thanks for dropping in!

Deb Hirt on September 05, 2016:

All of your material is so entertaining, even the bad parts of the job. Nowhere else can I get such a satisfying high without that gnarly low.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 03, 2016:

Thank you Devika. It is a service that many people still depend upon, even in the Internet age. I appreciate your visit.

DDE on August 02, 2016:

You write with a creative mind and shared an important of this service

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 31, 2016:

Thanks Mills. The CCAs are growing up, moving on to the next step. I appreciate you sharing the journey.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 31, 2016:

Good luck Mike, I hope you find something you like.

Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on July 31, 2016:

Thanks for taking readers on another journey through the life of a CCA.

MikeL. on July 31, 2016:

get out if you can and get another job that you are appreciate

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 29, 2016:

Thank you Linda. I always appreciate your encouragement. The Postal Service can be a dry subject, but the human condition is the same across all walks of life and I think there is something everybody can relate to. I appreciate you dropping in!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 29, 2016:

This is an informative, creative and very entertaining article, Mel. As I think I've said before, I never enjoy reading about the postal service as much as do when I read your articles!

Eldon Arsenaux from Cooley, Texas on July 29, 2016:

'your' should've been 'you're'. EDITED. Personal petpeeve. :)


Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 29, 2016:

Eldon, maybe your buddy has a sado-masochism streak, or he's tweaked out on artificial stimulants and doesn't know what to do with himself. Then again, some people can just do the job and you can tell from day one.

I really appreciate your encouraging words. Thanks for dropping in, and I think you are wise for not going down this path, because you are a talented fellow and in this job you sweat away a lot of inspiration.

Eldon Arsenaux from Cooley, Texas on July 29, 2016:

I never considered joining the mail carrying ranks, but a buddy of mine just got hired up North a-ways and loves it. Though I'm not easily persuaded.

I agree with Old Poolman. Your postal service hubs are great. The key to your success as a writer is that you write what you know. When you do so you strike gold. Also, your terribly funny. Anyway, again a great hub from you. We expect no less.



Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 29, 2016:

Thank you Larry. I guess these grim tales of postal life are applicable across all walks of life. Congrats on your teaching gig, I guess. That was another job that looks enticing to me but my Father being an educator I've heard the horror stories. Appreciate you dropping in.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 29, 2016:

I'm back to adjunct teaching college kids. Last time I was lucky enough to go from an adjunct teacher to a full time instructor before I got tired of the whole thing and became a truck driver for a while.

The point of all this, I know what it's like wanting to become a regular, and I've seen first hand when people see that carrot waved in front of them, only to never get a bite.

Another great read.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 29, 2016:

The rejects usually go on to great things like you Bill. There's a reason these things happen. Thanks for checking in and have a great weekend yourself. By the way, I don't think I used a single semicolon in this article. I am weaning myself from semicolon dependency.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 29, 2016:

I'm another reject from the Postal Service list of wannabes. If I had read your articles back then I never would have applied and taken the test....but I wasn't "smart" enough to pass the test anyway, so there you go. Moot point and all is well that ends well. Anyway, great read! Have a peaceful, easy feeling this weekend.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 28, 2016:

Thank you Mike, that is a very kind compliment. Maybe every twist and turn is ultimately for a purpose, do you suppose? Maybe I was intended to be a hired mule so I could tell the story. Who knows? Thanks again.

Old Poolman on July 28, 2016:

Mel - It is amazing the twists and turns our lives can take because of a single event like not getting hired by the Postal Service. I may have accomplished more because I didn't get hired but will never know. Just saying life if full of little things where one event can change our entire life.

You are a truly gifted writer.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 28, 2016:

Mike it was probably the best job you never got. I sometimes wonder if I would be better off if I hadn't answered the call. I really appreciate you checking in from the Arizona heat with your encouraging words.

Old Poolman on July 28, 2016:

Mel - I always look forward to your next hub about life in the postal service, and once again I was not disappointed.

I appreciate your ability to mix humor with fact, and the way you share your real life experience with those of us who have never experienced this profession.

I laughed when you talk about the way people react when their regular carrier is temporarily replaced. I have seen this with my own eyes and always thought it was a little odd.

After reading all of your hubs on life with the Postal Service I am still glad they never responded to the application I submitted when I got out of the Army.