On the outside, these jobs are fairly similar.
They’re both delivering parcels and mail in the case of USPS. But, beyond those plain-to-see aspects – they’re actually very different beasts. And I say beasts with respect because both of these occupations have very hard workers that are quite beastly themselves!
My criteria below are what I will base my opinion on in this article
- Mental/Physical Difficulty
- Work/Life Balance
Benefits for workers at UPS vs USPS
The benefits for UPS and USPS are both exceptional. They both have pensions, and health coverage(something FedEx contractors can’t say, unfortunately). While working for USPS you will pay more out of your wage for health benefits, UPS has the advantage here because they charge you absolutely nothing(thanks to the Teamsters)!
That includes medical and dental – even 50% off orthodontics. If you have young kids in need of braces, you’re aware of how high those prices go. Both companies have coverage that extends to your immediate family.
For USPS you must work 1 year to receive benefits. For UPS you must work 9 months, part-time workers are eligible as well.
USPS has a two-tier retirement system consisting of their own 401k called a TSP and a pension. They do match this 401k up to 5%. UPS also has a 2 tier system comprising a pension and a 401k. They do not match the 401k of their employees.
The pension for USPS employees is under the Federal employment umbrella, called FERS. This is comprised of 1% per year of their 3 highest-earning years.
For example, say you made 60k a year for 3 years – you would take home 1007 USD a month. Stacked with investments and social security, most postal workers will enjoy a comfortable retirement.
The Pension for UPS employees is substantial. A quick and cool fact is that even part-time employees at UPS earn a pension alongside their full-time brothers and sisters.
And it’s nothing to scoff at. 30 years of credited part-time service nets you $1950 a month. 30 years of credited full-time service will bring you $3400.
If you work for six-months at UPS as a full-time employee, you will also be eligible for long term disability, which is equal to up to 60% of your weekly base pay. So, if you make 20.50 an hour as a driver for ups and your week is 40 hours, your full rate of pay is 820 dollars. But, with disability, you’ll be paid 492 a week.
These numbers might not be 100% accurate and can change over time. But it should give you a fairly rough idea of what to expect.
The Mental/Physical Health Difficulty of UPS vs USPS
As I mentioned earlier, both jobs are beastly. They require someone who is able to have patience, occasional pain, and most of all grit.
I’ve worked for both companies and can say that to succeed you definitely need thick skin. But, the most important factor of all is your management team.
That varies from hubs at UPS to stations at USPS. If you get lucky and have an excellent crew, then your life is going to be great at either job. If you don’t luck out, it will affect you. The reason I left USPS was a large part due to how it was run with my local management team. They change all the time as well, so if you hang on long enough it’s probably going to get better. Now, with that out of the way let’s look at the more practical variables.
Driving vs Walking
At USPS you have the potential to be on walking routes that are up to 12 miles a day in some cases. I’m sure they get higher than that, but my route was about an 8-mile walk last I recalled. You will sling the carrier pouch over your shoulder and can sometimes have it be extremely heavy. This has to do with whatever bundles are sent out that day.
That’s especially grueling, although the feeling of that bag getting lighter is definitely liberating. A lot of folks I’ve talked to assume that these types of jobs will be good for your body.
Laborious forced exercise is a totally different ballgame than a controlled session, and not in a good way.
At UPS you’re going to be driving a big truck all day long. You’ve got sensors watching you, and big brother wants to make sure you’re safe. That means when you get stuck in the back of a trailer park and have to reverse 20 times to get out of a tight spot, you’ll have someone in your ear the next day. Because it looks like you were doing something wild.
The physical strain at UPS is more to do with package weight. Irregs as we call them can be exceptionally heavy. While the limit is 150 lbs, sometimes it’s a 40 lb package shaped in such an awkward way that will throw your back out.
Both jobs are physically and mentally demanding high-stress occupations. The longer days on average of UPS brings another layer to mental strain. But, it tends to be a bit more hands-off than USPS. Your cell phone rings less often.
Payscale of a UPS Driver vs USPS Mailman
This is the thing everyone always wants to know, and it’s understandable. So off the bat, the USPS currently has a 12-year progressive pay scale.
UPS has a 4-year scale. If you’re deciding on these two jobs, money is a huge factor. And a UPS driver will make more money at top-scale and much faster than a USPS employee.
At the post office, I found myself working harder and getting paid less. When I have a hellish week at UPS, my paycheck reflects that.
Both paycheck scales are publicly available information. But the quick and dirty is that by 2023 the average top rate for a UPS driver will be $40 an hour. At the end of your 12-year progression with USPS, you will be between $31-33 bucks an hour. That’s still pretty good, it just takes much longer to get there.
By the way, this information will change regularly through negotiated contracts.
The UPS Union(Teamsters) vs Rural/City Union
Both jobs have unions. For the USPS there are several different unions as they have different crafts. Even between mailmen. There are Rural Carriers and City Carriers. You’ll notice a Rural because they won’t have a uniform on.
Their job is completely different as when they finish their route for the day they’re paid a calculated rate and can go home if they are a regular. A regular means a mailman that has done their time and moved up in seniority enough to gain additional rights, including their own route.
But the most common union is going to be the NALC for mail carriers and the Teamsters cover the UPS drivers. Unions differ in strength and leadership. It is my opinion that the Teamsters are stronger and more protective of their members.
If you’ve made it this far and would like to check out my youtube channel, I made a video below going over this article and my thoughts on the differences
How’s the work/life balance of these jobs?
What life?! Just kidding. I would say once you become a regular at the Post Office, your work-life balance CAN be better depending on the staffing of your office.
While many carriers in my town used to go home at 4:30, lately they’ve had a lot of mandatory overtime. This will hopefully change.
For UPS, you can usually expect overtime. Especially if you are in a position that is called a 22.4. This position was created to help cover routes, routes that you are not a pro at. You’ll be out a couple of nights a week to witness some sunsets usually!
So, the hard truth is that they both are lacking in this area. I think eventually, USPS will have the edge over UPS because overtime is viewed as such an evil thing there. These jobs can be great careers, but you’ll pay for it with your time.