Couriers transport documents and packages for individuals, businesses, institutions, and government agencies. Couriers usually travel by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, automobile, or public transportation. While most couriers and messengers work full time during regular business hours, evening and weekend hours are common.
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Couriers provide door-to-door delivery service for a variety of clients, including law offices, banks, and hospitals. Most workers specialize in local deliveries, often in large urban areas. They offer same-day or 1-hour delivery services. Packages delivered may include important legal or financial documents, passports, and medical samples that senders are unwilling to entrust to other means of delivery. They also:
Couriers receive their instructions either in person or by cell phone or two-way radio. With this information, they plan the most efficient route and delivery schedule. Some couriers carry items only for specific clients, such as law firms, financial institutions, or medical laboratories.
Although there is no educational requirement for entering the occupation, employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates. Most couriers train informally on the job. Almost all couriers and messengers are required to have a valid driver’s license and a good driving record.
Couriers typically train informally on the job. They usually work alongside an experienced courier or messenger for 1-to-2 weeks and help with tasks such as loading and unloading packages and collecting signatures or payments. Once trainees understand the collection and delivery process, they are generally expected to work on their own. Many courier and delivery contractors specialize in delivering sensitive items, such as medical specimens or donated organs. In these cases, employers generally provide specific training that may last from several hours to a few days, depending on the item.
Accurate record keeping is necessary for tracking deliveries, payments, signatures, and other important information. This is especially true for self-employed couriers. Because couriers frequently interact with clients, they must be courteous, polite, and ready to answer customers’ questions regarding deliveries, payments, and other issues.
Couriers spend a considerable amount of time travelling to make deliveries. Therefore, they must be familiar with delivery routes and areas and have a good sense of direction. They must often make deliveries on tight time schedules. As a result, they must be able to plan their day and make deliveries efficiently so items do not arrive late.
Couriers spend most of their time making deliveries and are not closely supervised. The expectation to make multiple deliveries in a safe and timely manner can make the job stressful. Those who deliver by bicycle must be physically fit and able to cope with all weather conditions and the hazards of heavy traffic. Car, van, and truck couriers often have to deal with traffic jams, road construction, and difficult parking situations.
The median annual wage of couriers and messengers was $24,080 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10 % earned less than $17,170, and the top 10% earned more than $37,830.