Couriers and Messengers

Significant Points

* A high school diploma is sufficient for most positions; those operating a vehicle require a valid State driver’s license.
* Little or no change in employment is expected over the 2008-2018 period.

Nature of the Work

Couriers and messengers move and distribute documents and packages for individuals, businesses, institutions, and government agencies. They pick up documents and packages from customers and deliver them to their final destinations, usually within a local area. Because they only travel to nearby locations, couriers and messengers often specialize in same-day delivery. Some offer faster service, such as delivery within one hour. Couriers and messengers also deliver items that senders are unwilling to entrust to other means of delivery, such as important legal or financial documents, passports, airline tickets, medical specimens, and occasionally donated organs.

Couriers and messengers receive their instructions either in person or by mobile telephone, two-way radio, or wireless data service. They then use that information to pick up items and deliver them to their destinations. They may take payment upon pickup, and are often responsible for obtaining signatures upon delivery.

Some couriers and messengers carry items only for their employers, often law firms, banks, medical laboratories, or financial institutions. Others act as part of organizations’ internal mail system and carry items mainly within an organization’s buildings or entirely within one building. Many couriers and messengers work for messenger or courier services. Those with experience may open their own courier and messenger business and work as independent contractors.

Couriers and messengers reach their destination by several methods. Most drive vans or trucks, but some drive cars or ride motorcycles. In congested urban areas, messengers sometimes use bicycles to make deliveries. Some may travel by foot.

Work environment

Couriers and messengers spend most of their time making deliveries alone and are not closely supervised. Those who deliver by bicycle must be physically fit and be able to cope with all weather conditions and the hazards of heavy traffic. Car, van, and truck couriers must sometimes carry heavy loads, either manually or with the aid of a hand truck. They also have to deal with difficult parking situations, traffic jams, and road construction.

Couriers and messengers are responsible for the items they deliver until they are in the hands of the customer. Often, deliveries contain valuable or sensitive information and with it, expectations of safe and timely delivery making the job stressful at times. The pressure of making as many deliveries as possible to increase one’s earnings can also be stressful and may lead to unsafe driving or cycling practices.

The typical workweek is Monday through Friday; however, evening and weekend hours are common.



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