- About 4 out of 10 work for newspaper, periodical, book, and
directory publishers, while 1 out of 4 work in printing and
related support activities.
- Employment is expected to grow faster than the average for
- Most employers prefer to hire experienced desktop publishers;
among persons without experience, opportunities should be best
for those with certificates or degrees in desktop publishing
or graphic design.
Using computer software, desktop publishers format and combine
text, numerical data, photographs, charts, and other visual graphic
elements to produce publication-ready material. Depending on the
nature of a particular project, desktop publishers may write and
edit text, create graphics to accompany text, convert photographs
and drawings into digital images and then manipulate those images,
design page layouts, create proposals, develop presentations and
advertising campaigns, typeset and do color separation, and translate
electronic information onto film or other traditional forms. Materials
produced by desktop publishers include books, business cards,
calendars, magazines, newsletters and newspapers, packaging, slides,
and tickets. As companies have brought the production of marketing,
promotional, and other kinds of materials in-house, they increasingly
have employed people who can produce such materials.
Desktop publishers use a keyboard to enter and select
formatting properties, such as the size and style of type, column
width, and spacing, and store them in the computer, which then
displays and arranges columns of type on a video display terminal
or computer monitor. An entire newspaper, catalog, or book page,
complete with artwork and graphics, can be created on the screen
exactly as it will appear in print. Operators transmit the pages
for production either into film and then into printing plates,
or directly into plates.
Desktop publishing is a rapidly changing field that encompasses
a number of different kinds of jobs. Personal computers enable
desktop publishers to perform publishing tasks that would otherwise
require complicated equipment and extensive human effort. Advances
in computer software and printing technology continue to change
and enhance desktop publishing work. Instead of receiving simple
typed text from customers, desktop publishers get the material
over the Internet or on a computer disk. Other innovations in
the occupation include digital color page makeup systems, electronic
page layout systems, and off-press color proofing systems. In
addition, because most materials today often are published on
the Internet, desktop publishers may need to know electronic publishing
technologies, such as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and may
be responsible for converting text and graphics to an Internet-ready
Typesetting and page layout have been affected by the technological
changes shaping desktop publishing. Increasingly, desktop publishers
are using computers to do much of the typesetting and page-layout
work formerly done by prepress workers, posing new challenges
for the printing industry. The old “hot type” method of text composition—which
used molten lead to create individual letters, paragraphs, and
full pages of text—is nearly extinct. Today, composition work
is done primarily with computers. Improvements in desktop-publishing
software also allow customers to do much more of their own typesetting.
Desktop publishers use scanners to capture photographs, images,
or art as digital data that can be either incorporated directly
into electronic page layouts or further manipulated with the use
of computer software. The desktop publisher then can correct mistakes
or compensate for deficiencies in the original color print or
transparency. Digital files are used to produce printing plates.
Like photographers and multimedia artists and animators, desktop
publishers also can create special effects or other visual images
using film, video, computers, or other electronic media.
Desktop publishers often perform writing and editing tasks as
well as page layout and design. For example, in addition to laying
out articles for a newsletter, desktop publishers may be responsible
for editing content they receive or for writing original content
themselves. A desktop publisher’s writing and editing responsibilities
vary widely from employer to employer. Small firms typically need
desktop publishers to perform a wide range of tasks, while desktop
publishers at large firms specialize in a certain part of the
Depending on the establishment employing these workers, desktop
publishers also may be referred to as publications specialists,
electronic publishers, DTP operators, desktop publishing editors,
electronic prepress technicians, electronic publishing specialists,
image designers, typographers, compositors, layout artists, and
web publications designers.
Desktop publishers usually work in clean, air-conditioned office
areas with little noise. They generally work an 8-hour day, 5
days a week. Some workers work night shifts, weekends, and holidays.
Desktop publishers often are subject to stress and the pressures
of short deadlines and tight work schedules. Like other workers
who spend long hours working in front of a computer monitor, they
may be susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Most workers qualify for jobs as desktop publishers by taking
classes or completing certificate programs at vocational schools,
universities, and colleges or through the Internet. Programs range
in length, but the average certificate program takes approximately
1 year. However, some desktop publishers train on the job to develop
the necessary skills. The length of on-the-job training varies
by company. An internship or part-time desktop-publishing assignment
is another way to gain experience as a desktop publisher.
Students interested in pursuing a career in desktop publishing
may obtain an associate degree in applied science or a bachelor’s
degree in graphic arts, graphic communications, or graphic design.
Graphic arts programs are a good way to learn about desktop publishing
software used to format pages; assign type characteristics; and
import text and graphics into electronic page layouts to produce
printed materials such as advertisements, brochures, newsletters,
and forms. Applying this knowledge of graphic arts techniques
and computerized typesetting usually is intended for students
who may eventually move into management positions, while 2-year
associate degree programs are designed to train skilled workers.
Students also develop finely tuned skills in typography, print
media, packaging, branding and identity, Web site design, and
motion graphics. The programs teach print and graphic design fundamentals
and provide an extensive background in imaging, prepress operations,
print reproduction, and emerging media. Courses in other aspects
of printing also are available at vocational-technical institutes,
industry-sponsored update and retraining programs, and private
trade and technical schools.
Although formal training is not always required, those with certificates
or degrees will have the best job opportunities. Most employers
prefer to hire people who have at least a high school diploma
and who possess good communication skills, basic computer skills,
and a strong work ethic. Desktop publishers should be able to
deal courteously with people because, in small shops, they may
have to take customers’ orders. They also may have to add, subtract,
multiply, divide, and compute ratios to estimate job costs. Persons
interested in working for firms using advanced printing technology
need to know the basics of electronics and computers.
Desktop publishers need good manual dexterity, and they must
be able to pay attention to detail and work independently. Good
eyesight, including visual acuity, depth perception, a wide field
of view, color vision, and the ability to focus quickly also are
assets. Artistic ability often is a plus. Employers also seek
persons who are even tempered and adaptable—important qualities
for workers who often must meet deadlines and learn how to operate
Workers with limited training and experience may start as helpers.
They begin with instruction from an experienced desktop publisher
and advance on the basis of their demonstrated mastery of skills
at each level. All workers should expect to be retrained from
time to time to handle new, improved software and equipment. As
workers gain experience, they advance to positions with greater
responsibility. Some move into supervisory or management positions.
Other desktop publishers may start their own company or work as
independent consultants, while those with more artistic talent
and further education may find opportunities in graphic design
or commercial art.
Desktop publishers held about 34,000 jobs in 2004. About 4 out
of 10 worked for newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers,
while 1 out of 4 worked in printing and related support activities;
the rest worked in a wide variety of industries.
Firms in the publishing industry publish newspapers, periodicals,
books, directory and mailing lists, and greeting cards. Printing
and related support activities firms print a wide range of products—newspapers,
books, labels, business cards, stationery, inserts, catalogs,
pamphlets, and advertisements—while business form establishments
print material such as sales receipts and business forms and perform
support activities such as data imaging and bookbinding. Establishments
in printing and related support activities typically perform custom
composition, platemaking, and related prepress services. (A separate
statement on prepress technicians and
workers appears elsewhere in the Handbook.). Other
desktop publishers print or publish materials in-house or in-plant
for business services firms, government agencies, hospitals, or
universities, typically in a reproduction or publications department
that operates within the organization.
The printing and publishing industries are two of the most geographically
dispersed industries in the United States, and desktop publishing
jobs are found throughout the country. However, most jobs are
in large metropolitan cities.
Employment of desktop publishers is expected to grow faster than average
for all occupations through 2014, as more page layout and design
work is performed in-house using computers and sophisticated publishing
software. Desktop publishing is replacing much of the prepress
work done by compositors and typesetters, enabling organizations
to reduce costs while increasing production speeds. Many new jobs
for desktop publishers are expected to emerge in commercial printing
and publishing establishments. However, more companies also are
turning to in-house desktop publishers, as computers with elaborate
text and graphics capabilities have become common, and desktop
publishing software has become cheaper and easier to use. In addition
to employment growth, many job openings for desktop publishers
also will result from the need to replace workers who move into
managerial positions, transfer to other occupations, or leave
the labor force.
Printing and publishing costs represent a significant portion
of a corporation’s expenses, and firms are finding it more profitable
to print their own newsletters and other reports than to send
them out to trade shops. Desktop publishing reduces the time needed
to complete a printing job and allows commercial printers to make
inroads into new markets that require fast turnaround.
Most employers prefer to hire experienced desktop publishers.
As more people gain desktop-publishing experience, however, competition
for jobs may increase. Among persons without experience, opportunities
should be best for those with computer backgrounds who are certified
or who have completed postsecondary programs in desktop publishing
or graphic design. Many employers prefer graduates of these programs
because the comprehensive training they receive helps them learn
the page layout process and adapt more rapidly to new software
Earnings for desktop publishers vary according to level of experience,
training, location, and size of firm. Median annual earnings of
desktop publishers were $32,340 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent
earned between $24,660 and $42,070. The lowest 10 percent earned
less than $19,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than
$52,460 a year. Median annual earnings of desktop publishers in
May 2004 were $36,040 in printing and related support services
and $29,040 in newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers.
Desktop publishers use artistic and editorial skills in their
work. These skills also are essential for artists and related
workers; commercial and industrial designers; news analysts, reporters,
and correspondents; prepress technicians and workers; public relations
specialists; and writers and editors.
|Sources of Additional Information
Details about training programs may be obtained from local employers
such as newspapers and printing shops or from local offices of
the State employment service.
For information on careers and training in printing, desktop
publishing, and graphic arts, write to:
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook
Handbook, 2006-07 Edition