Bindery Operator: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a bindery operator. Learn about salary potential, required training and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Visual Communication degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Bindery operators are in charge of the machines that put books, newspapers and other bound, print items together. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Training Required On-the-job, with supplemental course work
Key Responsibilities Operate book binding equipment; cut and laminate printed page signatures; repair and refurbish antique books
Job Growth (2012-2022) -4% (for all print binding and finishing workers)*
Average Salary (2014) $31,420 '(for all print binding and finishing workers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Job as a Bindery Operator Involve?

While working as a bindery operator, it'll be your job to prepare and operate the machines that put together books, catalogs and other bound, paper-based items. Your job can require extensive lifting and carrying while working on an assembly line.

Your duties can vary based on the type of binding you're completing. For example, newspaper pages must be folded and trimmed. They require minimal processing.

Books and magazines are more complex; you may start with large sheets that must be machine-folded and arranged to maintain their sequencing. The folded sheets are called signatures. The organized signatures are bound using one of several methods. Perfect binding and thermal binding involve the use of glue, while saddle-stitching generally involves stapling through the centerfold.

There are several activities related to binding that you'll perform. You may operate cutting or laminating machinery. If you work in a small shop, you may perform repair work on damaged or antique books. Additionally, you may specialize in bindery machine repair.

What Salary Might I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), print binding and finishing workers earned a mean annual wage of $31,420 in 2014 (www.bls.gov). The BLS indicated that the highest average salaries in this occupation were in Washington, D.C., where the annual mean wage was $66,860 that same year. The same report noted that Alaska was another state that paid well in 2014, the annual mean salary there coming in at $46,050.

What Training Will I Need?

With most bindery operator positions, you can receive on-the-job training. Both mechanical aptitude and knowledge of design principles are helpful in this career. You can enhance your skills through a training program in bookmaking. These programs often concentrate on a particular style of binding.

Degree programs focused exclusively on bindery operations are not common. You'll most often find bachelor's or master's degree programs in graphic design that include coursework in bookbinding and book production. Courses in book art and traditional binding techniques can help introduce you to the field.

What is the Employment Outlook?

The BLS reported an expected decline of bindery workers and bookbinders; as the print industry shrinks and the electronic media flourishes, employment was expected to drop -4% between 2012 and 2022. Your ability to secure a new bindery operator job might also be hampered by increasing reliance on automated equipment in the industry. One positive element to the BLS forecast was the expected limitations of outsourcing; due to the need for fast turnarounds with most commercial printing, few companies were expected to eliminate domestic jobs in favor of sending work overseas.

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