Imagers and platemakers use computers and other technologies as part of their work in the printing industry. Read on for career field, employment and education information.
Imagers and platemakers are responsible for the first stage of the printing process. You'd assemble the required components for the printing press and make sure words and photos are placed accurately before a page is printed. You might make offset printing plates of the image that's going to be printed.
The traditional method consists of imprinting images on metal plates with a photographic technique that uses chemicals and ultraviolet light. Nowadays, the photographic platemaking technique has begun to be replaced by a direct-to-plate method that involves digital imaging. You'll often use lasers to render a digital image onto the metal printing plate or even to a digital press without plates.
As a prepress worker, you might work for printing businesses, prepress imaging firms, advertising companies or publishers of newspapers, books and magazines.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), printing workers earned a yearly median income of $34,100, and prepress technicians and workers earned median pay of $37,260 in 2012 (www.bls.gov). The demand for printing workers was expected to decline by 5%, and the demand for prepress technicians and workers is expected to decline by 13% between 2012 and 2022, due to advances in printing technology and the growing use of computer software and desktop publishing.
Since imaging and platemaking are being replaced with new technologies, you could also find job opportunities as a graphic designer, desktop publisher or press operator. As of 2012, the BLS found that graphic designers earned a median annual income of $44,150, while desktop publishers made a median of $37,040 per year, and press operators earned median pay of $34,690.
You usually need to have experience with the printing process and have an understanding of print technology before you can work in imaging and platemaking. You can give yourself an advantage over your competition by gaining relevant work experience or formal training in the printing business. Although a degree is not typically required, you could learn many of the necessary printing skills from a 2-year program at a college or technical school.
Some community college and technical schools offer an associate's degree program or a certificate program in printing technology, digital imaging or a similar subject. These programs typically cover traditional printing techniques and new technologies. Courses may include digital imaging, desktop publishing, computer software, graphic design, animation, typography and digital page design. If you're interested in a printing management career, you may need to obtain a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related subject.
Written and oral communication, good vision and manual agility are key qualities for success in this occupation. Computer literacy is another attribute that could improve your chances of getting hired as a prepress worker.