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.

What Is A Bindery Operator?

Although a few print companies may still perform binding by hand, one of a bindery operator's major tasks includes setting up and maintaining the machines used to press, glue or fold the pages of books, newspapers and other bound print items. They also use machine and hand tools to finish the books, which could involve trimming their edges and examining the finished product for defects. 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 (2014-2024) -14% (for all print binding and finishing workers)*
Average Salary (2015) $32,170 '(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 $32,170 in 2015 (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 $68,810 that same year. The same report noted that Alaska was another state that paid well in 2015; the annual mean salary there was $46,330.

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 14% between 2014 and 2024. 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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Prepress technicians work with text and images before they are printed. They ensure that the layout will work in the print format desired and make adjustments as necessary. They may also make printing plates. Printing press operators, on the other hand, work with the material as it is being printed. They typically ensure that a press is filled with the ink and paper required for a job and that the plates are properly positioned. They also monitor equipment throughout a print run.

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