Digital Press Operator: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a digital press operator. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages, and job 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 Digital Press Operator?

Digital, or plateless, press processes include ink-jet, digital, and electrostatic printers, and are generally more cost-efficient and quicker than lithographic or offset printing. As a digital press operator, you'd complete print jobs on a computer by processing the files and sending them to a digital press or printer for production. You will need to specify attributes like size and resolution during this step, as well as potentially make edits to what is going to be printed. When necessary, you will also need to replace ink, paper, toner, labels, and other necessary printing materials as they run out, as well as troubleshoot other common printer issues.

Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a digital press operator is right for you.

Education Required Associate's degree*
Training Required On-the-job training with most printing workers*
Job Growth (2014-2024) -12% (for all printing press operators)*
Average Salary (2015) $37,020 (for all printing press operators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do As A Digital Press Operator

To complete a job, you'd set up print specifications according to customer requirements, operate the printing equipment and perform maintenance on the machines. You could use software to format and adjust any necessary color calibrations in order to ensure high quality in the finished product. You might also be responsible for ensuring materials, such as ink, paper, and labels, are available for each run.

What Training Do I Need?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that you're most likely to receive on-the-job training for a specific digital printer and related database management software through your employer or apprentice training ( However, you could receive press operations education through a college program, as well as experience from an affiliated internship. Various programs are available in the digital arts or printing production at the undergraduate level through technical schools, community colleges and vocational training centers. Some prepare you for certification in specific products and equipment. Many educational programs incorporate training in plated printing presses as well as digital printing processes.

Where Could I Work?

To start your career as a digital press operator, you might seek employment in the commercial printing, publishing or marketing industries. You could work at a graphics company creating custom items, such as product labels, banners, posters or presentations. Depending on your expertise with specific equipment, you could work for numerous printers that don't need a full-time press operator. Other options include newspaper, advertising, manufacturing and paper products industries.

What Is My Career Outlook?

Although employment growth was expected to decline by 12% for the industry overall during the 2014-2024 decade, a large number of retirees coupled with a proficiency with digital printers should allow for good job opportunities. Your salary as a digital press operator will likely vary based on your experience and the industry you work in. The BLS reported that the median salary for press operators was $35,240 as of May 2015, but those working for federal agencies made average salaries over $90,000. Other industries offering wages over the national average included shipping container manufacturers, academic support organizations, and aerospace manufacturers, among others.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Print binding and finishing workers bind printed works, such as books and magazines, by hand or with machines, sealing them together between covers to function as a complete product. Setters, operators, and tenders for paper goods have a similar but broader job, overseeing machines that cut, wrap, stitch, band, stitch, form, and seal various paper and cardboard products for selling and distribution. Both of these professionals must visually inspect the products being made during and after production for flaws and defects. No education beyond a high school diploma is necessary to work in these positions.

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