How Can I Become a Sheetfed Printing Press Operator?

Research what it takes to become a sheetfed printing press operator. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median salary 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 Printing Press Operator?

Sheetfed printing operators operate and maintain the equipment used for printing, often used by newspaper companies and similar organizations. During a press run they may inspect random samples to ensure the quality of the print. From time to time they may need to make adjustments to the settings of the press. Prior to a job they would ensure the press had plenty of ink and paper. This includes ensuring that they have the right ink and paper for the run. Also they may run test prints to ensure everything is lined up as it should be. The table below lists some important career information.

Training Required Certificate program, associate's degree or on-the-job training
Key Skills Follow directions, operate under pressure, mathematical and mechanical skills
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -12.5% (for all printing press operators)
Median Salary (2015)* $35,240 (for all printing press operators)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Find a Training Program

Training programs leading to a certificate or an associate's degree are frequently available for students of press operation. Such programs generally take 12-24 months to complete. Alternatively, some employers offer on-the-job apprenticeships and training opportunities. Although on-the-job training has historically been the most popular, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that postsecondary training programs are becoming more popular and more readily available (

What Will I Study?

You will learn how to operate various presses and software programs. Sheetfed printing presses use a custom-made plate or roller containing the image that is to be printed on paper. You also may train on flexographic, digital, screen, gravure and small offset printers. An internship is usually required for you learn to set up and maintain presses by assisting with the loading and unloading of the machine.

Other operator duties include installation of the printing plate, inking the presses, and making adjustments as needed while the job is running. Coursework also includes studies in project management, quality control techniques and various production methods. Associate's degree programs also require completion of core coursework in the humanities and sciences.

What Skills Do I Need?

A press operator needs to be able to follow detailed instructions and work under pressure. Deadlines are a part of the job; the machines are noisy; and daily work may be unpredictable. It is important to have good math and mechanical skills. Planning abilities are also necessary, as press operators are generally responsible for ensuring the appropriate supplies are available and there is adequate time to complete tasks.

Search for Jobs

Sheetfed press operator jobs are generally found in the newspaper, advertising, printing, paper manufacturing or public relations industries. Many jobs in printing and newspapers are located in large metropolitan areas, with the best possibilities found in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Washington, DC.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Tool setting is another profession that loads, adjusts and maintains machines that are used to produce a product. Tool setters may operate and maintain drilling, boring, grinding, lapping, polishing and buffing machines. The majority of these employees only have a high-school diploma.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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