How Do I Become a Platemaker?

A platemaker prepares printing plates, among other jobs, to support large printing projects. Continue reading for information on job duties, skills, education programs and salary. Schools offering Visual Communication degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Platemaker?

A platemaker, also called a prepress worker, uses a variety of techniques to make printing plates for use in the large-scale printing process. The making of printing plates can include many jobs, such as that of photoengravers, who use photography to make photosensitive metal plates, or etchers, who may adjust the series of dots on the plates used to make images.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), new technology is changing the way platemakers, or prepress workers, do their printing jobs ( New computer programs transfer images directly to automatic platemaking equipment, sometimes eliminating the platemaking process altogether.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field:

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent
Key Responsibilities Create press proofs, conduct quality control on press text and images, make adjustments to plates and operate plate making equipment
Job Growth (2012-2022) -13% (for all Prepress technicians and workers)*
Median Salary (2015) $38,270 (for all Prepress technicians and workers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Skills Do I Need to Do This Job?

If you want to make plates for printing, you'll need a good eye for details, especially color, according to the BLS. You should also have good communication skills in order to interact well with customers and other printing workers. With the changes in technology, platemakers and other prepress workers should be knowledgeable about computers and comfortable working with them.

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

Historically, if you were interested in learning how to make printing plates, you got informal training after earning a high school diploma. These days, employers prefer some kind of formal training beyond high school.

Community colleges and technical or vocational schools offer certificate and associate's degree programs in graphic design and printing technology. These programs cover the basics in publication design and prepress operations, such as platemaking and binding, to prepare you for a job in the printing industry. Many of these programs also include training in desktop publishing.

What Can I Expect From This Job?

Because of changing and improving technology, the BLS predicted a 13% decline in jobs for prepress workers during the 2012-2022 decade. However, the government agency did say jobs prospects would be good for workers with strong computer and customer service skills. According to the BLS, the median salary for prepress workers was $38,270 in May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few alternative careers that require the same level of education as platemakers include audio and video equipment technicians, broadcast technicians and computer operators. Audio and video equipment technicians install, calibrate and operate broadcasting equipment used in the television, radio and internet industry. Broadcast technicians serve a similar job, yet they focus more on monitoring broadcasting equipment for problems. Computer operators is a general term used for workers who do basic tasks on computers, such as monitoring systems, responding to errors and reporting problems to managers.

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