Prepress Technician Jobs: Career & Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for prepress technicians. Get the facts about salary, job duties, training requirements, and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Visual Communication degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Prepress Technician?

Prepress technicians oversee all aspects of the printing process before a document or publication is produced. This typically involves the usage of digital templates to format, edit, and adjust content before it is sent for production. Though less common now, some companies may still use physical printing plates in place of digital ones.

Using the digital method, these professionals will both format templates from documents given to them as well as starting the process of printing. They will also need to ensure their printing equipment is in proper order by keeping supplies like paper and ink stocked, troubleshooting technical issues as they appear and calling for repairs as needed. Keep reading to learn about job duties and other career specific, as listed in the table.

Training Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Digital imaging, graphic communications
Key Responsibilities Prepare documents for prepress printing, load paper into printers, troubleshoot technical problems
Job Growth (2014-2024) -25%
Median Salary (2015) $38,270*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Prepress Technician Training Programs are Available?

The traditional route to a position as a prepress technician includes on-the-job training. However, a number of community colleges offer dedicated prepress diploma, certificate, and associate's degree programs that can teach you about digital proofing, high quality scanning, color theory, and color reproduction. In some cases, popular software packages like QuarkXPress, Photoshop, and Illustrator are covered. Additionally, some associate's degree programs will allow you to specialize in press and finishing or prepress and digital imaging.

Where Will I Work?

Direct mail and publishing firms, newspapers, and commercial printers are among your possible employers as a prepress technician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 35,330 individuals worked as prepress technicians in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Most were employed in the printing or newspaper industries.

Jobs were widely dispersed geographically but concentrated in large urban areas, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia. Jobs for prepress technicians were expected to decline by 25% from 2014-2024 due to wide adoption of productivity-enhancing computer technology. The BLS found that prepress technicians earned a median annual salary of $38,270 in 2015.

What Duties Would My Job Require?

Originally, your job would have included creating printing plates. Once the plates were made, you would have run a test page to make sure there were no mistakes and that the presses were accurately set. Although some operations still use this method, printing firms increasingly use computer software that bypasses the plate-making process. Now, a customer can send the prepress technician material already set up in a file, and the jobs of prepress technician and press operator often are combined into one.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Print binders and finishers sew together the binding on books and other printed publications, attaching the pages together between the covers either by hand or with the use of a machine. Photographic process workers develop pictures using digital means or through traditional development in a dark room with chemical solutions. They may also edit images as needed or requested. Both careers need only a high school diploma, with employees receiving training after being hired.

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