Printing Press Operator: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a printing press operator. Learn about training requirements, salary and career 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?

Some sort of job training is required to work as a printing press operator, and training allows apprentices to learn many tasks. Printing press operators know how to make adjustments to printing presses during print runs. They can change press plates, cylinders, or blankets when it is needed. They start presses and pull proofs. They also are knowledgeable about ink coverage, density, alignment, and registration. They can take printing orders and look at the press to adjust its ink and colors for each individual order. The table below outlines some of the job skills needed, as well as potential salary and job outlook, for printing press operators.

Training Required On-the-job training
Key Skills Mechanical, math, attention to detail, computer literacy
Job Growth (2014-2024) -2%*
Median Salary (2015) $35,240**

Sources: *O*Net Online, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Will I Have?

As a printing press operator, you'll produce various print materials by using printing presses. Although the duties for a printing machine operator should remain consistent overall, in 2009 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that every job would have different requirements due to the range of presses in existence (www.bls.gov). At a larger company, such as a book publisher or a newspaper, you may be required to work with a team, but a smaller operation may allow you to work independently. Some of your day-to-day duties could include:

  • Working with technicians to resolve potential problems
  • Installing and adjusting the printing plate for traditional methods of printing
  • Loading unprinted materials
  • Monitoring the process to ensure quick and quality results
  • Cleaning the presses
  • Perform small repairs

What Training Do I Need?

Printing press operators typically get on-the-job training, and they specialize in one type of printing press, such as non-impact or plateless presses. Because of this, becoming efficient in more than one area could qualify you for a broader range of jobs down the road. Technical schools and community colleges can also offer training in printing-press equipment, and some employers may require formal education in the subject. You could complete a certificate or associate's degree program or a formal apprenticeship prior to full-time employment. Training programs commonly place focus on the traditional printing methods of offset lithography and flexography, as well as more modern digital-printing methods that exist.

What Could I Expect to Make?

Company location and size, as well as skills required for each unique position, may cause your pay rate to vary. However, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for printing press operators was $35,240 in May 2015. A 2% decline in employment for press operators was predicted between 2014 and 2024.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you like the idea of running a printing press, you might also like working as a photographer who develops their own prints, or as a machine operator. Photographers do not have to have a degree in order to be successful, but a fine arts degree in photography is helpful in getting a job. To develop their own pictures, photographers should have access to a dark room and supplies such as photo paper and solution. A machine operator can work with many types of machines including filing machines or sewing machines, and they should keep tabs on production numbers. You might need training as an apprentice in this career, but you do need at least a high school diploma.

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