Job Prospects: Increased computerization is expected to hold job growth below 5 percent through 2012 (compared to 16 percent average for all professions).
Annual Compensation: In this field, salaries vary widely with the specific job. The figures quoted here are for a skilled press operator, typically one of the top-paid professionals in a print shop.
Bay Area $55,075 - 62,024
Sacramento $50,688 - 57,083
Stockton $48,681 - 54,923
Job Market Update:
There is no denying that the Internet has played a significant role in curbing the need for printed materials. However, print shops are expected to grow as some firms continue to contract out typesetting and composition work. In addition, the printing field will continue to supply products for education, business and leisure for a long time to come. Employment growth will vary among printing industry occupations, largely because of technological advances. Processes traditionally performed manually have been computerized, causing a shift from craft occupations to related occupations that perform the same function electronically. This shift has made desktop publishing specialists very much in demand, with those jobs expected to increase much faster than average as layout, design and printing are increasingly computerized.
In general, applicants must be computer-literate high school graduates with math, verbal and written communication skills. While apprenticeship programs are no longer popular, formal graphic arts programs, offered by community and junior colleges and some 4-year colleges, can provide jobseekers with an edge. Training in desktop publishing is particularly useful. Bachelor’s degree programs in graphic arts can prepare you to enter management, and 2-year programs provide technical skills. Still, many simply learn the trade on the job. The length of on-the-job training varies by occupation and shop. For example, press operators begin as helpers and advance to press operator positions after years of training. Bindery workers begin by doing simple tasks such as moving paper from cutting machines to folding machines. Workers learn how to operate more complicated machinery within a few months. Workers usually begin as helpers, advance to skilled craft jobs, and eventually may be promoted to supervisor.
Prepress work includes composing text, designing page layouts, and making printing plates. Increasingly, prepress technicians receive the material for the pages as digital files, and they use imaging software to layout the pages. "Preflight" technicians examine and edit the pages to ensure that the design, format, settings, quality and all other aspects of the automated desktop work are acceptable, and that the work will be completed according to the client’s specifications before it is printed. The printer then puts the approved printing plates on the press and prepares and operates the press, constantly monitoring the finished product and making adjustments to the ink and paper as necessary.
Employees performing computerized prepress functions work in comfortable office settings. The actual printing is performed in the back shop which houses printing presses of various sizes and complexity. Workers directly involved in printing operations can expect to get their hands dirty in a noisy environment.
The bulk of the workers in the industry are employed in small shops numbering ten workers or less. Opportunities might exist with large commercial shops that handle specialty printing for particular industries, but these are more likely to be located by large metropolitan markets. Financial printing, for example, is handled primarily in shops close to Wall Street.
In addition to specialized printing occupations, the industry employs office and administrative support workers, marketing and sales staff, as well as management, business, and financial operations workers. Customer service representatives, a growing need, are responsible for tracking print jobs through the production process.
Change is the watchword in printing. New technology and equipment will force workers to update their skills to remain competitive in the job market. For example, just as computerized layout revolutionized prepress functions, more advances promise to further reduce the number of steps required to go from original to final printed image. This will require employees to remain adaptive to change. In addition, job prospects may shift as advances in computers and printers enable firms to handle more of their own printing. That, however, may call for firms to hire their own printing experts.
For more information on printing careers, visit these websites:
Teched.vt.edu – Website of the Graphic Communications Council.
MakeYourMark.org – Explore graphics education and career options.
PrintWorkers.com – Job board for web, copy and printing professionals. Post your resume here.
Gain.net – The Graphic Artists Information Network provides information on industry news and events, plus a job board.
gciu.org – Website of the Graphic Communications International Union.