The first typesetters manually set letters into frames for use in printing presses. For today's typesetters, the job is far less tedious. Typesetters now work in either printing or graphic communications and have titles such as prepress technician or desktop publisher. Prepress technicians work directly with printing equipment to prepare it for each print job, making sure pages are set up to meet client specifications and printing requirements. Desktop publishers design pages for printing or online publication, creating the client specifications that prepress technicians use. Job opportunities are growing increasingly scarce for both, while options for at-home and at-work desktop publishing, online publication and print-on-demand technologies are increasing.
Prepress technicians use computers and computer-aided equipment to adjust page files and printing parameters. They adjust font sizes and make sure photographic images are free of imperfections that would reduce the quality of printed output. For image files, these technicians prepare, maintain and operate equipment that uses lasers to transfer the image data to plates. The technician checks unexposed photographic plates for flaws and foreign particles before running them through a process to expose the plates with ultraviolet lights. For both text and image print jobs, the prepress technician operates printing presses to check the quality of the output, which is referred to as a proof.
Qualifications and Outlook
Prepress technicians must have reading comprehension and hands-on technical skills. These technicians are also expected to have problem-solving abilities to assess complex problems with files, plates or equipment, and then both determine and implement effective resolutions. From an educational standpoint, bachelor's degrees are generally not required. However, most prepress technicians receive some form of post-secondary education, such as technical certifications or associate degree programs through technical schools, junior colleges or community colleges. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for prepress technicians are projected to decline; the median salary in May 2013 was $39,150.
Desktop publishers work with computer software to design page layouts with text and graphic images. These professionals position artwork and adjust text size, section spacing and other aspects of formatting. The desktop publisher imports content from other computer applications or scans images for conversion into digital formats. Desktop publishers often work with written content provided by a client. If content is not provided or needs work, the desktop publisher writes or edits text, correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation. After a page is created, the desktop publisher performs a quality check by printing proofs or assessing the final web layout. The desktop publisher then sends the end result to a commercial printer or directly to a high-resolution printer, or releases it for online publication.
Qualifications and Outlook
Desktop publishers are expected to have strong written and verbal communication skills and an artistic eye to recognize and create visually appealing page layouts. These professionals must also pay close attention to details, and they should be effective at organizing things. As with prepress technicians, desktop publishers aren't generally required to have bachelor's degrees, although most do get associate's degrees or certifications in the field. According to the BLS, desktop publishing jobs are also on the decline. The median salary in May 2013 was $41,130.
- O*Net Online: Summary Report for -- 51-5111.00 - Prepress Technicians and Workers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Printing Workers -- Summary
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Desktop Publishers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 -- 51-5111 Prepress Technicians and Workers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 -- 43-9031 Desktop Publishers
- Photo Credit Jana Krcmarova/iStock/Getty Images
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