Become a Master Bookbinder: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a master bookbinder. Research the training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in the printing industry.

Should I Become a Master Bookbinder?

Bookbinders operate print machinery, cut printed sheets, organize pages, check pages for quality and bind pages together. They assemble books, manuals, pamphlets, magazines, brochures and/or other printed documents that need to be bound or folded. Bookbinders can work for large scale operations or smaller printing companies.

More experienced workers, such as master bookbinders, typically work in supervisory positions. The work can be tedious as it involves skill and craftsmanship. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the field are predicted to decline over the 2012-2022 decade, mostly due to evolving technology in the book business.

Career Requirements

Degree Level GED or high school diploma, but postsecondary degrees are recommended
Degree Fields Graphic design or bookbinding
Experience 3-4 years' experience working with printing and binding tools (cutters, case makers, laminators, three knives, stitchers, folders and binders), proven experience supervising others and 3-4 years managing printing projects
Key Skills Highly organized, able to notice minute details, self-motivated, capable of multitasking, team player, able to manage time efficiently, comfortable working under deadlines, communicates well with others, ability to learn new skills, knowledge of digital printing software programs, willingness to work extended hours as needed
Salary (2014) $30,660 per year (Mean wage for bookbinders)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), August 2015 job postings on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

According to the BLS, the minimum requirements to become an entry-level bookbinder include a high school diploma or GED. High school courses in mathematics are necessary for aspiring bookbinders as print workers often use mathematical formulas to determine paper cutting measurements. Classes in computers, art, graphic design and mechanical technology also provide foundational skills for this posiiton.

Step 2: Learn about Bookbinding

The BLS reported that commercial bookbinding involves three major steps: print preparation, actual printing and binding. Smaller organizations often hire professionals who can perform all three duties. Larger printing companies tend to hire separate workers for each part of the process.

Bookbinders tend to specialize in the last step of the printing process. That part of the process includes cutting or folding pages, monitoring print quality, compressing pages together and preparing pages for binding. Bookbinders usually learn several methods of binding, including sewing, stapling and gluing pages to the binding cover.

Step 3: Find Entry-Level Employment

Entry-level bookbinders are often tasked with completing nontechnical duties, such as cleaning, moving printing supplies and stocking machines with paper. Through experience, entry-level employees gradually learn technical bookbinding skills including how to use cutting tools, methods for selecting paper, quality control techniques and how to use binding machinery.

Success Tip:

  • Build plenty of diverse experience. Positions for master bookbinders typically require applicants to have 3-4 years' experience in the printing industry. Many employers prefer workers who have training with different types of equipment. Entry-level workers can benefit from gaining experience and training on each piece of equipment to become more marketable candidates for career advancements.

Step 4: Take Additional Training Courses

Professionals who want to learn about specialty bookbinding can enroll in bookbinding vocational programs or individual classes. These vocational programs usually take a few years to complete. They typically include classes on binding materials, modification tools, book repair techniques and conservation strategies. Individuals may also learn about historical techniques for bookbinding, leatherwork and more advanced conservation techniques, such as preserving older paper from further deterioration. Individual classes may focus on any one of these topics in more detail.

Success Tip:

  • Consider a bachelor's degree program. Although a bachelor's degree is not required for employment, master bookbinder positions may require an undergraduate degree for advancement into supervisory positions. The graphic arts technology management bachelor's degree program may prepare workers for this career field. This program includes coursework in production management, graphic technology software programs, digital publishing, quality control, print media monitoring and personnel management.

Step 5: Become a Master Bookbinder

Bookbinders who gain enough work experience and additional training can become master bookbinders. Related job titles include lead bookbinder and bookbinder machine operator. These positions often include managerial duties including project management, team training and interdepartmental communications. Professionals interested in book conservation may consider looking for bookbinding positions at libraries or museums.

Success Tip:

  • Take continuing education courses. Printing technology has moved from old-style lithographs and printing plates toward digital printing technologies. As upgrades and new technologies come out, print workers will need to learn new techniques. According to the BLS, bookbinders should keep up with technology changes and continually pursue retraining programs, as needed.

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