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Become a Platemaker: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Find out how to become a platemaker. Research the training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in platemaking. View article »

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  • 0:00 Platemaker Career Info
  • 1:05 Get a High School Diploma
  • 1:42 Consider Vocational Programs
  • 2:31 Gain Work Experience

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Platemaker Career Info

Degree Level High school diploma
Experience 2+ years of prepress experience
Key Skills Problem solving and interpersonal communication; attention to detail; knowledge of digital printing software and understanding of computer hardware; knowledge of press equipment, chemical baths, and laser platemaking equipment
Salary $38,270 (2015 median salary for all prepress technicians and workers)

Sources: Salary.com, O*Net OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Platemakers are part of a prepress team who create printing plates used in print operations. Plates are made for large printing jobs, such as newspapers, magazines, and books. Platemaking is a career field that has changed dramatically with the advent of computers. This change resulted in the need for fewer platemakers. Despite a decline in jobs, platemakers use their understanding of the printing process to take on other roles in prepress operations.

These professionals should have:

  • Strong attention to detail
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Knowledge of digital printing software
  • An understanding of press equipment, chemical baths, and laser platemaking equipment

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that pre-press technicians and workers earned a median annual wage of $38,270.

Get a High School Diploma

Many job duties once performed by platemakers are now being done by prepress technicians, but the preparation for both careers is similar. Most employers require a minimum of a high school diploma. A student prepares for a prepress career in high school by taking courses allowing them to learn useful skills for the job, such as those regarding computers, mathematics, and mechanics.

If available, a graphic communication program is helpful in teaching skills needed to acquire a prepress job and begin gaining experience immediately after high school.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects
  • Computer Typography and Composition
  • Graphic and Printing Equipment Operations
  • Platemaker
  • Prepress, Publishing, and Image Design
  • Printing Management
  • Printing Press Operation

Consider Vocational Programs

A certificate program in graphics, prepress, or animation provides relevant training in the technology and processes related to platemaking; these programs are found at vocational schools or community colleges. Subjects covered in these programs include prepress operations, printing, desktop publishing, computer graphics, and digital applications. Employers prefer to hire candidates with experience and knowledge in prepress operations, so earning a certificate helps individuals get hired as a platemaker or prepress technician. Classes also cover page layout, visual communication, technical math, technical English, and media technology.

Gain Work Experience

Many employers require job candidates to have some experience in prepress operations. Experience can be gained through working as a prepress helper or assistant. Some skills learned include how to use digital technology, follow printing guidelines, and use prepress equipment.

Many employers offer on-the-job industry training designed to introduce staff to new technologies and allow them to brush up on their skills. Printing Industries of America offers workshops in color management and graphic arts. Attending training programs is also a part of the advancement process within a company.

To recap, platemakers - more currently known as prepress technicians - can get started in the field by earning a high school diploma, completing some postsecondary training, and getting an entry-level job as a prepress assistant.

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