Digital Press Operator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 23, 2019

Digital Press Operators usually require no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Digital press operators work with computers to produce printed materials that will be sent to presses. Digital press operators usually only require a high school diploma or GED, but employers may prefer candidates who have experience or have completed additional training.

Essential Information

Digital printing presses receive and reproduce information from a computer into a paper format. Operators are often required to operate and maintain digital presses while satisfying customer specifications. While a high school diploma may be the only requirement for a few positions, most employers desire some type of formal training.

Education High school diploma
Other Requirements Hands-on and/or technical training
Projected Job Growth 12% decline from 2018 to 2028*
Median Salary (2018) $36,220 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Digital Press Operator Job Description

A digital print press operator uses digital printing machines and software programs to effectively create materials per client request. In fulfilling these requests, operators may change many variables in the printing press set-up, such as dimension, color or contrast. Often, successful digital print operators have numerous printing projects going at the same time and create schedules to reflect these various deadlines. In addition, operators may also need to play the role of a digital press repairman if maintenance on one of the machines is required.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that printing press operators in general earn a median annual income of $36,220, as of May 2018. Due to new technologies allowing for greater automation during the print process, as well as the shift to online delivery for many publications, printing press operators are expected to see a 12% decline in employment opportunities during the 2018-2028 decade, according to the BLS.

Duties of a Digital Press Operator

According to a job posting in February 2011, operators are mainly responsible for creating the specified print material, maintaining the printing equipment and keeping inventory readily stocked. They may be required to print for a variety of clientele specifications.

Print operators may be required to fix the printing machines that they use, which may involve either hardware or software repair, depending upon the situation. To this end, many employers require digital printing operators to be experienced working with their printing machine's make and model. Usually, operators keep logs of previous problems to better program the machine for future use.

Printing presses generally require materials to be well stocked in order to operate effectively. Depending on the printing program and printing press, operators may need to purchase and stock new ink cartridges, paper, labels or other components. Efficient operators often use stock ordering schedules to keep up with work deadlines.

Requirements for Digital Press Operators

While most employers require candidates to have some technical education, experience using a particular printing press model is often a hiring requirement. There are also a variety of educational programs available in printing technology.

Education and Training

Traditionally, press operators were apprenticed by a professional printer and learned through hands-on training. However, due to the complex machinery in use today, post-secondary education has recently emerged as a viable companion to on-the-job training.

While a high school diploma may be the only requirement for some jobs in this field, employers may prefer candidates that have completed a college program. Colleges and technical schools offer diploma and certificate programs in print technology and digital print technology. These courses may contain coursework in offset presswork, electronic publishing and computer-to-plate imaging. Another educational track is an associate's degree program in graphic arts with a concentration in printing technology, which trains students in areas such as electronic imaging, platemaking and masking.

Printing Press Training

Operators often need to be experts on the printing machines they use because they often need to perform routine maintenance and minor repairs. Some press manufacturers offer training courses focused on a specific printing press model. Topics may include safety precautions, press pressure adjustment, supply feeds and software use.

Digital press operators work with clients to create printed materials that meet the client's specifications. While a high school diploma and on-the-job training may be sufficient to work as a digital press operator, degree and certificate programs are available at colleges and technical schools in this field. These occupations had a median annual salary around $36,000 in 2018, and jobs in this profession are expected to decline in the next decade.

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