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Pressman: Career Requirements and Information

A pressman requires little formal education. Learn about the training options, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Pressmen work with various types of printing press equipment. They usually receive on-the-job training and require only a high school diploma. A severe decline in employment is projected for this career through 2024.

Essential Information

A pressman, also known as a printing press operator, sets up, maintains and runs printing presses. Press operators can specialize in lithography, flexography, letterpress or gravure printing presses. Their duties include preparing the press for printing, monitoring the process while it is going on and checking the final printed product for quality. While the majority of pressmen learn their trade through on-the-job training, there are college courses available to press operators. Most begin their careers as press assistants and advance as their skills increase.

Required Education High school diploma or GED certificate and on-the-job training; some press operators take courses at vocational schools or community colleges
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 24% decline (for all prepress technicians and workers)
Median Salary (2015)* $35,240 (for all printing press operators)

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Requirements for a Pressman

Education

While formal education is not available for press operators, technical and community colleges offer coursework in the printing field. Subjects covered include controls, sequencing color, packing and printing pressures, press maintenance and plate mounting. The goal of these courses is to teach students effective means to reduce waste and increase the quality level of the finished product. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is also recommended that a future press operator consider taking courses in chemistry, color theory, physics and electronics (www.bls.gov).

On-the-Job Training

The majority of pressmen learn the trade under the guidance of seasoned professionals. They begin as press assistants learning basic skills such as loading, unloading, maintaining and cleaning the presses. Assistants progress to higher levels such as color mixing and plate setting as they advance in skill levels.

Career Information for a Pressman

Job Duties

A printing press operator begins each project by checking the equipment, paper and ink for the desired specifications. In older machines, the pressman will need to hand feed paper throughout the process. Mid-project, the pressman will monitor paper and ink quality and levels. The pressman must also keep an eye out for paper jams or tears, which may require halting the project and resetting the press. Pressmen check the finished product periodically through the course of production to ensure consistency in print.

Pressmen are expected to spend many hours of the day standing, as well as lifting heavy weights. They perform repetitive motions for long periods of time and, in some pressrooms; work in loud conditions, which require protective headgear.

Salary and Career Opportunities

According to the BLS, in May 2015, the median salary for printing press operators was $35,240. Printing machine operators are typically employed by graphics, newspaper and publishing industries. Some pressmen set up their own small shops and work independently; however, this is rare.

These positions are projected to show a severe decline from 2014-2024, as reported by the BLS, with prepress technicians showing a 24% decline. Workers may experience job growth in the areas of print marketing and logistics, such as labels, packaging, catalogs and direct mail, rather than the physical operation of machines.

Pressman usually learn their trade working as assistants where they learn basic printing and cleaning operations before moving on to more complex tasks. They require little education, although related courses and degrees are available. In general, a sharp decline in employment opportunities is expected in the coming decade, but other, non-machine areas of print may experience growth.

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