Printing Technician: Job Description & Career Info

Apr 11, 2019

Artists, writers, graphic designers and office workers all depend on printing technicians to reproduce their work. Read on to learn about the job duties and training requirements for printing technicians, and find information about job growth and salary that can help you make an informed career and educational decision. Also, check out some similar career options that you might find interesting.

Career Definition of a Printing Technician

Printing technicians are usually employed as prepress technicians or press operators; some workers may specialize in binding and finishing publications. Job duties can vary according to machine process and type and may include digital or plateless technologies, as well as traditional printing forms like flexography, gravure, letterpress or lithography. In general, printing technicians are responsible for reviewing the quantity and specifics of an order, calibrating color controls, arranging pages and operating the equipment. Additional duties may also include cutting, compressing and assembling printed pages for publication.

Education High school diploma or equivalent, associate's degree or coursework in business and computer technology
Job Skills Proficient with technology, flexible, able to meet deadlines even if machines malfunction
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $36,220 for printing press operators
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 11.9% decline for all printing workers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

An associate degree or college coursework in a relevant area is the preferred requirement for printing technicians; however, those who receive special training can get a position with a General Educational Development (GED) credential or high school diploma. Coursework focuses on computer technology and business, but many prospective printing technicians also find internships at college newspapers or library printing facilities. Printing technicians often receive mentoring and training from a senior printing technician.

Skills Required

Printing technicians must have the ability to learn and become proficient in the use of existing and new technologies. They should also be flexible and adaptable, as machines can break down and production deadlines can be very tight.

Employment and Earnings Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual pay for a printing press operator was $36,220 in May 2018. Employment prospects for printing workers in general are expected to decrease by 11.9% nationwide between 2016 and 2026. Opportunities for prepress technicians and printing press operators will decline by 19.9% and 10.4%, respectively, during the same 10-year period (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

If you are interested in working in the printing industry, there are similar occupations that might interest you.

Engravers and Etchers

Engravers and etchers, including those who work with a silk-screen, pantograph or etcher-circuit technology, create or transfer images to fabric, metal, rubber and wood, among other surfaces. Academic requirements include a high school diploma or its equivalent; most engravers and etchers train on the job. As reported by the BLS, etchers and engravers can expect a 1% increase in employment nationwide from 2016-2026. In May 2018, the median annual salary for an engraver or etcher was $31,330 (www.bls.gov).

Metal and Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers prepare, operate and monitor equipment used to cut and shape product parts. Areas of specialization are numerous and may include computerized machine operators, foundry workers, millworkers and patternmakers. Entry-level requirements include a high school diploma and up to one year of on-the-job training. According to the BLS, metal and plastic machine workers will see a 9% decline in jobs between 2016 and 2026. Those employed in 2018 were paid median annual salaries of $38,900 (www.bls.gov).

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