Salary and Career Info for a Printing Press Operator

Sep 23, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a printing press operator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and the employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

Printing press operator positions are predicted to decline by 12% over the coming decade. These positions have a median annual salary of about $35,000. Candidates for these positions need little education but must be mechanically inclined.

Essential Information

Printing press operators help produce newspapers and other published materials by maintaining and operating the presses used to print them. Exact work duties vary based on the type of printing press used and the type of publication. Training for this career can typically be attained through vocational schools and/or on-the-job training.

Required Education High school diploma or its equivalent
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Projected Job Outlook (2018-2028) -12%*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $36,220*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary Information for Printing Press Operators

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2018 the median hourly wage of printing press operators was $17.41, and the annual median salary was $36,220 ( The top paying industry was the executive branch of the federal government, where the average annual salary was $98,010, though only 540 printing press operators held those positions. Other high paying industries included boiler, tank, and shipping container manufacturing and aerospace manufacturing.

Career information for Printing Press Operators

Printing presses are maintained, prepared and operated by printing press operators. Operators generally start out by learning how to clean, unload and load the presses. With additional training, the operators learn how to properly work specific types of machines.

Most printing press operators work 40-hour weeks, with the majority working early morning, weekend and night shifts, depending on publication deadlines. Working with large printing presses can be dangerous and it's important that an operator follows safety regulations like wearing gloves, ear protection and remaining alert while near running presses.


The duties of an operator can vary depending on the type of printer used. For example, more traditional printing presses use letterpress, flexography, gravure or offset lithography techniques with a plate or roller that copies an image to paper. A printing press operator using this medium has to prepare the ink, the rollers and the images for the papers to get pressed.

However, if a printing press operator uses a plate-less process like ink-jet printing, electrostatic or digital to duplicate a document, then different transferring, blending and proofing techniques have to be used. Regardless of the type of press used, this job can be physically demanding.

Career Outlook

The BLS predicted a 12% decrease in the number of employed press operators between 2018 and 2028, due in part to a shift from printed to digital media, although it's expected that demand for printing services with short turn-around times may provide some counterweight. Printing workers with computer skills may have better chances of finding a job.

Printing press operators require only a high school diploma. Though training is usually on-the-job, candidates can also receive training through programs at vocational schools. Those entering this field must be able to learn and understand printing standards.

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