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Desktop Publishing Training Programs and Requirements

Newspapers, publishers, printers and online media outlets utilize desktop publishers' skills each day. These professionals design graphics and prepare layouts for traditional or electronic publishing.

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Essential Information

In Desktop Publishing programs, students learn how to balance white space with formatted typography and visually appealing graphics or photographs. Students are also taught how to present final page layouts for client approval, perform color separations prior to printing, and prepare digital files that are used in making printing plates at commercial printers. Formal certificate or degree programs are recommended for those seeking employment upon graduation.

Most higher-level programs require a high school diploma or equivalent, while some certificate programs merely offer on-the-job training. Some certificate programs and standalone courses are available online.


Desktop Publishing Certificate

A certificate program for desktop publishers offers basic design training. Best suited for individuals seeking entry-level positions, a certificate program introduces students to desktop publishing concepts, design principles and publishing software. Students take courses in electronic publishing, computer graphics, visual communications and copywriting. Many certificate programs are offered at colleges and universities and may be completed in one or two semesters.

Associate Degree in Desktop Publishing

Future desktop publishers may complete an associate degree program in visual communication or graphic arts. This 2-year degree program prepares students to create their own layouts, manage workflow and prepare layouts for printing. Students often combine classroom design theories with actual computer-based lab practicums. Graduates have an extensive knowledge of desktop publishing and a full understanding of traditional and electronic publishing.

Courses may include:

  • Graphic design
  • Desktop publishing
  • Digital photography
  • English
  • General math
  • Web design

Bachelor's Degree in Desktop Publishing

A bachelor's degree program for desktop publishers involves completing a graphic design, visual communication, graphic arts or visual media arts degree program. Students often complete courses in advertising, communications, marketing and visual or graphic arts. Students gain advanced design skills and hone professional writing techniques. Many students work on their professional design portfolios by completing local internships at newspapers, advertising agencies or graphic design firms prior to graduation.

Courses may include:

  • Design principles
  • English
  • Math
  • Digital photography applications
  • Desktop publishing
  • HTML and Web page design

Continuing Education

Desktop publishers must pay meticulous attention to detail and possess an excellent sense for turning clients' design expectations into fruition. Each day, desktop publishers are the middle persons between clients and publishers. Therefore, they must be good communicators and have strong work ethics. In addition, continuing professional development may be required for desktop publishers as innovations and technologies advance. Individuals must be willing to learn new techniques and applications as the industry progresses.

Desktop publishers are not bound by certification requirements or licensure mandates. However, many join professional associations, such as American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), to illustrate professional credibility. Although AIGA does not offer certification, its membership offers a professional forum for desktop publishers and graphic designers. Members may participate in annual design conferences, workshops and seminars. They also have access to industry-specific guidelines and publications.

According to the BLS, individuals with limited formal training and skills often work under the eye of more experienced supervisors. Advancement occurs upon mastery of design and publishing skills or completion of formal training programs. More experienced individuals or those holding an associate or bachelor's degree often secure managerial or editorial positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists possible desktop publishing positions as publications specialists, electronic publishing specialists, DTP operators, electronic prepress technicians, desktop publishing editors and layout artists. Individuals may also find positions as Web publications designers or find employment with book publishers, magazines, newspapers, advertising agencies and graphic design firms.

Demonstrating graphic design skills and desktop publishing savvy are vital when seeking employment. Individuals may train while on the job or complete desktop publishing internships. Either way, these hands-on experiences build professional portfolios that demonstrate desktop publishing proficiency for potential employers. The BLS also recommends desktop publishers be proficient in simple math ratios and have good dexterity, eye sight, depth perception and artistic ability. Many acquire these skills through on-the-job training. However, employers often require completion of formal certificates in desktop publishing or degree programs in graphic design or visual communication prior to employment.

Desktop publishing training is offered as a certificate or an associate's degree program, in addition to on-the-job training. A bachelor's degree in this field can offer a more in-depth study of the subject.

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