Desktop Publishers

Summary

desktop publishers image
Desktop publishers use computer software to design layouts for books, newspapers, and other published items.
Quick Facts: Desktop Publishers
2012 Median Pay $37,040 per year
$17.81 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 16,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 -5% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2012-22 -900

What Desktop Publishers Do

Desktop publishers use computer software to design page layouts for newspapers, books, brochures, and other items that are printed or put online. They collect the text, graphics, and other materials they will need and format them into a finished product.

Work Environment

Desktop publishers held about 16,400 jobs in 2012. About one-third of them worked in publishing industries.

How to Become a Desktop Publisher

Desktop publishers have a variety of educational backgrounds, but most have earned some form of postsecondary degree or award, such as an associate’s degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for desktop publishers was $37,040 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of desktop publishers is projected to decline 5 percent from 2012 to 2022. Companies are expected to hire fewer desktop publishers, as other types of workers—such as graphic designers, web designers, and copy editors—increasingly take on desktop publishing tasks.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of desktop publishers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about desktop publishers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Desktop Publishers Do

Desktop publishers
Desktop publishers gather existing materials or work with designers and writers to create new artwork or text.

Desktop publishers use computer software to design page layouts for newspapers, books, brochures, and other items that are printed or put online. They collect the text, graphics, and other materials they will need and format them into a finished product.

Duties

Desktop publishers typically do the following:

  • Gather existing materials or work with designers and writers to create new artwork or text
  • Find and edit graphics, such as photographs or illustrations
  • Use scanners to turn drawings and other materials into digital images
  • Import text and graphics into desktop publishing software programs
  • Position artwork and text on the page layout
  • Select formatting properties, such as text size, column width, and spacing
  • Check proofs, or preliminary layouts, for errors and make corrections
  • Finalize formatted documents for printing or electronic publication
  • Send final files to a commercial printer or print the documents on a high-resolution printer

Desktop publishers use publishing software to create page layouts for print or electronic publication. In addition to designing pages, desktop publishers may edit or write text. Some desktop publishers might be responsible for correcting spelling, punctuation, and grammar or for writing original content themselves.

Desktop publishers’ responsibilities may vary widely from project to project and employer to employer. Smaller firms typically use desktop publishers to perform a wide range of tasks, while desktop publishers at larger firms may specialize in one part of the publishing process.

Desktop publishers work with other design and media professionals, such as writers, editors, and graphic designers. For example, they work with graphic designers to come up with images that complement the text and fit the available space.

Work Environment

Desktop publishers
Many desktop publishers work in the publishing and printing industries where they edit graphs, charts, and text.

Desktop publishers held about 16,400 jobs in 2012. About one-third of them worked in publishing industries. Most of the rest worked for companies in other industries that produce their own printed materials, including advertising and public relations industries which are included in professional, scientific, and technical services. 

The industries that employed the most desktop publishers in 2012 were as follows:

Newspaper, periodical, book, and
directory publishers
31%
Printing and related support activities16
Professional, scientific, and technical services12
Administrative and support services8

Work Schedules

Many desktop publishers work full time. They may need to work long hours to meet publication deadlines.

How to Become a Desktop Publisher

Desktop publishers
Desktop publishers have a variety of educational backgrounds, but most complete some form of postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree.

Desktop publishers have a variety of educational backgrounds, but most have earned some form of postsecondary degree or award, such as an associate’s degree.

Education

Desktop publishers have various educational backgrounds, but postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree, is typical. Workers usually learn some of their skills on the job. Computer skills, including knowledge of desktop publishing software, are important.

Although many desktop publishers have earned associate’s degrees, others have earned postsecondary nondegree awards. These usually take less than 2 years to complete, or they sometimes earn bachelor’s degrees. Experience in a related field can sometimes substitute for education.

Those who earn degrees usually study fields such as graphic design, graphic arts, or graphic communications. Community colleges and trade and technical schools also may offer desktop publishing courses. These classes teach students about desktop publishing software used to format pages and how to import text and graphics into electronic page layouts.

Training

Desktop publishers learn some of their skills on the job. They learn by observing more experienced workers or by taking classes that teach them how to use desktop publishing software. Ongoing training is often necessary, as technologies and desktop publishing software change.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Desktop publishers must have a good eye for how graphics and text will look to create pages that are visually appealing, legible, and easy to read.

Communication skills. Desktop publishers talk through different concepts for a page layout with writers, editors, and graphic designers. They listen to ideas and explain their own.

Computer skills. Many desktop publishers use computer software exclusively when creating page layouts and formatting text and graphics.

Detail oriented. When designing and reviewing page layouts, desktop publishers must pay careful attention to details such as margins, font sizes, and the overall appearance and accuracy of their work. 

Organizational skills. Desktop publishers often work under strict deadlines and must be good at scheduling and prioritizing tasks in order to have a document ready on time for publication.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many employers prefer to hire workers who have experience in preparing layouts. This experience can sometimes substitute for formal education, such as a degree in graphic design.

Pay

Desktop Publishers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Desktop publishers

$37,040

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Other office and administrative support workers

$28,590

 

The median annual wage for desktop publishers was $37,040 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,740, and the top 10 percent earned more than $60,470.

Many desktop publishers work full time. They may need to work long hours to meet publication deadlines.

Job Outlook

Desktop Publishers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Other office and administrative support workers

3%

Desktop publishers

-5%

 

Employment of desktop publishers is projected to decline 5 percent from 2012 to 2022. Companies are expected to hire fewer desktop publishers, as other types of workers—such as graphic designers, web designers, and copy editors—increasingly take on desktop publishing tasks.

Desktop publishing is commonly used to design printed materials, such as advertisements, brochures, newsletters, and forms. However, increased computer-processing capacity and the widespread availability of more elaborate desktop publishing software make it easier and more affordable for nonprinting professionals to create their own materials. As a result, there will be less need for people to specialize in desktop publishing.

Some of the tasks that desktop publishers do, such as creating initial page layouts or converting pages to PDF files, can now be automated, further reducing employment.

Overall declines in the printing and publishing industries—those most likely to employ desktop publishers—will also restrict growth. As organizations increasingly publish their materials electronically instead of in print to save on printing and distribution costs, employment of desktop publishers may decline further.

Job Prospects

Prospects will be better for those with a degree in graphic design or a related field, or for those with experience in desktop publishing. Electronic and web-publishing expertise are increasingly in demand. Workers with a diverse range of skills, such as graphic design, web design, writing, and editing may have better prospects.

Employment projections data for Desktop Publishers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Desktop publishers

43-9031 16,400 15,500 -5 -900 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of desktop publishers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Editors

Editors

Editors plan, review, and revise content for publication.

Bachelor’s degree $53,880
Film and video editors and camera operators

Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators

Film and video editors and camera operators manipulate images that entertain or inform an audience.

Bachelor’s degree $46,280
Graphic designers

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.

Bachelor’s degree $44,150
Multimedia artists and animators

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games, and other forms of media.

Bachelor’s degree $61,370
Printing workers

Printing Workers

Printing workers produce print material in three stages: prepress, press, and binding and finishing. They review specifications, calibrate color settings on printers, identify and fix problems with printing equipment, and assemble pages.

See How to Become One $34,100
Technical writers

Technical Writers

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information among customers, designers, and manufacturers.

Bachelor’s degree $65,500
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Desktop Publishers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/desktop-publishers.htm (visited September 01, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014