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Prepress Technician: Job Description & Requirements

Learn what prepress technicians do. See what kind of education and skills are required for the job. Get details about career prospects and earning potential to see if this job is right for you.

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Career Definition

Prepress technicians set the foundation for successful printing production. They ensure that the proper format, appearance, and layout of text and images is set before the full print run for newspapers, magazines, brochures, catalogs, packaging materials or labels is completed. Prepress technicians take print or electronic files and scan or import them into specialized software, making color, text, and digital image corrections as needed. They set up printing presses to produce film, plate or electronic proofs. Prepress technicians also maintain, repair, and troubleshoot cameras and presses as needed. Shift work is common, as is overtime in order to meet deadlines. Prepress technicians may be members of the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, www.teamster.org.

Become a Prepress Technician

Required Education

Prepress technicians typically hold a certificate or diploma in electronic prepress operations or printing prepress technology. An alternative is an associate's degree in graphic arts and imaging technology or printing and prepress technology. Prepress technicians learn the use of computer programs like Quark, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. They also study graphic communications, computers, commercial printing processes, math, lithography, and safety procedures.

Skills Required

Prepress technicians require effective communication skills for taking orders from customers, troubleshooting prepress problems or addressing management or customer concerns. Prepress technicians need good eyesight and attention to detail for color and text proofing.

Career and Economic Outlook

Prepress technicians face a challenging career outlook because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects to see a 13% decline in jobs from 2012-2022, due in large part to technological developments that insert more automation into the printing process (www.bls.gov). The BLS reports that prepress technicians in 2012 earned an average yearly salary of $37,260.

Alternative Career Options

Graphic Designer

A graphic designer works with clients to create a visual concept that delivers a specific message to customers or consumers via brochures, ads, and other printed material, as well as via electronic methods like websites. Graphic designers work with art and text, enhancing it or manipulating the look of it for desired affects. They may change the font or type size of written words, adjust the size of an illustration or minimize the white space used on product packaging. A graphic designer often has a bachelor's degree in the field and a portfolio of work to show prospective employers or clients. Industry certification is available for various software programs that are commonly used. The BLS estimates that the number of jobs for graphic designers will increase 7% from 2012-2022, and the agency reports that median pay for graphic designers was $44,150 in 2012.

Machine Operator

A machine operator runs a manufacturing machine that's already been set up to produce a specific part. Job duties can include loading materials for production, inspecting completed pieces, and making minor repairs and adjustments to machines. A high school diploma is preferred, and some postsecondary education in subjects like math can improve job prospects. On-the-job training is typical. Industry certification is available in multiple areas through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. According to the BLS, jobs in this field are predicted to decline 6% from 2012-2022. The median annual pay rate for machine operators was $32,950 in 2012.

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