Prepress Technicians and Workers Overview

Postsecondary graphic communications training is usually required for most prepress technicians and workers. Since the use of computers in typesetting and page layout requires fewer press technicians workers, jobs may become limited. Yet, job prospects will be good for prepress technicians with good computer and customer service skills.

Nature of the Work for Prepress Technicians and Workers

Prepress Technicians and Workers

Prepress technicians and workers are involved in the first stage of printing where they format the print job and correct any layout errors before the job is printed.

Some prepress technicians, sometimes known as preflight technicians, will take images and check them thoroughly for completeness. They review sketches from a client or electronic files to make sure they are complete and correct.

Prepress technicians use offset printing plates to copy images to create a final printed product. After printing plates are created, prepress technicians will work with printing press operators to check for any printing problems that may ensue. For jobs requiring a lot of color, several printing plates may be used. The work of a prepress worker can involve using a photographic process to create these plates.

Prepress technicians are now able to work with a technique called direct-to-plate where data can be sent to a plating system bypassing the photographic technique. An electronic image of the printed pages is produced by using this technique which helps create a proof which is then printed, delivered or emailed to the customer to look at.

Imagesetters are then used once the client approves of the proof to expose the images onto thin metal printing plates.

Work of a prepress technician or worker is constantly changing due to advances in printing technology and computer software. Prepress workers can receive files via email or the internet from customers that contain typeset material.

The work environment of a prepress technician and worker is usually air-conditioned, clean and without a lot of noise. Eyestrain, muscle aches, or back pain can occur on the job. Deadlines and tight work can also be apart of a prepress technician and worker’s job.

The typical day for prepress technicians and workers involves an 8 hour day, some working at night. Weekend and holiday work may sometimes be required due to a specific print job that fell behind schedule.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Prepress Technicians and Workers

Recommended Education Level

Familiarity with the printing process, the technology used and formal training in printing or publishing is preferred by employers. Employers believe prepress technicians and workers with a combination of work experience and formal training make the best candidates.

Entry-level prepress technicians and workers should obtain a 2-year associate’s degree from a technical school or junior/community college or a 4-year bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

Courses in prepress-related topics are also available at many colleges and universities for those not looking to enroll in a degree program.

Good communication skills, electronics and computer proficiency as well as being personable with customers are important qualifications for prepress technicians and workers. Manual dexterity, good color vision, accurate eyesight, attention to detail and artistic ability are important qualifications as well. Meeting deadlines and using new software may also be apart of the job for many prepress technicians and workers.

Some prepress technicians and workers may be sent to industry-sponsored programs to update and develop new skills by their employers.

Top 10 Most Popular General Graphic Communications Schools

1. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (San Luis Obispo, California)
2. Sacramento City College (Sacramento, California)
3. College for Creative Studies (Detroit, Michigan)
4. Pima Community College, Tucson (Tucson, Arizona)
5. Michigan Career and Technical Institute (Plainwell, Michigan)
6. Saint Cloud Technical & Community College (Saint Cloud, Minnesota)
7. Moraine Park Technical College (Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin)
8. Eastern Washington University (Cheney, Washington)
9. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York)
10. Kirkwood Community College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

See All General Graphic Communications Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Prepress Technicians and Workers

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to decline rapidly (decrease 10% or more).

Out of the 53,710 jobs held by prepress technicians and workers, most work in printing and related support activities industry.

Improvements in technology can contribute to the need for prepress technicians and workers to fix such equipment. The demand for product packaging and printing material can also create a demand for prepress technicians and workers in this field.

Due to the growth in digital printing and desktop publishing, many prepress technicians and worker jobs associated with older printing technologies have been eliminated. Automation, thanks to new technologies, is also decreasing the amount of jobs for prepress technicians and workers.

Prepress technicians and workers with good customer service and computer skills will have the most job opportunities. New software and equipment such as page layout publications are helping prepress technician and works print faster and perform their jobs efficiently.

Prepress technicians and workers who are technologically advanced can work in sales and customer service jobs. Many commercial printing companies are also creating one-stop options for their customers such as email distribution and graphic design services with the help of database administrators or website developers.

Postsecondary programs in graphic communications or printing technology completed by prepress technicians and workers will also create better job opportunities.

Earnings and Salary for Prepress Technicians and Workers

Median hourly wages of prepress technicians and workers are $17.21. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $10.39, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $26.81 an hour.

Employers, education, and location can affect the wage rates for prepress technicians and workers.

Hourly Wage for Prepress Technicians and Workers

On average, Prepress Technicians and Workers earn $17.21 per hour.

10% 25% 75% 90% $10.39 $13.24 $22.12 $26.81

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook