Desktop Publishers Overview

Many desktop publishers work for newspapers, periodicals, books, directory publishers, and printing. Though employers prefer to hire those with experience, they will hire desktop publishers who have certificates or degrees in graphic communications, publishing or graphic design.

Nature of the Work for Desktop Publishers

Desktop Publishers

The job of a desktop publisher entails using computer software for formatting as well as combining, images, text, and data into prototypes of pages and any other printed documents. Desktop publishers can print calendars, magazine, newsletters, and other forms of publications.

Desktop publishers also work with images by either designing or creating the graphics or editing the images. Desktop publishers may also design page layouts, create advertising campaigns, and make presentations. A desktop publisher may even write text or headlines as well.

Desktop publishers are familiar with certain software to enter text and images. They can use the computer to upload print and images and be able to see exactly how something will print out. Desktop publishers also use digital files to produce printing plates and can use film, video, and other forms of electronic media to add images.

Desktop publishing is becoming more economical due to the advances in computer software and print technology. Recent innovations used by desktop publishers include electronic page-layout systems and digital color page-makeup systems. Some desktop publishers should be familiar with electronic publishing software since many materials are reproduced on the internet using software such as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).

Other duties that desktop publishers may be responsible for are copyediting content or writing original content. Depending on the project and size of the firm, a desktop publisher’s responsibilities usually vary job to job.

Other names used for desktop publishers include electronic publishers, DTP operators, desktop publishing editors, publication specialists, or electronic prepress technicians. Names for desktop publishers can vary based on tasks and preference.

Desktop publishers usually work an average workweek in a clean and air-conditioned office. Some desktop publishers, depending on production scheduling, will work nights, weekends or holidays.

Due to deadlines, tight work schedules, and long hours spent in front of a computer screen, some desktop publishers feel stress and pressure or even eyestrain and back discomfort from their work.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Desktop Publishers

Desktop publishers usually learn skills from their specific job as well as experimenting with software and design layouts.

Even though most skills are learned on the job, desktop publishers looking for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in publishing, graphic arts, graphic communications, or graphic design may receive better job opportunities since employers choose to hire people who have a high school diploma at the very least. Schools such as vocational institutes and private trade and technical schools may also offer courses in printing.

Desktop publishers should also have good communication skills and a strong work ethic. Simple math calculations and ratios may also be apart of the job depending on the project. Desktop publishers should also have a basic understanding of computers, printers and scanners.

Good eyesight, manual dexterity, attention to detail, visual acuity, and the ability to focus quickly are all important characteristics of a desktop publisher. Desktop publishers who start out assisting an experienced staff may advance by demonstrating their mastery of skills. Desktop publishers can advance by starting their own companies, moving into supervisory or management positions or finding jobs in graphic design or commercial art.

Top 10 Most Popular Publishing & Digital Imaging Schools

1. Southeast Technical Institute (Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
2. Camden County College (Blackwood, New Jersey)
3. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Green Bay (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
4. Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)
5. College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn (Glen Ellyn, Illinois)
6. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York)
7. Southwestern Illinois College (Belleville, Illinois)
8. Alvin Community College (Alvin, Texas)
9. Whatcom Community College (Bellingham, Washington)
10. Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (Cincinnati, Ohio)

See All Publishing & Digital Imaging Schools

Top 10 Most Popular Online Publishing & Digital Imaging Schools

1. DeVry University - Online School
2. The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division

Employment and Job Outlook for Desktop Publishers

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

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

Out of the 22,810 jobs held by desktop publishers, 38 percent work for periodicals, books, directory publishers or newspapers while 21 percent work in printing or a closely related field. Many desktop publishers work for scientific, professional or technician service firms.

Desktop publishers can find jobs anywhere in the country since the printing and publishing industries are such geographically dispersed industries. Most jobs for desktop publishers are found in large metropolitan cities.

Since more people are learning basic desktop publishing skills in their regular jobs, employment for desktop publishers is expected to decline 23 percent. Jobs are also expected to decline due to companies formatting materials on the internet rather than for print.

Due to the availability of desktop publishing software, many companies and organizations choose to use the software without the help of professionals. Desktop publishers will be necessary for organizations and companies who produce extensive reports that require high-resolution color and graphics as well as high-quality printing.

Since some desktop publishers transfer to different jobs, leave the occupation or move up to manager positions, there will be some job opportunities for desktop publishers. With few job opportunities, those with experience will have a better shot at a job. For those with little experience, having a computer background, a certification in desktop publishing or have completed a postsecondary program in desktop publishing, graphic design or web design will have an easier time finding a job.

Earnings and Salary for Desktop Publishers

The level of experience, training, location and company size can all affect the wages for a desktop publisher.

Median annual wages of desktop publishers are $36,470. The middle 50 percent earn between $28,430 and $47,870. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $21,920, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $59,180 a year.

Annual Salary for Desktop Publishers

On average, Desktop Publishers earn $36,470 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $21,920/yr $28,430/yr $47,870/yr $59,180/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook