Desktop Publisher

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Desktop Publisher

Education and Training: College plus training

Salary: Median—$32,340 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Desktop publishing software programs allow people who are not typesetters to prepare professional-looking publications at home or in the office. A company can save money and time using desktop publishing software because its employees can design and prepare its own publications. A computer user who is willing to learn one of these programs and page-layout principles may wish to pursue employment in the field of desktop publishing.

Specialized software allows the desktop publisher to create a professional-looking page layout by combining text from word processing software with pictures from computer-aided drawing software. The desktop publisher then prepares a detailed style sheet to attach to the resulting pages. This style sheet contains all the typographic elements such as typeface, size of type, and spacing requirements. The pages are then printed on a high-quality laser jet printer using whatever instructions the desktop publisher has instructed it to use. The result is a typeset-quality page that comes from a computer and a printer.

People who use desktop publishing to prepare publications may work directly for businesses, schools, or in other areas. A large number of them work on a freelance basis out of their homes or in their own businesses. This flexibility is another reason for the growing popularity of desktop publishing as a career. Success in this position depends mainly on a user's skill and the quality of his or her equipment. For example, some beginning freelance desktop publishers type menus for restaurants, newsletters for organizations, mailing lists for real estate agents, and resumes or theses for students. Others with more experience prepare manuscripts for publishers and documents and advertisements for businesses. A growing number of desktop publishers are fluent in electronic publishing technologies, such as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), which converts text and graphics to an Internet-ready format.

Desktop publishers must be able to work comfortably with computers and be excellent typists. In addition, they should have a knowledge of page layout and book design. Some companies train their employees to use the required software packages. These companies also supply their workers with the computers, printers, and software necessary to do the work.

Freelance desktop publishers must buy or lease the computer equipment necessary to prepare their clients' publications. This equipment includes cutting-edge computers, the latest in desktop publishing software, high-quality laser printers, and facsimile machines. The cost ranges from $4,000 to $10,000.

Computer software and printing technology continue to improve in the field of desktop publishing. Digital color page makeup systems, electronic page layout systems, and off-press color proofing systems are just a few of the major advancements in desktop publishing.

Education and Training Requirements

Desktop publishers should type quickly and accurately and know how to use a computer. They must also know how to use word processing and desktop publishing software packages. Knowledge of electronic publishing technologies, especially HTML, is necessary to work on the Internet. In addition, they should be familiar with book design, page layout, and elements of graphics.

With competition for jobs increasing, prospective desktop publishers need a minimum of a certificate in desktop publishing or an associate's degree in applied science or desktop publishing. Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in graphic arts or graphic design sometimes become desktop publishers. The growth of desktop publishing as a career choice has prompted some four-year colleges and universities—one being Northern State University of South Dakota—to offer bachelor's degree programs in desktop publishing. Some companies send employees to additional training courses and seminars.

Getting the Job

Newspapers carry many advertisements for desktop publishers. Internet job sites and job banks are also good sources. Many agencies advertise for applicants. Some aspiring desktop publishers work as interns or helpers to gain more experience and make contacts. In some cases desktop publishers are in such demand that an agency will offer on-the-job training in the use of a particular software package.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Many areas are open to freelance or consultant desktop publishers. A number of publishing firms and book packagers use freelance workers to produce their books. College students and professors may need desktop publishers to prepare theses, papers for conferences, and books for publication. Many lawyers use desktop publishers to type contracts and briefs. Additionally, many small- and medium-sized companies that cannot afford a publications department, an art department, or a word processing or typesetting department look to freelance workers for their document preparation.

Desktop publishers with experience and skill can advance to supervisory or management positions. Others may start their own companies or work as consultants. Some may go into related fields, such as commercial art or graphic design.

Through 2014 the field of desktop publishing will grow at a faster than average rate. This increase reflects the availability of low-cost computer technology, which will decrease the use of traditional typesetters. More and more companies are turning to desktop publishers for page layout and design work in order to save money and time. It is anticipated that a number of new opportunities will arise in commercial printing and publishing establishments.

Working Conditions

Desktop publishers usually work in well-lighted and comfortable environments. Although most companies require a forty-hour week, employees may work extensive overtime when a deadline approaches.

Where to Go for More Information

National Association of Desktop Publishers
462 Old Boston St.
Topsfield, MA 01983-1232-
(508) 887-2246 The Definitive Authority on Web Publishing and Print
28 E. 28th St.
New York, NY 10016-
(800) 336-2423

Small Publishers Association of North America
1618 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
(719) 475-1726

Earnings and Benefits

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, desktop publishers earned a median income of $32,340 per year in 2004. Experienced workers with an extensive client list can earn more than $52,460 per year. Standard benefits include paid vacations, medical insurance, and retirement packages. Free-lance desktop publishers or consultants must pay their own taxes and benefits.