There are between 26,000 and 27,000 desktop publishers working in the United States. Currently, around 38 % of desktop publishers work for publishers of books, directories, periodicals, and newspapers, while 21 % are involved in the printing industry. Job growth projections indicate this is a declining industry. This is due in large part to the constant development of software programs that are simple enough for untrained individuals to use. In addition, as more and more consumers shift to the internet, the need for printed materials is rapidly declining.
While no specific certifications or classes are required, most employers are only interested in hiring a desktop publisher who has considerable experience. Those who have sufficient experience in addition to a degree or certification in desktop publishing or graphic design are at the top of the hiring list. Many employers maintain a website in addition to requiring printed materials. This means that facility with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) or other electronic publishing software is important.
Using computer software, desktop publishers format text, photographs, graphic art, charts, and tables to create document prototypes. These prototypes might be printed in-house using a high-resolution printer. Alternatively, they might be sent to a commercial printer. Desktop publishers typically create marketing materials, guides, brochures, newsletters, forms, calendars, newspapers, and magazines. In addition to organizing text, they design or select graphic images and arrange pages that are both easy to read and visually inviting. Desktop publishers might create visual aids for presentations, or prepare color separation of photographs and graphics. Some desktop publishers are given the text to be used. Others may write or edit headlines, some of the text, or all of it.
Writing and editing responsibilities depend upon the project or the employer’s needs. Smaller businesses use desktop publishers for a number of tasks. Larger companies are more likely to use desktop publishers who specialize in one or two aspects of the publishing process. Type style, type size, spacing, column width, and white space must be chosen for readability as well as aesthetics. Once a project has been reviewed, necessary changes made, and approved, the data in the digital files create printing plates. Off-press color proofing, digital page-makeup, and computerized layouts are some of the technological advances that have made desktop publishing increasingly accessible.
Other terms for desktop publishers include publications specialists, electronic publishers, desktop publishing editors, image designers, or Web publications designers depending upon the specific tasks for which a particular publisher is responsible.
Most businesses provide pleasant, temperature controlled offices with few distractions for desktop publishers. Most work Monday through Friday day shifts. A few may be required to work nights or weekends, especially if there is a hard deadline. A certain amount of stress is likely to come with the job. Desktop publishers must adhere to company deadlines, often working on multiple projects at a time. Because of close work with the computer and printed copies, eye strain, headache, repetitive motion problems, and neck or shoulder problems are common.
Although no degree is required of desktop publishers, having one makes them more employable. Therefore, anyone interested in becoming a career desktop publisher should consider earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in mass communications or graphic design. In the past, many with artistic sensibilities have simply experimented with software to layout and print simple documents. New hires will generally be trained in the specific software and office machines that are available while on the job. Job applicants who communicate well and can accurately describe an idea for a project, as well as those comfortable with compute ratios for graphics scaling and can estimate job costs will have an edge. Attention to detail is extremely important.
Advancement is based upon skills mastery. Desktop publishers who understand all aspects of the job and understand the machinery can become supervisors or managers. Alternatively, many desktop publishers are independent consultants or accept contract work. Still others move into graphic design and commercial art.
Income varies widely, based upon job location, years of experience, training and skills required. The median annual salary for desktop publishers is around $37,000. Those at the low end receive less than $22,000 per year, and those at the high end can earn more than $60,000 annually.