Desktop Publisher

Job Duties

Desktop publishers create electronic page layouts using computer software that combines text, numerical data, photographs, charts, and other components to produce material that is ready to be published. Their specific tasks depend on the type of project, and may include writing and editing text, digitally converting photographs, manipulating digital images, creating proposals, developing advertising campaigns, designing accompanying graphics, creating presentations, and performing color separation. Desktop publishers produce many different types of materials, including books, business cards, calendars, magazines, newsletters, and newspapers.

Desktop publishers use computers to alter the layout of material, and are able to create an entire product on screen that looks exactly like it will when it is published. Personal computers have revolutionized the field of desktop publishing, enabling desktop publishers to complete entire projects themselves, projects which used to require many employees and equipment. Technology in the field is advancing rapidly. Today, desktop publishers receive text and other material on disk or over the Internet from their clients. Digital color page-makeup systems, electronic page-layout systems, and off-press color-proofing systems have also dramatically altered the landscape of the occupation.

Job Skills

Desktop publishers need to be very conscious of detail. They must be able to work independently and have good manual dexterity. Eyesight is also very important, including visual acuity, depth perception, a wide field of view, color vision, and the ability to focus quickly. Artistic ability is essential. Desktop publishers should be flexible and adaptable as they often are required to meet tight deadlines.


In 2002, desktop publishers earned a median annual salary of $31,620. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $18,670, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $52,540. The following shows the median annual salaries in the industries employing the greatest number of desktop publishers:

  • Printing and related support activities — $35,140
  • Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers — $28,050

Training and Education

The most common educational path leading to employment as a desktop publisher is through a certificate program offered by vocational schools, universities, and colleges, or via the Internet. Most programs take about 1 year, but others may have different lengths. Some students may learn their skills through on-the-job training. Students can also earn an associate’s degree in applied science or a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts, graphic communications, or graphic design. Graphic arts programs teach the fundamentals of desktop publishing software that has the ability to format pages, assign type characteristics, and import text and graphics into electronic page layouts to produce printed materials such as advertisements, brochures, newsletters, and forms. This type of in-depth training is more for students who plan to eventually move into management positions, whereas 2-year programs offer more limited advancement options.


In 2002, desktop publishers held about 35,000 jobs. More than two thirds worked in the newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishing, and printing and related support activities.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of desktop publishers is expected to increase faster than the average. More page layout and design is being performed in-house using computers and software, creating demand for desktop publishers because this in-house system increases production and lowers costs. Opportunities will be best for those who have experience, or those who have a computer background and have graduated from a postsecondary program in desktop publishing.

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