Unlike many jobs in the computer industry, desktop publishing training and educational requirements most often take the form of non-degree courses and on-the-job training. However, recent projected changes in the job outlook (2010-2020; at least in the US) suggests that a degree may enhance your chances of landing the job.
Desktop Publishing SkillsAlthough a degree is not always required, there are still certain skills necessary to successfully compete for desktop publishing jobs even as a freelancer. Specific software requirements will vary by employer but general skills and knowledge include advanced PC or Macintosh computer skills, basic to advanced design knowledge, prepress skills, and understanding of printing technologies. Much of this knowledge can be obtained from books, courses, and on-the-job training. A potential employer may require certification training or may simply need to see an applicant demonstrate software proficiency or other skills during a pre-employment screening.
Desktop Publishing Job Titles vs. Job DescriptionsHowever, it is also essential to understand what type of job you are competing for. Often the terms desktop publishing and graphic design are used interchangeably, or the job title may be completely different. If the real job is graphic design, many employers will expect more formal training. If contemplating desktop publishing or graphic design jobs, study the job descriptions and educational requirements for the types of jobs that interest you to determine if more formal education or desktop publishing training will likely be needed.
Critical SkillsThe Bureau of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook lists creativity as a crucial element of all design occupations, including graphic design jobs. While those holding desktop publishing and graphic design jobs may produce much the same type of materials, desktop publishing is described more in terms of the mechanics of producing books, business cards, newsletters, and packaging. Computer skills and manual dexterity are considered critical for desktop publishing. Web design is also seen as an increasingly important part of both occupations.
Degree AdvantageA degree is a distinct advantage for employment although not absolutely necessary. For some graphic design jobs, at least a bachelor's degree may be preferred and a master's degree even more desirable. For desktop publishers, less formal education including on-the-job or vocational training is often sufficient for employment.
However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Desktop Publishers now suggests:
"Prospects will be better for those with a degree in graphic design or a related field, or for those with experience in desktop publishing. Electronic and Web-publishing expertise are increasingly in demand. Workers with a diverse range of skills, such as in graphic design, Web design, writing, and editing may have better prospects."
Desktop Publishing vs. Graphic Design JobsPrior to the 2012-13 edition, the Handbook suggested that desktop publishers "with more artistic talent and further education may find opportunities in graphic design or commercial art" making a definite distinction between the fields based on education and creativity. For the most part, desktop publishers were seen as replacements for compositors and typesetters, taking over traditional methods of prepress work using their computers and software. As of 2012, desktop publishing is seen as a skill required for today's graphic designers, Web designers, and copy editors.
Since 2010 desktop publishing jobs are on the decline. However, while employers may not be looking for desktop publishers, they are looking for employees with desktop publishing skills for all their other job openings.
Material in this FAQ comes directly or indirectly from various editions of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook and these previous articles at About Desktop Publishing:
Desktop Publishing Outlook Through 2010
Desktop Publishing Outlook Through 2016
Desktop Publishing and Graphic Design Job Outlook 2010-2011
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