What Does a Desktop Publisher Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Desktop publisher laying out and designing a webpage and mobile web page on a tablet with sketches next to him


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Desktop publishers use publishing software to create various documents and products, including financial reports, business proposals, books, newspapers, newsletters, packaging, tickets, and business cards. They format and combine text, numerical data, photographs, illustrations, charts, and other visual elements.

Approximately 14,600 people worked in this occupation as of 2016, and 7% of them were self-employed.

Desktop Publisher Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to do acceptable—and preferably superior—work in the following areas:

  • Create and format placemats, flyers, and newsletters/brochures using both company templates and custom-designed PowerPoint layouts.
  • Import and format copy and graphics into existing design templates.
  • Design graphics for traditional and online advertising, social media, and promotions.
  • Troubleshoot and problem-solve document or file issues, such as fonts, artwork or other depictions.

You should be able to complete all these functions not only accurately, but within certain timelines as well. You'll most likely have to juggle one or more deadlines almost concurrently.

Desktop Publisher Salary

The highest paid desktop publishers work for technical and professional services. Those employed in these areas of the industry earn a median salary of $45,570 annually, slightly more than the median salary for desktop publishers as a whole.

  • Median Annual Salary: $42,910 ($20.63/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $75,120 ($36.11/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $22,770 ($10.95/hour)

Education, Training & Certification

You don't need a ​college degree to work as a desktop publisher—you will learn many of the skills you need on-the-job—but some training and education can be helpful.

  • Education: An associate degree or certificate will allow you to take advantage of the limited number of job opportunities in this field. Some employers do prefer to hire job candidates who have a bachelor's degree in graphic design or graphic arts.
  • Training: Develop strong computer skills, particularly with publishing programs. You should be proficient with all desktop publishing software, such as InDesign, PageMaker, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

Desktop Publisher Skills & Competencies

In addition to technical skills, you will need certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation.

  • Artistic aptitude: You'll do well with a flair for using your imagination and using it well.
  • Strong critical thinking skills: You must weigh the pros and cons of alternative solutions to problems.
  • Active listening and good speaking skills: These will help you to receive information from, and convey it to, colleagues and clients.
  • Attention to detail: You must also be detail-oriented, well organized, and have good time management skills.
  • Proficiency with computer technology: You'll be using a variety of software programs to produce projects.
  • Integrity: You'll often find yourself working with sensitive business information.
  • An ability to think on your feet: You'll be constantly adapting to deadlines and changing priorities.

Job Outlook

This occupation does not have a good job outlook for the foreseeable future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of desktop publishers to decline by about 14% between 2016 and 2026. Blame it on an increase in electronic and online publication rather than print media and sources, as well as employers handing over their tasks to in-house graphic designers.

Work Environment

Approximately 31% of desktop publishers were employed by periodical, newspaper, book, and directory publishers in 2017. Many desktop publishers also work in the professional, scientific, and technical services industry.

You'll spend the vast majority of your time seated at a computer. Scheduled, short breaks can help keep the blood flowing.

Work Schedule

Although this career can be sensitive to holidays, hours are typically full-time and overtime is often required to meet deadlines. Plan on working weekends if something is due on Monday. Expect late evenings if a project is due first thing the following morning. Pacing your work can help, but there will always be last-minute challenges.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs might require more in the area of education and training, but they often pay more.