What Does a Desktop Publisher Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a woman sitting at a desk working on a desktop computer. Text reads:

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019

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, newsletters, brochures, and more.
  • Use company templates and custom-designed PowerPoint layouts.
  • Import copy and graphics into design templates.
  • Format copy and graphics into design templates.
  • Design graphics for traditional and online advertising, social media, and promotions.
  • Proofread final copy and edit graphics.
  • Troubleshoot and problem-solve document or file issues.

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

A job well done means getting the employer's or clients' messages out there for both promotional and informational purposes in an engaging and appealing way. The desktop publisher's contributions help to establish the face of the company.

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)

Self-employed desktop publishers must purchase their own computer equipment and programs and maintain their own workspaces and offices, including utilities, telephone service, and internet.

Education, Training, & Certification

A ​college degree to work as a desktop publisher isn't required—many needed skills can be learned on-the-job—but some training and education can be helpful.

  • Education: An associate degree or certificate allow a candidate to take advantage of the limited number of job opportunities in this field. Some employers 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. Candidates should be proficient with 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 be detail-oriented, well organized, and have good time management skills.
  • Proficiency in computer technology: You'll use 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 constantly adapt 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. This decrease is due to an increase in electronic and online publications 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.

Desktop publishers spend the vast majority of their time seated at a computer. They take scheduled, short breaks to 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.

How to Get the Job

GET CERTIFIED

Get that certification if you don't already have an associate degree. College Universities offers a search tool to help you locate the right program for you.

WRITE THE PERFECT RESUME

Resumes can be tricky if you don't yet have extensive experience, but JobHero has resume samples for different levels of desktop publisher experience, and you'll find sample cover letters here as well.

APPLY

Sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter can always be counted on to provide available job listings and openings for desktop publishers.

Comparing Similar Jobs

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