Printing Press Operators and Assistants


Education and Training Requirements

High School

The minimum educational requirement for printing press operators and assistants is a high school diploma. Students interested in this field should take courses that offer an introduction to printing and color theory, as well as chemistry, computer science, electronics, mathematics, and physics—any course that develops mechanical and mathematical aptitude. Computer science courses are especially important since many printing jobs are carefully monitored and managed using high-tech computer technology. 

Postsecondary Training

Traditionally, press operators learned their craft on the job, working as assistants or through apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships are still available, but many operators attend postsecondary programs in printing equipment operation offered by technical and trade schools and community and junior colleges. Information on apprenticeships is often available through state employment services and local chapters of printing industry associations. Additionally, many press operators and assistants still receive informal on-the-job training after they are hired by a printer. Computer training is also essential to be successful in the printing industry today.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Flexographic Technical Association provides certification to printing industry workers. Contact the organization for more information.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

No previous experience is needed for assistants; operators need on-the-job or apprenticeship training.

Operators and assistants should have experience working with a variety of printing presses. They should know how to set up the presses, monitor the presses while they run a job, and maintain the press equipment. Strong communication skills, both verbal and written, are a must for press operators and assistants. They also must be able to work well as a team, both with each other and with others in the printing company. Any miscommunication during the printing process can be costly if it means re-running a job or any part of it. Working well under pressure is another requirement because most print jobs run on tight deadlines.