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How to Become a Desktop Publisher

Desktop publishers have a variety of educational backgrounds, but most complete some form of postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree. Workers also usually learn some of their skills on the job. Computer skills, including knowledge of desktop publishing software, are important.


Desktop publishers can prepare for the occupation in several ways. Many workers earn an associate’s degree. Others earn a bachelor’s degree. Still others qualify with a postsecondary non-degree award. Experience can sometimes substitute for education.

Those who earn a degree usually study a field such as graphic design, graphic arts, or graphic communications. Community colleges and trade and technical schools also may offer desktop publishing courses. These classes teach students about desktop publishing software used to format pages and how to import text and graphics into electronic page layouts.


Desktop publishers often learn many of their skills on the job. They learn by observing more experienced workers or by taking classes that teach them how to use desktop publishing software. Ongoing training is often necessary, as technologies and desktop publishing software change.

Work Experience

Many employers prefer to hire workers who have experience in preparing layouts. This experience can sometimes substitute for formal education, such as a degree in graphic design.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Desktop publishers must have a good eye for how graphics and text will look to create pages that are visually appealing, legible, and easy to use.

Communication skills. Desktop publishers talk through different concepts for a page layout with writers, editors, and graphic designers. They listen to others’ ideas and explain their own.

Computer skills. Desktop publishers use computer software extensively when creating page layouts and formatting text and graphics.

Detail oriented. When designing and reviewing page layouts, desktop publishers must pay careful attention to details such as margins, font sizes, and the overall appearance and accuracy of their work. 

Organizational skills. Desktop publishers often work under strict deadlines and must be good at scheduling and prioritizing tasks in order to have a document ready on time for publication.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition