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Job Description: DTP Operator.

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Printed materials, such as books, newspapers, magazines, brochures and advertising, need to be well designed and laid out to make them attractive and easy to read. DTP (desktop publishing) operators use DTP software and photo-imaging software to put together text and illustrations and present them in a form suitable for printing and publishing.

Job Description, salaries and benfits

DTP (desktop publishing) operators use specialist computer software to make sure that printed materials (such as books, newspapers, magazines and brochures) are well designed, attractive and easy to read.

The work may involve:

  • working to a design brief from the client or designer
  • using DTP software to produce a layout for each page of the publication
  • selecting formatting, such as the size and style of type, column width and spacing
  • selecting and checking colours
  • scanning and editing photographs and other images.

DTP operators usually work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday, although additional hours may be necessary to meet deadlines. Most DTP operators are based in clean, well-lit offices or studios. They spend most of their time sitting in front of a computer screen.

Salaries may range from around £14,000 to over £30,000 a year.

A DTP operator should:

  • have excellent computer skills and knowledge
  • be creative, with an eye for good design
  • be able to prioritise a varied workload
  • work well under pressure and to strict deadlines
  • enjoy doing artistic work.

Employers of DTP operators include publishing, graphic design, advertising, printing and reprographics companies. Some DTP operators are self-employed. Although employment opportunities are increasing, the job market is still very competitive.

Most employers look for candidates with GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) in maths, ICT and English as a minimum. In practice, however, it is unlikely that an employer will take on someone straight from school, and higher-level qualifications may be required. These include BTEC national certificates, HNCs/HNDs, Foundation degrees and degrees in subjects such as computing, graphics or graphic design.

Training is usually provided by employers in-house, possibly in combination with short college-based courses. New software packages and design trends are introduced regularly so DTP operators must keep their skills and knowledge up to date through regular training courses.

Experienced DTP operators working for large organisations may be promoted to more senior positions such as shift leader or supervisor. Promotion prospects may be limited in smaller organisations. With further training they may move into graphic design or website design. Experienced DTP operators may become self-employed.

 

What is the work like?

 DTP operators may work on electronic as well as printed publications.

Depending on the employer, the client and the job in hand, the work may involve:

  • working to a design brief from the client or designer
  • using DTP software to produce a layout for each page of the publication
  • selecting formatting, such as the size and style of type, column width and spacing
  • selecting and checking colours
  • scanning and editing photographs and other images
  • producing graphics such as diagrams, charts and tables
  • re-sizing design elements to fit the page
  • making sure images are positioned near the relevant portion of text
  • making sure that each page, and the document as a whole, is uncluttered and well balanced
  • using electronic publishing technologies, such as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) to convert documents to an internet-ready format.

DTP operators often have to work to tight deadlines. They may work as part of a team, possibly with other DTP operators and designers, or as part of a marketing department.

Starting salaries may be around £14,000 a year.

 

Hours and environment

DTP operators usually work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday, although additional hours may be necessary to meet deadlines. Shift work may be required in some jobs. There may be opportunities for part-time work.

Most DTP operators are based in clean, well-lit offices or studios. Some operators may work from home. They spend most of their time sitting in front of a computer screen.

 

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • DTP operators may start on about £14,000 a year.
  • With experience, they may earn between £18,000 and £25,000.
  • Some very skilled operators may earn over £30,000.

 

Skills and personal qualities

A DTP operator should:

  • have excellent computer skills and knowledge
  • be creative, with an eye for good design
  • be able to prioritise a varied workload
  • work well under pressure and to strict deadlines
  • be flexible and able to adapt quickly to new creative briefs
  • work methodically and pay attention to detail
  • be able to work independently as well as in a team
  • be able to follow a design brief closely and accurately.

 

Interests

It is important to:

  • enjoy doing artistic work
  • be interested in keeping up to date with new computer software and technology.

 

Getting in

Employers of DTP operators include publishing, graphic design, advertising, printing and reprographics companies. Some DTP operators are self-employed.

Most of the opportunities are concentrated in London and other major cities and towns. Although employment opportunities are increasing, the job market is still very competitive.

Vacancies may be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices and Connexions centres, in local and national newspapers, and in specialist publications such as Campaign, Creative Review, Design and Design Week.

Entry for young people

Most employers look for candidates with GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) in maths, ICT and English as a minimum. In practice, however, it is unlikely that an employer will take on someone straight from school, and higher-level qualifications may be required. It is possible to study towards BTEC national certificates, HNCs/HNDs, Foundation degrees and degrees in subjects such as computing, graphics and graphic design.

Many employers prefer candidates who can demonstrate experience of using a range of DTP and photo-imaging software packages, and who are familiar with HTML.

Qualifications specifically related to DTP include ABC Level 3 Awards in Desktop Publishing Skills and City & Guilds Desktop Publishing at Levels 1, 2 and 3. Many courses in computing, graphic design and business administration also include modules in DTP.

It may be possible to enter this career through an Apprenticeship. Apprenticeships which may be available in England are Young Apprenticeships, Pre-Apprenticeships, Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships. To find out which one is most appropriate log onto www.apprenticeships.org.uk or contact your local Connexions Partnership.

It is important to bear in mind that pay rates for Apprenticeships do vary from area to area and between industry sectors.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For further information contact Careers Scotland, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact COIU.

Entry for adults

Mature applicants are welcome, especially if they have experience in IT or design. Some employers may expect to see a portfolio of work demonstrating relevant skills and experience.

 

Training

Training is usually provided by employers in-house, possibly in combination with short college-based courses.

This is a rapidly changing field with new software packages and design trends being introduced all the time, so it is very important for DTP operators to keep their skills and knowledge up to date through regular training courses. Freelance DTP operators must fund their own training and development.

 

Getting on

Experienced DTP operators working for large organisations may be promoted to more senior positions such as shift leader or supervisor. Promotion prospects may be limited in smaller organisations, and it may be necessary to change employers to progress.

With additional training, DTP operators may move into graphic design or website design.

It is also possible for experienced DTP operators to become self-employed.

 

Further information

 

Further reading

 

Magazines/journals

  • Campaign
  • Creative Review
  • Design Week
  • Graphics International

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Creativepool

www.creativepool.com

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