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Pre-press operator

Alternative titles for this job include Pre-press technician

Pre-press operators work in the printing industry, getting artwork from a client and supplying the printing plates used on a press.

Average salary (a year)

£16,000 Starter


£30,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

38 to 40 a week

You could work

9am to 5pm

How to become

How to become a pre-press operator

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly
  • specialist courses run by industry bodies


You could do a college course, which would teach you some of the skills and knowledge you need in this job. Relevant courses include:

  • Level 2 Award or Level 3 Certificate in Printing and Graphic Communications
  • Level 2 or 3 Certificate in Understanding the Print Environment

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course

More Information


You can do an advanced print technician apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More Information

Direct Application

You'll need a good general standard of education to apply directly for pre-press operator jobs. GCSEs in maths, English, art and IT may give you an advantage when looking for work. Some employers may ask for A levels or similar qualifications.

Other Routes

You can do specialist printing, packaging and graphic communications courses through the British Printing Industries Federation.

More Information

Career tips

Some knowledge of desktop publishing software will be useful, like InDesign, Illustrator or QuarkXPress.

Further information

You can find out more about careers in print from the British Printing Industries Federation.

What it takes

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • design skills and knowledge
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you’ll do

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • using desktop publishing and graphics software to create artwork
  • scanning and retouching images
  • checking a whole document for accuracy
  • preparing artwork for transfer to film
  • transferring the final image from film onto printing plates, using an imagesetter, known as platemaking

Working environment

You could work in a creative studio or in an office.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career path and progression

Career path and progression

You could become a pre-press manager or move into print administration jobs like estimator or production controller.

Most employers in the pre-press industry will offer training, either through a local college or short courses offered by the British Printing Industries Federation.

Current opportunities

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Apprentice Printer

  • Wage: £146.25 Weekly
  • Location: Pudsey

Print & Design Apprentice

  • Wage: £200.00 Weekly
  • Location: Wirral

Courses In England

Graphic Communication

  • Start date: 01 September 2021
  • Location: Ipswich

Graphic Communication

  • Start date: 01 September 2021
  • Location: BEDFORD

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