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How to Become a Press Operator

Are you extremely detail-oriented and have excellent time management skills? Do you have an artistic mind and a good eye for aesthetics? A press operator is a great career option that might be a good fit for you.  

Press operators perform a variety of printing and print-related tasks. These include operating, maintaining, and repairing printing presses. They also set up equipment and ensure they have needed materials such as paper and ink. A press operator must be knowledgeable about print technologies and using printing machinery. 

Press operators often work with strict deadlines to meet company or client goals and objectives. They have to follow safety guidelines while working efficiently. Accuracy and acute attention to detail are essential to succeed as a press operator. Solid time-management and interpersonal skills are also required.

Sample job description

Are you interested in running and managing a printing press? [Your Company Name] is looking for a full-time press operator to manage and oversee the operation and use of the printing press. If you’re committed to quality, able to easily manage large projects on time, and are a perfectionist, this job is for you. You will be in charge of managing the ink distribution and printing aspects, like temperature and speed. Cleaning the press as well as keeping the ink and paper full is required as well, so you will need to be able to multitask successfully while ensuring that the quality of the results remains top-notch. You will need relevant technical certificates as well as a relevant degree. If you think you can handle this position and have the qualifications required, please apply.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Prepare and calibrate machinery for printing and other tasks 
  • Operate machinery and maintain press to meet product specifications
  • Check printed material for proper color and other aesthetics
  • Examine and interpret blueprints and sketches for product specifications
  • Calibrate and conduct repairs and modifications on machinery 
  • Follow all safety protocols
  • Ensure proper maintenance, safety, and functioning of all equipment

Education and experience

This position requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers typically prefer job candidates with an associate degree or certification from a technical program. 

Required skills and qualifications

  • Ability to perform tasks and utilize machinery
  • Knowledge of technical and mechanical processes and terminology 
  • Proficiency in operating heavy machinery
  • Ability to interpret and understand complex documents
  • Keen attention to detail
  • Manual dexterity 
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills 
  • Physical stamina and strength 

Preferred qualifications

  • 2-4 years of related experience running, troubleshooting and performing quality control on a press of similar size and complexity
  • Ability to read and interpret documents such as safety rules, operating and maintenance instructions and procedure manuals
  • Basic computer skills to perform data entry

Typical work environment

Press operators are required to manage and oversee the operation of a printing press to ensure quality in the printed results, the functioning of the machine, and other quality assurance checks. A press operator can be expected to work full-time, operating and maintaining a printing press with several printers as well as troubleshooting any problems that arise during the printing. This means that the press operator should have a good mechanical mind and the ability to troubleshoot problems quickly and efficiently. The press operator should also be able to manage the machines and ensure they have ample ink and paper required for a printing run.

Typical hours

Typical hours for this position are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, in a factory setting. 

Available certifications

Although certifications are not always required in the position of press operators, the certifications listed below will be useful:

  • FIRST Press Operator Certification. The FIRST Press Operator Certification is designed as a quality certification for multiple positions, including advanced machine assistants and press operators. This certification is an industry-leading validation process and will take roughly thirty weeks to complete from start to finish, being broken down into three categories. This certification will help you with leadership, press troubleshooting, and press operation.
  • Printing Management. Printing management is a common program that is taken by press operators and managers, as it teaches the fundamentals of managing a printing press as well as multiple aspects of the job that are required to be successful in the position.
  • CompTIA. The CompTIA certification is a general certification in IT fields and thus will be a very useful certification for any press operator. It will assist with troubleshooting, management, and networking.

Career path

The path to becoming a Press Operator begins with earning a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers may prefer job candidates with a certification or associate degree from a technical program. It is common for Press Operators to advance to positions relating to machinery setup or maintenance. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 51-5112

2020 Employment160,900
Projected Employment in 2030145,000
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 10% decrease
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift15,900 decrease

The Flexographic Technical Organization offers professional skill and knowledge development opportunities, such as modules covering pertinent topics and certification programs.