Study Desktop Publishing: Certificate, Associate Degree & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with a certificate or associate degree in desktop publishing? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and desktop publishing programs.
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Desktop Publishing Certificates and Associate Degrees at a Glance

Desktop publishers utilize computer software to create brochures, catalogs, newsletters, flyers, books, and other documents. In a desktop publishing course, you learn to manipulate text, photos and images, design page layouts, and publish work in print and online formats. Desktop publishers work in the publishing and printing industries or for businesses that produce their own documents, such as advertising agencies and marketing firms.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates jobs in desktop publishing to decline 15% between 2010 and 2020 ( This decline is expected to be the result of there being fewer printed publications and an increase in the ability of other workers to complete desktop publishing tasks as part of their regular job responsibilities.

Certificate Associate's Degree
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking entry-level jobs in desktop publishing Individuals wanting to begin a career in desktop publishing and earn college credits
Common Career Paths (with approximate average annual salary) - Administrative assistant/secretary ($34,000)* -Desktop publisher ($39,000)*
Marketing assistant ($38,000)**
Time to Completion Approximately 1 year 2 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 14-18 credits
- Portfolio
- Between 64-70 credit hours
- Portfolio
Prerequisites High School diploma or GED High School diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), ** (June 2012 figures).

Certificate in Desktop Publishing

Certificate programs in desktop publishing prepare students for entry-level jobs in desktop publishing or other fields in which digital design skills are required. Some programs focus on only one type of software - typically Adobe Creative Suite - while others focus on the fundamentals of desktop publishing - image and text manipulation, layout, and design - using multiple software programs.

Pros and Cons


  • Can lead to the same employment opportunities as degree programs
  • Programs may allow you to focus on desktop publishing, in contrast to the curriculum of an associate degree program, which is often combined with another area of study
  • Can be completed in as little as one year


  • Required software can be expensive
  • Coursework is designed for students who already have a good working knowledge of computer use and navigation
  • Students in an online certificate program are often expected to learn difficult programs on their own, without hands-on guidance from an instructor

Common Course Topics

Courses in certificate programs are typically taught using both Macintosh and Windows operating systems to give you an understanding of both platforms. You usually create a portfolio to showcase your work.

Courses in these programs cover topics like:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Electronic presentations
  • Web page design

Online Programs

Certificate programs in desktop publishing are available online. Online certificate programs generally have the same requirements as those offered in a classroom setting.

How Continuing Education Can Help You Stand Out

With most document creation occurring in-house, businesses now expect employees to know how to design and publish newsletters, reports, and training documents. Completing a course in producing these documents and in corporate communications can help you stand out against your competition.

Associate in Desktop Publishing

Associate degree programs in desktop publishing are rare. However, some colleges offer combined graphic design and desktop publishing programs. These programs focus heavily on multimedia design and often include courses in web publishing, digital imagery, and advertising principles, as well as training in desktop publishing software.

Desktop publishing may also be offered as a series of courses within an office management or business technology degree program. These programs teach the administrative and clerical tasks of office management, and usually offer desktop publishing as an elective or area of emphasis.

Pros and Cons


  • In a combined degree program, you learn additional skills that compliment your knowledge of desktop publishing
  • Programs usually allow you to create a portfolio of projects that can be presented to potential employers
  • May lead to a freelance career, which allows you to select the type and number of assignments you accept


  • A degree is not necessary to obtain employment in desktop publishing
  • Bachelor's degree programs in desktop publishing are rare, so credits earned in these programs may not transfer
  • A degree may not guarantee employment; because jobs in desktop publishing are declining, there will be greater competition for open positions

Common Courses and Requirements

Completing an associate degree program in graphic design and desktop publishing includes core courses in design and publication. A portfolio of work is created throughout the duration of the program.

Courses in a graphic design/desktop publishing degree program include:

  • Word processing
  • Photo manipulation
  • Storyboarding
  • Graphic design
  • Electronic publishing
  • Basic Web design

Online Degree Options

Online and hybrid degree programs in graphic art and desktop publishing are available. Coursework for online programs is the same as the curriculum of on-campus programs.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Technology is always evolving so it is very important to stay current on new software for desktop publishing. To stand out with your degree, consider sitting for the Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) exams. This certification shows your expertise in one or more programs, and can help you stand out against your competition.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

      • Communication Studies, A.A.
      • Communication Studies, A.A.
  • Minneapolis, MN

    Dunwoody College of Technology

  • Bellingham, WA

    Whatcom Community College

  • Sioux City, IA

    Western Iowa Tech Community College

  • Fremont, OH

    Terra State Community College

  • Belleville, IL

    Southwestern Illinois College

  • Big Spring, TX

    Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf

  • Sioux Falls, SD

    Southeast Technical Institute

  • Lafayette, LA

    South Louisiana Community College

  • Big Rapids, MI

    Ferris State University

Featured Schools

Colorado Christian University

  • Communication Studies, A.A.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Whatcom Community College

Western Iowa Tech Community College

Terra State Community College

Southwestern Illinois College

Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf

Southeast Technical Institute