What is a Desktop and Web Publishing Degree?

Desktop and web publishers use specialized computer software to lay out material for print and web publication. They are the architects of newspapers, magazines, books, directories, brochures, newsletters, and other media. Their tasks lie in the areas of design, setup, text, images, file preparation, and printing.

Students of desktop and web publishing – often referred to as ‘DTP’– take courses that prepare them for this role. They learn the processes of reviewing, editing, and arranging text, graphics, and other material created by writers and designers. They become skilled in importing text and graphics into publishing software and integrating them into cohesive pages. They come to understand the important nuances of font style, font size, spacing, and background color. Like students of architecture, they learn that form can follow function and also be pleasing to the eye.

Program Options

Diploma in Desktop and Web Publishing – Four to Six Month Duration
Diploma programs in desktop and web publishing provide students with the fundamental creative and technical knowledge and skills required to produce digital files for their own purposes, or to qualify for some entry-level positions in the field. Due to their relatively short duration, these programs are very focused. They normally do not incorporate courses in general education or other fields of art and design.

Here is a snapshot of the typical diploma program in desktop and web publishing:

  • General Concepts of Desktop and Web Publishing – desktop and web publishing terminology, the difference between designing for print and designing for the web, DTP supplies and equipment, types of DTP software
  • Fonts and How to Use Them – font terminology: open type, true type, and postscript fonts, web-safe fonts, choosing fonts and composing text, web design typography
  • Design and Images – the art and science of graphics, working with TIFF (tagged image file format) files, which are significantly larger than JPEGs, choosing the best image formats for different purposes, adding images to web pages, HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language – a computer language devised to allow website creation)
  • Prepress (also known as File Preparation) and Printing – concepts and procedures related to preparing a file for print, the type of printing used in desktop and web publishing, the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, key/black) color model, color separations in commercial printing, types of printing proofs, commercial printers
  • Rules of Desktop Publishing – the standardized processes of DTP for print and the web, limiting the font types used, the less-is-more principle in typographic design, justified text (spacing text so the left and right sides of the text block have a clean edge), choosing the right fonts when using all caps
  • How a Desktop Publishing Document is Created – the graphic design process, optimizing the user experience, file preparation, text compositions for print and the web, preparing digital files for print, sheet-fed presses (feed individual sheets of paper) versus web presses (feed off a large roll of paper)

Associate Degree in Desktop and Web Publishing – Two Year Duration
The Associate Degree in Desktop and Web Publishing is the most common degree held by professionals working in the field. In associate programs, students combine general education classes with a more in-depth study of the core DTP topics presented in the diploma section.

These comprehensive programs give students greater opportunity to practise the craft and begin developing a portfolio, as they learn to use different types of desktop and web publishing software.

These are some of the general education and business courses often offered in a DTP associate program:

  • English Composition
  • Business Communications
  • Business Math
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

These are the four types and possible brands of software covered in a DTP associate program:

  • Word Processing Software – Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Apple Pages
  • Page Layout Software – Adobe InDesign, Quark Xpress, Serif PagePlus, Microsoft Publisher, Xara Page and Layout Designer
  • Graphics Software – for illustration: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Inkscape; for photo editing: Adobe Photoshop
  • Web Publishing Software – Adobe Dreamweaver

Bachelor’s Degree in Desktop and Web Publishing – Four Year Duration
If diploma programs can be described as basic and associate programs as comprehensive, then desktop and web publishing programs at the bachelor’s level can be labelled expansive.

In other words, they provide students with all of the necessary knowledge, skills, and practice in the art and science of desktop and web publishing, and expand that to include an understanding of and appreciation for art and design in the wider context. This enlarges the field of study to include topics such as:

  • Advertising
  • Commercial Art
  • Computer Graphics
  • Digital Photography
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration
  • Multimedia Animation
  • Visual Communication
  • Web Design

Degrees Similar to Desktop and Web Publishing

Degree programs in advertising are made up of courses that demonstrate how to develop a brand and communicate it through the various advertising channels of print, television, radio, and online media.

Animators are artists. Their art is producing images or ‘frames’ that when combined in sequence create an illusion of movement called ‘animation.’ Degree programs in the field teach students how to use animation software and hardware to create characters and stories for the motion picture, television, and video game industries. Typical components of the curriculum include two-dimensional and three-dimensional art and animation, storyboarding, life/human and background drawing, layout, and digital painting.

Commercial Art
Degree programs in the commercial art prepare students to work as commercial artists – artists who appreciate business as much as art, who use their talents to create art for branding, marketing, advertising, and selling. Components of the curriculum include drawing, photography, color theory, design composition and layout, and typography.

Computer Graphics
This degree field teaches students how to develop graphics software. Coursework includes drawing, graphic design, digital modeling, multimedia applications, and software engineering.

Graphic Design
The goal of graphic design is to produce visual concepts to communicate messages. The discipline uses layout, color, and other creative concepts to design logos and branding packages that inspire and captivate consumers.

Illustration degree programs teach students how to tell stories and communicate ideas visually. They cover traditional manual drawing, digital art technologies, and art and illustration history. Some programs may include painting classes or offer concentrations in a specific kind of illustration, such as book illustration, fashion illustration, exhibit drawing, animation and cartoon drawing, and medical illustration.

Photography is communication via images. Photography degree programs teach the technical, creative, and business skills required to be a professional photographer. Typical coursework includes history of photography, black-and-white photography, color photography, lighting techniques, materials and processes, two-dimensional design, and digital photography.

Technical Writing
Degree programs in technical writing teach students how to convey technical information in writing. Coursework covers building documentation templates and style guides, recognizing translation issues, and formatting documents for visual appeal. And because technical writers are the mediators between the technical subject matter experts and the document end users, programs also stress the importance of developing a communication pathway between technicians and writers.

Visual Communication
Visual communication degree programs combine instruction in diverse media, such as photojournalism, painting, sculpture, and graphic design.

Web Design
Degree programs in this field teach the principles and practices of website design and the communication, collaboration, and project planning and execution skills demanded by employers and clients.

Skills You’ll Learn

While earning their degree, students of desktop and web publishing gain skills that are valued in the world at large. They learn to:

  • be creative and to appreciate creativity, art, and design
  • develop spatial reasoning
  • look at the world through many different lenses
  • develop and express their own style
  • understand that everyone has a different viewpoint
  • observe and pay attention to details
  • look for ways to improve their work
  • accept and use criticism
  • be courageous in proposing sometimes bold and daring ideas
  • collaborate and work in teams
  • interpret data concerning consumer psychology and behavior
  • use and learn creative and publishing software
  • be organized project managers, able to work to deadlines
  • be entrepreneurial and effective negotiators
  • use computers, printers, scanners, and other technologies

What Can You Do with a Desktop and Web Publishing Degree?

Here is a snapshot of the fields in which desktop and web publishers primarily work, either as salaried employees or freelancers.

About a third of all desktop and web publishers in the US work for or with companies that publish and print:

  • Newspapers
  • Periodicals / Magazines
  • Books / E-Books
  • Directories
  • Calendars
  • Catalogs
  • Greeting cards
  • Maps
  • Other works

Other common employers include:

  • Advertising Firms
  • Graphic Design Firms
  • Marketing Firms

In the areas listed below, desktop and web publishing grads may work in corporate communications or in administrative roles, which require them to design business presentations, brochures, newsletters, and other in-house documents:

  • Architectural
  • Charity, Not-for-Profit, and NGOs
  • Culture, Music, and the Performing Arts
  • Engineering
  • Financial and Insurance
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Law
  • Manufacturing
  • Miscellaneous Retail
  • Oil and Gas
  • Surveying and Mapping

Desktop and web publishers also find jobs with companies that print:

  • Business cards
  • Business forms
  • Labels and packaging
  • Stationery
  • Other products

These are some of the different titles they may hold, depending on their place of employment and their specific responsibilities:

  • Compositor
  • Desktop Publishing Editor
  • Desktop Publishing (DTP) Operator
  • Electronic Prepress Technician
  • Electronic Publisher
  • Electronic Publishing Specialist
  • Image Designer
  • Layout Artist
  • Production Assistant
  • Production Designer
  • Publication Designer
  • Publications Specialist
  • Web Publications Designer


Find out what graduates typically earn.

Read about Salary