Compositors or phototypesetters operate and tend machines that provide typeset matter. Typeset matter is used to prepare printing plates for the pressroom worker who prints newspapers, magazines and various other publications.

Compositors read from copy clipped to typesetting machines and operate a keyboard. There are two kinds of compositors:

Linotype compositors: assemble letters into lines of words, called slugs.

Monotype compositors: feed perforated tape into machines that read and select metal moulds for each letter.

Phototypesetters type text and produces a magnetic or perforated tape. The tape is fed into a computer that hyphenates, creates columns, and makes a second tape, which is photographed.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 10 Certificate for a learnership at a company.
  • National Senior Certificate for full-time training at the South African Printing College

What to Study

There are 3 ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • newspaper plants
  • commercial printing companies
  • book and magazine publishers
  • government departments
  • banks and insurance companies
  • advertising agencies
  • firms that do their own printing

Further Information

Printing Industries Federation of South Africa
PIFSA National Office
P O Box 1396
Gallo Manor, 2052
The Braids
113 – 115 Bowling Avenue
Gallo Manor, 2191
Tel: (011) 287-1160 Fax: (011) 287-1178

Getting Started

  • speak to a compositor or phototypesetter about this type of work.
  • visit newspaper-printing plants and observe this work first hand