Based on the characterization of ribosome precursor particles and associated trans-acting factors, a biogenesis pathway for the 40S and 60S subunits has emerged. After nuclear synthesis and assembly steps, pre-ribosomal subunits are exported through the nuclear pore complex in a Crm1- and RanGTP-dependent manner. Subsequent cytoplasmic biogenesis steps of pre-60S particles include the facilitated release of several non-ribosomal proteins, yielding fully functional 60S subunits. Cytoplasmic maturation of 40S subunit precursors includes rRNA dimethylation and pre-rRNA cleavage, allowing 40S subunits to achieve translation competence. We review current knowledge of nuclear export and cytoplasmic maturation of ribosomal subunits.