Embalmer Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an embalmer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, licensing requirements, and salary to find out if this is the right job for you. Schools offering Mortuary Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Embalmer?

An embalmer uses chemicals and cosmetics to prepare a dead body for viewing and a funeral. They must be familiar with various legal regulations and how they apply to preparing bodies correctly and safely. Embalmers must have in-depth knowledge of body systems and organs, biology, chemistry, and possibly some general business principles depending on whether they work independently or for a larger company or funeral service. As an embalmer, you will have to be detail-oriented, able to solve problems, and have the ability to communicate effectively with the family of the deceased and other death services professionals. The table below outlines the general requirements to become an embalmer.

Degree Required Associate or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Mortuary science
Training Required Short term on-the-job training
Licensure Typically required
Job Growth (2014-2024) -2% or lower (decline)*
Mean Annual Salary (2015) $41,490**

Source: *O-Net Online, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Education is Required for Embalmer Jobs?

To become an embalmer, you'll need an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in mortuary science, preferably from an institution that is accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. You can find such programs in some community colleges and funeral service academic institutes. More of these programs offer associate's degrees rather than bachelor's degrees.

Associate's-level mortuary science programs include courses such as restorative art, pathology, embalming theory, anatomy, chemistry, medical terminology, death psychology and embalming laboratory. These combine with classes that offer students professional and business preparation, covering topics like public speaking, merchandising, business law, and funeral service management.

If you'd prefer to enroll in a bachelor's degree program, you'll also study such topics as math and applied statistics, general biology, sociology, community health, financial reporting, funeral service arrangements, embalming chemistry, funeral service regulations and funeral service psychology. An exit interview may also be a requirement of your bachelor's degree program.

What Are the Job Duties of an Embalmer?

As an embalmer, you must use an aseptic soap to wash the deceased, then make incisions to the abdomen and stomach in order to remove waste matter from internal organs. Arms or thighs will also need to be incised so that blood can be drained from the body. Next, you'll replace the blood with embalming fluid, a preservative that helps keep the body from deteriorating too quickly. Finally, you must close any incisions with needles and sutures and also use thread to close the lips of the deceased.

Makeup and cosmetics will need to be applied to make the body appear as natural as possible. You will then clothe the body and position it in a casket. The job requires that you use tools such as embalming vein drainage tubes, forceps, hemostats, embalming injecting tubes and makeup kits.

Is Licensing Required?

Embalmers must adhere to legal statutes and health and sanitation regulations as they attend to the deceased. Every state institutes its own requirements for the licensing of embalmers. There are generally state-mandated age and academic requirements. Applicants may also be required to pass their state's jurisprudence examination and the national examination given by the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards. Students are advised to check the licensing laws in their individual states to ensure that all requirements are met.

How Much Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), salaries for embalmers averaged $41,490 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Additionally, the BLS reported that average annual salaries for embalmers who were employed in the death care services industry were $41,500 in 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in other jobs in the death services field, you could also consider a job as a funeral director. These professionals are responsible for almost all of the aspects involved in planning a funeral. The work with the family of the deceased in arranging details, like selecting pallbearers, selecting officiants, and arranging for transportation to and from the funeral. They may also work with legal documents, like the certificate of death and burial permits. Another option you could pursue outside of the death services industry is a career in emergency medical technology or as a paramedic. While this career would require a different associate's degree, it involves working with people who are in emergency health situations. You must be able to provide quick, effective, and sometimes life-saving treatment to individuals while transporting them to a medical facility.

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