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Funeral Directing Schools and Training Programs

Funeral directors supervise the final arrangements for the deceased. Get information on degree programs in mortuary science, learn about what you'll study, and find out how to qualify for a license as a funeral director.

What You Need to Know

Funeral directing schools and training programs teach students how to plan and organize the final ceremonies for the deceased. In addition to the funeral business, a director is also responsible for the finances of the funeral home. Funeral directing schools and training programs prepare aspiring funeral directors for the many roles he or she will play in coordinating a funeral service and managing a funeral home business.

Degrees Associate's or bachelor's degrees in mortuary science or funeral service
Training Hands-on training through apprenticeships
Courses Sociology, communications, business, science, anatomy, chemistry and more

Is a Funeral Director Career Right for Me?

When deciding if this career is right for you, consider your personal disposition. Funeral directors must be calm and compassionate. You'll be working with people who are emotional and stressed, so you'll need to be patient. You will arrange for transportation, decorate the funeral sites, write obituary notices for newspapers and complete the necessary paperwork for state authorities. Additionally, you'll need to wear professional attire such as a suit.

How Can I Prepare for This Career?

Mortuary science programs are available as associate or bachelor's degree programs. You should look for programs that are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Programs can be found at community colleges as well as 4-year universities; some schools are devoted solely to the study of mortuary science. Due to the hands-on nature of these degree programs, distance learning is typically not available, though some schools do allow some courses to be taken online. Some colleges and universities offer pre-mortuary science programs as well.

Schools offering 2- and 4-year degree programs in mortuary science include:

  • Carl Sandburg College
  • Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science
  • Worsham College of Mortuary Science
  • Community College of Baltimore County
  • University of Minnesota
  • Southern Illinois University
  • State University of New York (SUNY)-Canton

What Will I Study?

Mortuary science is an interdisciplinary field that includes sociology, communication, business and science courses. To develop your counseling and communication skills, expect courses that examine how death affects the individual and society. You'll learn about the grieving process and counseling procedures. In addition to general education courses, you'll also study anatomy, microbiology, and social psychology.

Courses in a mortuary science program include:

  • Embalming theory
  • Restorative art
  • Bereavement counseling
  • Funeral service management
  • Mortuary laws and practices

You'll likely have laboratory classes for embalming and restoring human remains. As an aspiring funeral director, you may want to take a course that introduces you to industry products like caskets, monuments and urns.

How Do I Become Licensed?

All states require funeral directors to be licensed, though the requirements vary from state to state. Typically, funeral directors must have at least two years of formal education, complete an apprenticeship at a funeral home and pass a state board examination. An embalming license is required by some states.

Licensing examinations typically have written and oral sections and may require you to demonstrate practical skills. Some schools focus on the National Board Exam, which most states accept in lieu of the written portion of the state exam. When selecting a program, you may want to research the school's passing rate for the examination.