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Funeral Service Worker: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a funeral service worker. Learn about needed training and education, licensing requirements, and what salary to expect to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Funeral Service Worker?

Funeral service workers include morticians, undertakers and funeral directors. They help families plan funerals for loved ones. Funeral service managers oversee the operation of a funeral home but, since their duties are largely administrative, they do not have to be licensed. Morticians, funeral directors and undertakers do the actual work of preparing the body for burial or cremation. With the exception of Colorado, where certification is voluntary, licensure is mandatory for morticians, undertakers and funeral directors in every state and Washington, DC.

The following chart gives more information about this career.

Degree Required Associate's
Training Required Apprenticeship
Education Field of Study Mortuary science
Key Responsibilities Being emotionally supportive to the bereaved; embalming; making arrangements with cemeteries and crematoriums; decorating service sites; performing administrative work such as filing death certificates
Licensure Required
Job Growth (2018-2028) 3% (as fast as average) for morticians, undertakers and funeral directors*
Mean Salary (May 2018) $57,620 for morticians, undertakers and funeral directors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education is Needed for a Career as a Funeral Service Worker?

If you're looking to become a funeral service worker or funeral director, consider enrolling in an associate's or bachelor's degree program in mortuary science. You'll likely wish to look for programs accredited by The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). Most of the programs that carry ABFSE accreditation are offered by community colleges, and they award associate's degrees. According to the latest information from the National Center for Education Statistics, only 12 universities offer bachelor's degree programs in mortuary science.

Usually, an associate's degree program will consist of courses on mortuary law, embalming, restorative art, public speaking, funeral directing, anatomy, funeral service chemistry and funeral service counseling. You'll also take courses on accounting and small business management to learn the financial aspects of funeral home operation. A bachelor's degree curriculum might include classes in the life and physical sciences, oral and written communication, chemistry, microbiology, funeral home management and human anatomy.

Mortuary science students may also be required by their states to complete an apprenticeship program at a funeral home. An apprenticeship might take 1-3 years to finish. Such apprenticeships are intended to give you on-the-job experience in funeral home operations, and they can be completed during or after your educational training.

What Job Duties Will I Have?

Your job as a funeral service worker might entail making arrangements for memorial services and wakes, writing obituary notices and arranging transport to and from services for bereaved friends and family members. Other duties might include preparing death certificates and coordinating flower deliveries. You might also perform embalming services, in which bodies are drained of blood and filled with an embalming fluid which acts as a preservative. When necessary, you might reshape bodies for cosmetic reasons, using clay and wax.

Will I Need to Become Licensed?

State laws mandate that you acquire a funeral director license. Licensing laws may vary by state, but generally, at least two years of mortuary science education are necessary, along with an apprenticeship of at least one year. Depending upon the state in which you reside, you might also need an embalming license. Your state board examination will include oral and written testing, and you'll be required to display practical job skills.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that morticians, undertakers and funeral directors earned an average salary of $57,620 in 2018. Nearly all worked in death care services, with an average salary of $64,140. However, those who worked in the federal government (230 jobs in 2018) earned an average of $76,650. The BLS reported that location affected salary, with those in Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, North Dakota and Massachusetts earning the most; the average salary in 2018 for those states exceeded $150,000.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

While funeral service workers deal exclusively with the wellbeing of a family during a period of bereavement and the care of the deceased, the job of a social worker entails dealing with the everyday problems and situations of individuals, communities and families. They help clients deal with difficult situations such as divorce, unemployment and even death of a loved one. They investigate clients' needs and recommend programs that can alleviate or improve disturbing situations. They monitor the progress of those programs and treatments and recommend adjustments or additional programs as needed.

Human resources managers work in companies or organizations and deal with the overall operation of that entity through recruiting, interviewing and hiring employees. They try to match potential hires with an appropriate job, which not only contributes to the efficient operation of the company but can provide opportunities for the enhancement of quality of life for the employee. They may have to address situations dealing with employee grievances and issues, such as sexual harassment and employee benefits.