What Are Some Careers in Mortuary Services?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in mortuary services. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and job outlook information. Schools offering Mortuary Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Mortuary Services?

Mortuary service workers handle all aspects of the funeral process, from caring for and preparing the body of the deceased to communicating with family members in the planning of the funeral. Two possible career options are funeral director and embalmer. As a funeral director, you would be responsible for helping family members of the deceased plan and coordinate the funeral. You may help them make choices regarding the overall procession of the funeral, find an officiant for the funeral, and make decisions about the burial afterwards. As an embalmer, you would work with the body of the deceased and prepare it for the funeral and burial according to legal standards. You would have to be familiar with the biological process of death and how to best use the appropriate chemicals to preserve the body for the funeral. The table below outlines the general requirements for these careers.

Funeral DirectorEmbalmer
Degree RequiredAssociate's degree and an apprenticeshipAssociate's degree from an accredited mortuary science school
Education Field of StudyMortuary science Mortuary science
Key ResponsibilitiesMakes funeral arrangements; prepares remains; consults with the deceased's family; manages paperwork and legal documentsWashes and disinfects bodies of the deceased; replaces bodily fluids; works closely with funeral directors
LicensureMost states require a licenseMost states require a license
Job Growth (2014-2024)7% (for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors)*-6%*
Average Salary (May 2015)$52,990 (for all morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors)*$41,490*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Mortuary Services Jobs Can I Find?

You could work as a funeral director or an embalmer. In some funeral homes, the funeral director handles all the embalming duties involved in preparing the deceased, in addition to organizing the funeral services and completing the burial process. In other cases, as a funeral director you'd only arrange the services and internment, while an embalmer readies the corpse.

What Other Job Duties Will I Have?

As a funeral director, you'll meet with the family of a deceased person to organize the funeral services. You may provide comfort to the family and handle tasks, such as ordering flowers, providing transportation for the body, placing obituary notices in local newspapers, arranging for religious services and managing the grave site arrangements. You may also work with individuals who wish to prepare their own funeral plans before they die.

In addition to handling funeral and burial duties, you'll also manage the funeral home. Business duties may include maintaining hearses, accounting, filling out legal paperwork and managing staff.

In some states or in larger funeral homes, you may work solely as an embalmer. You'll be responsible for draining blood from the corpse, injecting embalming fluids, applying cosmetics, reconstructing the body and placing the remains in the casket.

You're required to comply with state health and legal regulations. Paperwork must be filed with the proper authorities. You'll observe sanitation procedures in order to properly dispose of hazardous waste and use clinical methods for preparing the body for burial.

Am I Required To Be Licensed?

Licensing requirements vary from state to state. In some states, if you're a funeral director, you're also required to be a licensed embalmer. Other states have separate licenses for funeral directors and embalmers. In general, you'll need to finish a mortuary science program, complete an apprenticeship and pass an exam in order to become licensed.

To prepare for a funeral director or embalming license, you may earn a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in mortuary science. Mortuary science programs usually include courses in anatomy, embalming techniques, psychology, business management and funeral service law.

In a paid apprenticeship, you'll work under the supervision of a licensed funeral director for 1-3 years. You'll gain practical experience preparing bodies and developing funeral service plans. You'll also receive classroom training in preparation for your licensing exam.

What Is My Earning Potential?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, embalmers earned an average annual salary of $41,190 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, all morticians, undertakers and funeral directors earned an average annual salary of $52,990.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in some of the administrative roles that being a funeral director entails, you may also be interested in a career as an administrative services manager. These professionals work in all types of businesses and industries and are responsible for all of their organization's administrative needs and duties, including staff management, facility maintenance, and record keeping. A bachelor's degree is required for this position. If you are interested in working with people who are going through challenging times, you could consider becoming a social worker, which involves helping people deal with various problems in their lives. A bachelor's or master's in social work would be required for this field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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