Mortuary Sciences

Mortuary science involves preparing the deceased for interment and providing support to their loved ones. Learn about job duties, salary info, educational options and degree program requirements.

Is Mortuary Sciences for Me?

Job Description

Mortuary sciences focus on the process of laying the deceased to rest according to the desires of the deceased's loved ones, and one of your primary duties may be to consult with the family of the deceased. Whether it's a burial or cremation, you might oversee the entire funeral operation, including announcements, body preparation, presentation and transport of the deceased, submission of legal paperwork, arrangement of ceremonies and interment or burial. Other tasks typically include explaining service options, helping with casket selection, contacting clergy, preparing death certificates and even notifying the newspaper of the death. Finally, you may direct the funeral service from the greeting of the loved ones to the actual interment of the body.

Specializations

Morticians, also referred to as funeral directors or undertakers, are generally self-employed or work for privately owned firms. These professionals have many responsibilities, but they may vary depending on the culture or religion. Embalmers perform embalming services and prepare the deceased for visitation and/or transfer as required. Morticians, undertakers and funeral directors often perform embalming, as well.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), between 2012 and 2022, employment for funeral directors, morticians and undertakers was estimated to increase 12%, while employment for embalmers was predicted to decline by 15%. According to the BLS, in May 2013, funeral directors, morticians and undertakers earned a median annual salary of $47,100, and embalmers took home $41,590.

How Can I Work in Mortuary Sciences?

Education

There are different requirements for programs in mortuary sciences, and you may receive either an associate's degree or bachelor's degree. Mortuary sciences programs should be accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). The most common program available in mortuary sciences is an associate's degree that takes about two years to complete. However, some colleges offering bachelor's degrees may require some foundational courses in general education and the sciences, such as human anatomy and biology.

Required Skills

Individuals working in mortuary sciences should have empathy, patience and excellent communications skills. You should also be tactful and respectful when speaking to family members. Professional attire and excellent organization skills are necessary.

Licensing

In addition to a mortuary sciences degree, all states require licensing for funeral directors. Although licensing laws vary, states generally require you to have at least an associate's degree with relevant coursework and to have completed apprenticeships, which can last from 1-3 years. Candidates are also required to pass the licensing examination that may consist of oral and written sections, as well as a demonstration of practical knowledge. Some states require a separate embalming license.

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