Funeral Service Professionals
By Kevin Drobish
Funeral service professionals provide care and support for the deceased as well surviving family members and friends. This is accomplished by carefully crafting a memorable, personalized event that celebrates a person’s life while acknowledging their death.
Key responsibilities include:
- Working with families to coordinate services and provide grief resources
- Scheduling and performing burials, cremations, and other forms of disposition
- Consulting with clergy, medical examiners/coroners, and cemetery staff
- Submitting legal paperwork with county, state, and federal officials
- Transporting, embalming, dressing, and cosmeticizing the deceased
- Selling funeral products, prearranged services, and collecting payment
- Attending required continuing education programs to maintain professional licenses
Funeral service professionals perform duties in a variety of environments, including funeral homes, crematories, cemeteries, healthcare facilities, government offices, places of worship, event centers, private homes, and morgues.
Funeral service professionals can be required to be on call 24 hours a day depending on the size and business model of the funeral home. These buildings can range from small, family-owned firms to large corporate entities.
Attention to detail, event planning skills, empathy, and emotional intelligence are key skills in this field. It’s also important to be able to lift heavy objects and stand for long periods of time, speak publicly, and have a working knowledge of human anatomy, chemistry, and pathology. In this line of work, a sincere desire to help others in a time of need and serve the community goes a long way.
Depending on your state of licensure, academic requirements can range from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree. Most states require an associates degree from an accredited mortuary program, and a few accept a diploma/certificate.
Some states have split licensure that require different levels of education depending on what type of license is desired: embalming or funeral directing.
Licensure and Continuing Education
Most states require licensing and continuing education credits to maintain licensure once it’s attained. When they have completed their educational programs, funeral service professionals must take a national board exam to graduate.
The next step is to complete an internship/apprenticeship which has varying lengths and requirements.
Job Outlooks and Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the funeral service job market is expected to grow 4 percent from 2020 to 2030. This rate of growth is much slower than the average for most occupations.
Over the next decade, it’s projected that an average of 4,000 openings will be available each year. The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers was $48,950 in May 2021. The median annual wage for funeral home managers/supervisors was $74,000 in May 2021.
How Can I Prepare Myself?
To prepare for a career in funeral service, take high school courses in psychology, anatomy, pathology, and other sciences, as well as business management courses.
You can also research mortuary science educational programs and attend open house events. Then, contact a local funeral home and arrange to shadow with the director or directly seek employment.