Careers in Funeral Services: Options and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Funeral services workers manage the services and arrangements associated with someone's. The minimum requirements for this career typically include an associate degree and licensure.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in working in the field of funeral services must usually get their license and receive proper training. A degree in funeral services (also known as mortuary science) must be completed, which is usually a 2-year program. Mortuary science programs teach students to assist families in a variety of ways, such as helping them cope emotionally, filing death certificates, or arranging the removal of a deceased's body. In addition, students may take classes in embalming, restorative techniques and funeral home management. Other courses may include business management, accounting and the legal issues involving funeral services. Some states require apprenticeship programs to be completed after graduation. According to the BLS, an apprenticeship program may last between one and three years.

Career Funeral Director Funeral Service Manager
Education Requirements Associate degree Associate degree
Other Requirements Licensure required; apprenticeship sometimes required Office management experience required
Job Growth (2019-2029)* -2% (morticians, undertakers and funeral directors) -6%
Median Salary (2019)* $54,150 (morticians, undertakers and funeral directors) $76,350

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Individuals interested in a career in funeral services may work as funeral directors (also known as undertakers or morticians) or funeral service managers. Managers are generally removed from daily hands-on operations, focusing instead on business management and finances. Directors, on the other hand, often double as embalmers, with a hand in just about every day-to-day operational task. Those hoping to gain experience prior to or during a mortuary science degree program may work as a funeral attendant, which only requires a high school diploma and involves assisting in the preparation of ceremonies.

Funeral Directors & Embalmers

Generally, funeral directors handle the arrangements of a funeral. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these individuals transport and prepare the remains for services, meet with families to determine details of the service, submit an obituary to the daily newspaper and arrange for flowers, clergy and burial. In some states, funeral directors may also embalm bodies, which involves cosmetically restoring the body so it is viewable with the use of makeup, hair dressing, clothing and other techniques.

Funeral directors and embalmers must also pass a national examination to qualify for a state license. All states other than Colorado require a license to work as a funeral director or embalmer. Some states may require a separate license to perform embalming activities. During the decade spanning 2019-2029, funeral directors, morticians and undertakers could decline according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In May 2019, the BLS reported that funeral directors, morticians and undertakers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $89,880 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $29,370 or less per year.

Funeral Service Managers

The other popular career choice as highlighted by the BLS is that of the funeral service manager, who handles the financial and operational aspects involved in running a funeral service organization. These individuals do not require licensure, though prior management experience may be necessary. In May 2019, the BLS reported that funeral service manager in the 90th percentile or higher earned $161,870 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $44,120 or less per year. Employment opportunities were anticipated to decline through 2029.

While an associate's degree is typically adequate to become a funeral service director, a bachelor's degree could be helpful if you wish to become a funeral service manager. All states except Colorado require a license to become a funeral director or embalmer; however, office management experience, rather than a license, is usually required for funeral service managers.

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