How to Become a Mortician: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a mortician. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information and experience required for starting a career in funeral direction.

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Should I Become a Mortician?

Morticians, more commonly referred to as funeral directors or undertakers, help families of the deceased by managing various details involved in planning a funeral. Duties include moving the body to a mortuary, preparing the remains for a ceremony, performing rites in accordance with the spiritual requirements of the family and arranging for the final disposition of the body. The work can be stressful and emotionally taxing, and funeral service workers generally must be on call 24 hours a day, including evenings and weekends. Morticians who work in crematories must wear protective clothing to protect against high temperatures.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree; some employers prefer a bachelor's
Degree Field Mortuary science
Licensure Licensure required for funeral directors and embalmers
Training 1-3 year apprenticeships typically required
Key Skills Compassion; interpersonal communication, business, and time-management skills; knowledge of laws and ethics regarding funeral service and preparation
Salary $49,352 per year (2020 median salary for all morticians)

Sources: American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), (February 2020)

Morticians need at least an associate's degree in mortuary science, though some employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree. Licensure is required for funeral directors and embalmers. Additionally, one to three years of apprenticeship experience is typically required by employers. Morticians should have compassion, as well as good interpersonal, business and time-management skills. They should also have knowledge of laws and ethics regarding funeral service and preparation. According to 2020 data from, the median annual salary for morticians was $49,352.

Steps to Become a Mortician

Step 1: Complete Education Requirements

State licensing boards that issue credentials to morticians require candidates have an associate's degree. Most mortuary science programs accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) are associate's degrees, although a few are bachelor's programs. States may require completion of an accredited program for licensing. Coursework generally includes professional ethics, anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, pathology, embalming, funeral service psychology and counseling, restorative art, federal regulations and mortuary law.

Additionally, business courses can benefit morticians who intend on running their own business later in their careers. Communication courses can also be helpful, since a large part of a mortician's job is interacting with families, which may require tactful yet effective conversational skills in order to determine families' wishes during an extremely stressful time.

Step 2: Complete an Apprenticeship

The ABFSE requires morticians to apprentice for one to three years. The apprenticeship can be performed before, during or after the formal education process, depending on state requirements. Some states require the apprentice to have an apprentice license. Mortuary apprentices can perform work only under direct guidance and supervision of an experienced professional.

Step 3: Pass a Licensing Exam

Morticians are required to pass a state licensing examination. Candidates must be at least 21 years of age and have already completed an accredited 2-year degree and apprenticeship program to be eligible for licensure. Subjects covered in the national exam include psychology, business law, funeral service merchandising, funeral service history, microbiology, pathology, restorative arts, anatomy and embalming. Some states issue the funeral director and embalmer license separately.

Step 4: Maintain Licensure

Many states require morticians to participate in continuing education activities in order to maintain licensure. Continuing education will enable a mortician to stay current on laws regarding funeral services, as well as advancements and trends in the industry. Continuing education options are available through distance or on-site learning. Distance options include webinars, teleconferences and online coursework. On-site options include professional development courses, workshops and seminars.

Optional designations, such as the Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP) offered by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice, can help a mortician stand out in the field and expand career options.

Aspiring morticians need a license and at least an associate's degree in mortuary science, as well as one to three years' experience in an apprenticeship program.

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