How to Become a Mortician
Morticians, also known as funeral directors, guide families and friends through the process of putting a loved one to rest after death. Morticians must have compassion and strong communication skills to work with clients at a difficult time and help them make decisions about funeral arrangements. Funeral directors may also work with people who want to plan their own funeral and burial or cremation arrangements while they are still alive.
At the direction of their clients, funeral directors take possession of the body of the person who has died and prepare the body for viewing, burial, or cremation. They work with their clients to determine what type of viewing will be held, if any, and what sort of services they would like performed before burial or cremation. Morticians may embalm bodies, dress them and style their hair and makeup, or cremate them. They also oversee viewings and funerals to make sure all goes according to plan.
In addition to preparing the body and managing the details of viewings and funerals, funeral directors also help clients sort through legal and financial obligations such as filing a death certificate or submitting insurance claims. They may also direct clients to resources like counselors and support groups to help them cope with their grief.
Becoming a mortician requires not only compassion and communication skills, but the ability to deal with unpleasant sights and smells and work long, nontraditional hours.
What kind of training is required to become a mortician?
Funeral directors must have at least an associate degree in mortuary science. Mortuary science programs are available at many traditional colleges, but prospective funeral directors may also attend specialized mortuary schools.
Students in mortuary science programs learn about the anatomy of the human body and how to prepare the body for viewing. Embalming is the temporary preservation and sterilization of the body after death, and students learn about the history of embalming, the chemistry involved in embalming, and how to perform the procedure. Preparing a body for viewing may also include bathing and dressing the body, and styling the person’s hair and makeup. In some cases, morticians must reconstruct facial features that have been disfigured due to illness or injury or repair bodies that have undergone an autopsy.
Mortuary science programs also educate students in the process of planning a funeral for different types of clients. Many religions and religious denominations require adherents to follow a strict set of guidelines for funeral arrangements, and funeral directors should be aware of the various requirements their clients may have. Military funerals and funerals for people from various cultures or cultural groups often follow specific protocols as well.
Operating and maintaining a funeral home or mortuary presents a unique set of challenges, so students also learn about the business side of working as a funeral director. Risk management, human resources management, marketing, ethics, business law, funeral service law, and merchandising are all topics of study in mortuary science programs.
The social and psychological issues surrounding death are often another major focus of mortuary science programs. Students may take courses in the psychology of death, death and children, gerontology, and the psychology of grief and counseling to help them understand the process of death and grief and give them tools to support their clients’ emotional needs.
After graduation from a mortuary science program, prospective funeral directors must continue their training as an apprentice. Most states require morticians to complete apprenticeships, but the specific requirements vary by state. In some states, an apprenticeship must last one year, but in other states, apprenticeships must last 18 months or two years. Some states allow mortuary science students to complete their apprenticeship while attending school, but others require the apprenticeship to occur after graduation.
Are there any certification or licensure requirements?
In almost every state, funeral directors must have a license to offer their services to the public. To qualify for a license, funeral directors must meet age, education, and experience requirements. In most cases, morticians must be at least 21 years old, hold an associate degree from a mortuary science program accredited by the American Board of Funeral Science Education, complete an apprenticeship, and pass a certification exam.
Some states require only those morticians who perform embalming to obtain a license, or require embalmers to obtain an additional license.
How long does it take to become a mortician?
It can take two years to complete an associate degree program in mortuary science. The total amount of time it takes to become a mortician depends on whether one’s state allows mortician apprentices to complete their apprenticeship alongside their schooling or requires them to complete it after graduation. Completing an apprenticeship after graduation adds an additional one to two years to the time it takes to start working as a funeral director.
What does a mortician earn?
The median yearly pay for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors in the United States was $46,840 in 2012. The lowest ten percent of this group earned less than $26,580 that year, and the top ten percent made more than $80,900.
What are the job prospects?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of funeral service workers, including morticians, will grow 12 percent between 2012 and 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
The BLS projects that job prospects will be best for those who hold dual licenses in funeral directing and embalming.
What are the long term career prospects for morticians?
With experience, morticians can become funeral service managers and oversee the operations of a funeral home or mortuary. Funeral service managers supervise funeral directors and other funeral home staff and manage the business operations of the funeral home. Some funeral service managers go on to open their own businesses.
How can I find a job as a mortician?
You can find mortician job openings on many general job posting websites or in community resources like newspapers. The National Funeral Directors Association hosts its own job board that serves as a platform to connect funeral directors with potential employers. You can upload your resume to the NFDA job site and employers may contact you with information about job opportunities.
How can I learn more about becoming a mortician?
You can learn more about becoming a mortician through the National Funeral Directors Association website. Talking to funeral directors in your area can also be a good way to find out if this career path is the right one for you.