What They Do: Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a funeral.
Work Environment: Funeral service workers are employed in funeral homes and crematories. They are often on call, and long workdays are common, including evenings and weekends. Most work full time.
How to Become One: An associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science is the typical education requirement for funeral service workers. Most employers and state licensing laws require applicants to be 21 years old, have 2 years of formal education, have supervised training, and pass a state licensing exam.
Salary: The median annual wage for funeral home managers is $74,000. The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers is $48,950.
Job Outlook: Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of funeral service workers with similar occupations.
Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a funeral.
Funeral service workers typically do the following:
Funeral service workers help to determine the locations, dates, and times of visitations (wakes), funerals or memorial services, burials, and cremations. They handle other details as well, such as helping the family decide whether the body should be buried, entombed, or cremated. This decision is critical because funeral practices vary among cultures and religions.
Most funeral service workers attend to the administrative aspects pertaining to a person's death, including submitting papers to state officials to receive a death certificate. They also may help resolve insurance claims, apply for funeral benefits, or notify the Social Security Administration or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of the death.
Many funeral service workers work with clients who wish to plan their own funerals in advance, to ensure that their needs are met and to ease the planning burden on surviving family members.
Funeral service workers also may provide information and resources, such as support groups, to help grieving friends and family.
The following are examples of types of funeral service workers:
Funeral service managers oversee the general operations of a funeral home business. They perform a wide variety of duties, such as planning and allocating the resources of the funeral home, managing staff, and handling marketing and public relations.
Funeral directors and morticians plan the details of a funeral. They often prepare obituary notices and arrange for pallbearers and clergy services. If a burial is chosen, they schedule the opening and closing of a grave with a representative of the cemetery. If cremation is chosen, they coordinate the process with the crematory. They also prepare the sites of all services and provide transportation for the deceased and mourners. In addition, they arrange the shipment of bodies out of state or out of country for final disposition.
Finally, these workers handle administrative duties. For example, they often apply for the transfer of any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.
Most funeral directors and morticians embalm bodies. Embalming is a cosmetic and temporary preservative process through which the body is prepared for a viewing by family and friends of the deceased.
Funeral home managers hold about 40,700 jobs. The largest employers of funeral home managers are as follows:
|Death care services||31%|
Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers hold about 27,400 jobs. The largest employers of morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers are as follows:
|Death care services||90%|
Funeral services traditionally take place in a house of worship, in a funeral home, or at a gravesite or crematory. However, some families prefer holding the service in their home or in a social center.
Funeral service workers typically perform their duties in a funeral home. Workers also may operate a merchandise display room, crematory, or cemetery, which may be on the funeral home premises. The work is often stressful, because workers must arrange the various details of a funeral within 24 to 72 hours of a death. In addition, they may be responsible for managing multiple funerals on the same day.
Although workers may come into contact with bodies that have contagious diseases, the work is not dangerous if proper safety and health regulations are followed. Those working in crematories are exposed to high temperatures and must wear appropriate protective clothing.
Most funeral service workers are employed full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.
Get the education you need: Find schools for Funeral Service Workers near you!
An associate's degree in funeral service or mortuary science is the typical education requirement for funeral service workers. Most employers require applicants to be 21 years old, have 2 years of formal education, have supervised training, and pass a state licensing exam.
An associate's degree in funeral service or mortuary science is the typical education requirement for all funeral service workers. Courses taken usually include those covering the topics of ethics, grief counseling, funeral service, and business law. All accredited programs also include courses in embalming and restorative techniques.
The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits 60 funeral service and mortuary science programs, most of which are 2-year associate's degree programs offered at community colleges. Some programs offer a bachelor's degree.
Although an associate's degree is typically required, some employers prefer applicants to have a bachelor's degree.
High school students can prepare to become a funeral service worker by taking courses in biology, chemistry, and business, and by participating in public speaking.
Part-time or summer jobs in funeral homes also provide valuable experience.
Those studying to be funeral directors and morticians must complete training, usually lasting 1 to 3 years, under the direction of a licensed funeral director or manager. The training, sometimes called an internship or an apprenticeship, may be completed before, during, or after graduating from a 2-year funeral service or mortuary science program and passing a national board exam.
Most workers must be licensed in Washington, DC and every state in which they work, except Colorado, which offers a voluntary certification program. Although licensing laws and examinations vary by state, most applicants must meet the following criteria:
Working in multiple states will require multiple licenses. For specific requirements, applicants should contact each applicable state licensing board.
Most states require funeral directors to earn continuing education credits annually to keep their licenses.
The Cremation Association of North America (CANA); International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA); and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offer crematory certification designations. Many states require certification for those who will perform cremations. For specific requirements, applicants should contact their state board or one of the above organizations.
Funeral service managers typically have multiple years of experience working as a funeral director or mortician before becoming managers.
Business skills. Knowledge of financial statements and the ability to run a funeral home efficiently and profitably are important for funeral directors and managers.
Compassion. Death is a delicate and emotional matter. Funeral service workers must be able to treat clients with care and sympathy in their time of loss.
Interpersonal skills. Funeral service workers should have good interpersonal skills. When speaking with families, for instance, they must be tactful and able to explain and discuss all matters about services provided.
Time-management skills. Funeral service workers must be able to handle numerous tasks for multiple customers, often over a short timeframe.
The median annual wage for funeral home managers is $74,000. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $135,660.
The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers is $48,950. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,550.
The median annual wages for funeral home managers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Death care services||$73,930|
The median annual wages for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Death care services||$48,830|
Most funeral service workers are employed full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends are common.
Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.
About 7,900 openings for funeral service workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Funeral service workers will be needed to assist the growing number of people prearranging end-of-life services. This demand will be constrained by consumers increasingly preferring cremation, which costs less and requires fewer workers than do traditional funeral arrangements. However, since most cremations still involve a memorial service or funeral, funeral home managers are expected to be needed to guide families and loved ones through the death care process and to plan end-of-life events.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2021||Projected Employment, 2031||Change, 2021-31|
|Funeral service workers||68,100||73,400||8||5,300|
|Funeral home managers||40,700||43,500||7||2,800|
|Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers||27,400||29,900||9||2,500|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.