Funeral Directors

Summary

Funeral directors
Together with the family, funeral directors handle details of the memorial services.
Quick Facts: Funeral Directors
2010 Median Pay $54,330 per year
$26.12 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Apprenticeship
Number of Jobs, 2010 29,300
Job Outlook, 2010-20 18% (About as fast as average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 5,300

What Funeral Directors Do

Funeral directors, also called morticians and undertakers, manage funeral homes and arrange the details of a funeral.

Work Environment

Funeral directors work mostly in funeral homes and crematories. They are often on call and work long hours, including nights and weekends. Most work full time.

How to Become a Funeral Director

An associate’s degree in mortuary science is the minimum educational requirement. All funeral directors must be licensed by the state in which they work. 

Pay

The median annual wage of funeral directors was $54,140 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment of funeral directors is expected to grow 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Those who embalm and are willing to relocate should have the best job prospects.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of funeral directors with similar occupations.

O*NET

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Contacts for More Information

Learn more about funeral directors by contacting these additional resources.

What Funeral Directors Do

Funeral directors
Funeral services may take place in a church, funeral home, or at the gravesite.

Funeral directors, also called morticians and undertakers, manage funeral homes and arrange the details of a funeral. 

Duties

Funeral directors typically do the following:

  • Arrange transportation of the deceased
  • Prepare the remains (body)
  • Submit paperwork and legal documents
  • Consult with the deceased’s family
  • Help plan funerals
  • Train junior staff
  • Discuss and plan funerals with people who wish to arrange their own service in advance

Most funeral directors arrange the details and handle the logistics of funerals. Together with the family, funeral directors establish the locations, dates, and times of wakes, memorial services, and burials. They handle other details as well, such as determining whether the body should be buried, entombed, or cremated. This decision is critical because funeral practices vary among cultures and religions.

Although family members or others may handle some details, funeral directors must be able to assist family members in preparing obituary notices and arranging for pallbearers (people who carry the coffin) and clergy. They may decorate and prepare the sites of services, arrange for flowers, and provide transportation for the deceased and mourners.

Most funeral directors handle paperwork involved with the person’s death, including submitting papers to state officials to get a formal death certificate. Some help resolve insurance claims or apply for veterans’ funeral benefits on behalf of the family. They also may notify the Social Security Administration of the death.

In many settings, funeral directors embalm the deceased. Embalming is a sanitary and cosmetic process through which the body is prepared for burial, usually in a casket. 

Funeral services may take place in a home, house of worship, or funeral home or at the gravesite or crematory.  

A growing number of funeral directors work with clients who wish to plan their own funerals in advance to ensure that their needs are met.

Many funeral directors also help prepare and ship bodies if the person dies in one place and is to be buried or cremated elsewhere.

Work Environment

Funeral directors
Funeral directors often work long hours.

Funeral directors held about 29,300 jobs in 2010. About 92 percent worked in the funeral services industry.

Funeral directors work mostly in funeral homes and crematories. The mood can be quiet and somber, and the work is often stressful. Funeral directors have to arrange the many details of a funeral within 24 to 72 hours of death. Funeral directors also may be responsible for multiple funerals on the same day.

Although funeral directors handle corpses, the health risk is minimal. Still, funeral directors must follow safety and health regulations.

Work Schedules

Most funeral directors work full time. They are often on call and work long hours, including nights and weekends.

How to Become a Funeral Director

Funeral directors
Becoming a funeral director requires courses in ethics, grief counseling, and business law.

High school students can prepare for a job as a funeral director by taking courses in biology and chemistry and by participating in public speaking. Part-time or summer jobs in funeral homes also are good experience.

An associate’s degree in mortuary science is the minimum educational requirement. All funeral directors must be licensed by the state in which they work. 

Education and Training

Funeral directors must have at least an associate’s degree in mortuary science. A growing number of employers, however, prefer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits 57 mortuary science programs, most of which are 2-year associate’s degree programs offered at community colleges. About 9 programs give a bachelor’s degree.

In all mortuary science programs, students take courses in ethics, grief counseling, funeral service, and business law. All AFSBE-accredited programs also include embalming and restorative techniques courses. 

Funeral directors must complete hands-on training under the direction of a licensed funeral director, usually lasting 1 to 3 years. The apprenticeship may be completed before, during, or after completing a mortuary program.

Licenses 

All states require funeral directors to be licensed. Licensing laws vary by state, but most applicants should

  • Be 21 years old
  • Complete 2 years in an AFSBE mortuary science program
  • Serve an apprenticeship lasting 1 to 3 years

Applicants must then pass a qualifying exam. Working in multiple states may require multiple licenses. For specific requirements, applicants should contact their state licensing board.

Most states require funeral directors to receive continuing education credits to keep their licenses.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Death is a delicate and emotional matter. Funeral directors must be able to treat clients with care and sympathy in their time of loss.

Interpersonal skills. Funeral directors 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 that are needed or expected.

Time-management skills. Funeral directors must be able to handle numerous tasks for multiple customers, often in a short period.

Pay

Funeral Directors

Median annual wages, May 2010

Funeral Directors

$54,330

Total, All Occupations

$33,840

Funeral Service Workers

$33,600

 

The median annual wage of funeral directors was $54,140 in May 2010. 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 $29,890, and the top 10 percent earned more than $98,340.

Most funeral directors work full time. They are frequently on call and work nights and weekends. Long hours are common.

Job Outlook

Funeral Directors

Percent change in employment, projected 2010-20

Funeral Directors

18%

Total, All Occupations

14%

Funeral Service Workers

11%

 

Employment of funeral directors is expected to increase 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment growth reflects an increase in the number of expected deaths among the largest segment of the population: aging baby boomers. Also, a growing number of older people are expected to prearrange their end-of-life services, increasing the need for funeral directors. This service gives family and friends a stress-free understanding that their final wishes will be met.       

Job prospects

Job prospects for funeral directors are expected to be good overall, and more favorable for those who embalm and are willing to relocate. Some job openings should result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for funeral directors, 2010-20
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2010 Projected Employment, 2020 Change, 2010-20 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Funeral Service Managers, Directors, Morticians, and Undertakers

39-4831 29,300 34,600 18 5,300 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of funeral directors.

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Contacts for More Information

For more information about funeral directors, including accredited mortuary science programs, visit

National Funeral Directors Association

For scholarships and educational programs in funeral service and mortuary science, visit

American Board of Funeral Service Education

For information about crematories, visit

Cremation Association of North America

International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association 

Candidates should contact their state board for specific licensing requirements.

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Funeral Directors,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-directors.htm (visited April 26, 2015).

Publish Date: Thursday, March 29, 2012