How to Become a Funeral Service Worker
Becoming a funeral director requires courses in ethics, grief counseling, and business law.
An associate’s degree in mortuary science is the minimum education requirement for morticians, undertakers, funeral directors, and funeral service managers. With the exception of funeral managers, funeral directors and embalmers must be licensed in Washington D.C. and every state in which they work, except Colorado.
An associate’s degree in mortuary science is the minimum education requirement for all funeral service workers. Courses typically include ethics, grief counseling, funeral service, and business law. All accredited programs also include courses in embalming and restorative techniques. States have their own education requirements, and state licensing laws vary. Most employers require applicants to be 21 years old; have two years of formal education; serve a 1-year apprenticeship before, during, or after Mortuary College; and pass a state licensing exam after graduation.
In some states, licensure for funeral directors and embalmers are separate.
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 7 programs offer a bachelor’s degree.
Although an associate’s degree is usually adequate, 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 are good experience.
Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors must complete hands-on training, usually lasting 1 to 3 years, under the direction of a licensed funeral director or manager. The apprenticeship may be completed before, during, or after completing a 2-year mortuary program. Apprenticeships provide practical experience in all aspects of the funeral service.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
With the exception of funeral service managers, funeral directors and embalmers are required to be licensed in Washington DC and every state, except Colorado. Although licensing laws and examinations vary by state, most applicants should meet the following:
- Be 21 years old
- Complete 2 years in an ABFSE 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 morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors to receive continuing education credits annually to keep their licenses.
Workers increasingly should have some office management experience, particularly for funeral service managers who run their own funeral home business.
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 in a short time frame.