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 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.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
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:
- Be 21 years old
- Complete an ABFSE accredited funeral service or mortuary science program
- Pass a state and/or national board exam
- Serve an internship lasting 1 to 3 years
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.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
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.