Becoming a funeral director may not be the first thing you think about in your formative years when asked what you plan to do when you grow up, but it’s nevertheless a highly necessary and respected profession. This post will cover the Funeral Director job description and other aspects of this career. Most people probably don’t realize the importance of funeral service until they experience a personal loss themselves. But, the industry is one of the most indispensable lines of work in the country. The perspectives for the future of this work look pretty good as well, and as long as you have both the sternness required to work with a deceased person’s remains and the empathy required to offer emotional support to the family, then it just might be the job for you.
Funeral Director Job Description
The job of a funeral director is complex and involves sometimes contradictory qualities, as well as a lot of multi-tasking. Image that you have to check if the deceased is prepared for the funeral up to the last details, check in with the legal and organizational aspects of the funeral and comfort the family members all at once. Also, a funeral director needs to be available on-call for any potential emergencies, and since death occurs all the time, they often end up working late evenings, weekends and overall long hours.
Usually, a typical funeral director job description contains the following items:
- Providing emotional support to the members of the family, the friends of the deceased and anyone else dealing with the loss;
- Arranging for the removal of the body and preparing the remains for the funeral (this includes the complicated procedure of embalming);
- Filing the death certificate and arranging the other legal aspects of the process;
- Discussing with the family members and arranging the details of the funeral and memorial service;
- Connecting the individuals dealing with loss with appropriate support groups to help them deal with the change in their lives;
- Training and supervising any junior staff in the funeral home.
- Preparing obituary notices, as well as contacting the appropriate clergy and pallbearers (according to the wishes of the deceased and/or the family);
- Arranging for transportation services, decoration of the location where the service will take place and so on.
Many times, the job may come with out of the ordinary requirements, depending on each specific case. Since the matter is very delicate from an emotional point of view, it is expected of funeral directors to do their best in assisting the family members with even complicated and unconventional requests. Even if it involves something like sending a driver halfway across the country in order to recover an emotionally important object and so on.
Most funeral directors are employed in the death services industry (meaning commercial funeral homes), while a few of them are employed in the Federal Executive Branch (OES designation). In 2009, according to the BLS, there were 380 funeral directors hired by federal services and 25,360 in the general death care services industry.
Funeral Director Education Requirements and Training
In order to become a funeral director, one needs to complete at least 2 years of formal education and obtain an associate’s degree in mortuary science. This applies to any funeral service worker, no matter if we’re still discussing funeral directors specifically or not. After that, one must also pass a state’s license exam in order to become licensed as a funeral director (and an embalmer as well). In some states, there’s a single license exam for both denominations, while in others they are separate. In any case, any practicing funeral director needs to be licensed in Washington D.C. and in their own state too in order to work (except in Colorado where the rules are different).
Also, before you can get hired in the field, you would also need to complete a one-year apprenticeship in the field (minimum, but it can also be up to three years). This consists of working for a funeral home or service as an a apprentice, under the direct supervision of a qualified and experienced funeral director, either before, during, or after the college studies in mortuary science. A part-time or summer job in a funeral home is also an extra credit when trying to become a funeral director.
As for the on-the-job training, all funeral service workers are expected to have (and continue to develop) some office management skills, in order to be able to help with the organizational aspects of the service. This is something a funeral director should really look to actively improve, in order to ever hope to become a funeral service manager later on in their careers (this is a higher and much better paid position).
Funeral Director Salary
The median salary for all funeral service occupations, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS)*, had a value of $51,600 per year in May 2012. The median value isn’t the same as the value of the average salary (although the two can be quite close), but it just reflects the value situated in the middle of the registered salaries. It means that half of all employed funeral service workers have earned a bit more than this value, and the other half of them earned a bit less.
The median salary for funeral directors together with undertakers and morticians was $46,840 per year in May 2012. This is a lower value than the median for all funeral service occupations, but it’s still significantly higher than the average median for all occupations (which was $34,750 per year at the same moment). The lowest earning 10% of funeral directors, morticians and undertakers made a bit less than $26,580, while the top earning 10% made more than $80,900.
Still, you should be aware that these figures aren’t a good indicator of a funeral director salary, which can be considerably higher (because morticians and undertakers tend to earn less). The BLS has some older data on the salary of a funeral director (pertaining to 2009), and it seems that in that year the median salary for this occupation was $29.04 per hour and $60,390 per year. This should be a better indicator that working as a funeral director can be quite productive.
The upwards horizon of a funeral director is becoming a funeral services manager. The median salary of a funeral services manager was $66,720 per year in 2012, and the top 10% of them earned more than $140,740, so that’s definitely something on the radar of all those considering a funeral services occupation.
Funeral Director Outlook
As for the outlook of the job, The BLS projected a growth of 12% for funeral directors from 2012 until 2022, which is about as fast as the average growth projected for all occupations (11%). The expected growth for all funeral service occupations is also at 12%, while the job outlook of funeral service managers is even higher, at 13%.
The reasons for this expected growth are, first of all, the expected number of upcoming deaths (mostly from the baby boomers’ generation). Second of all, there is also the rising trend of aging individuals pre-arranging their own funerals in advance, to make sure everything will go according to their instructions and their needs in this respect will be met. All in all, the field of funeral services and the job of a funeral director seem like good prospects for all those who think they have what it takes in order to perform it.
*All numerical data in this report are provided by the BLS, www.bls.gov.