Funeral directors, known as morticians or undertakers, are involved in all aspects of a funeral. Funeral directors work closely with the family of the deceased to ensure that all the details pertaining to the disposal of the body are performed properly. They will advise the family on options for the deceased’s body. They may guide casket selection, arrange for the transportation of the deceased to the funeral parlor, assist with obtaining the appropriate religious clergy, and help obtain needed information for the death certificate. In addition, funeral directors take the time to consult with the family to learn about the deceased and the type of service that is desired.
Funeral Director Responsibilities
Funeral directors strive to create services that honor the deceased and have the type of atmosphere that the deceased or their family desires. They also contact newspapers to arrange for a death notice to appear in the newspaper. They arrange the service, decorate the chapel, and arrange for clergy. In addition, they can provide answers about any details pertaining to the burial that might be of concern to surviving family members. Funeral directors head the funeral procession and arrange to have the body transported to a cemetery or make other arrangements for the body.
Many funeral directors are also embalmers, which involves preserving bodies and may involve cosmetically enhancing them. If the body is disfigured, embalming can involve touching up the body with materials to create artificial body parts to give the body a natural, unblemished appearance. Embalming involves cleansing the body and preserving and is required if more than 24 hours elapse between the death and burial. Funeral directors need to be compassionate and comfortable handling the deceased. Funeral directors should have a calm demeanor and be comfortable interacting with family members and their friends who are going through a stressful time period. In addition to consoling the bereaved, funeral directors may also conduct services and organize them. Generally, most funeral directors spend the majority of their time with family members.
Funeral Director Training and Education Requirements
As early as high school, students can start preparing for becoming a funeral director by taking biology and science classes. Most funeral directors own their funeral parlors and therefore, find courses in business and basic bookkeeping useful. Often funeral homes are family owned businesses. Programs for becoming a funeral director encompass science, psychology, communication, art restoration, embalming, anatomy, management and sociology. Some tech schools offer mortuary science programs that range in time requirements from nine month to several years. Some colleges also offer funeral director training as well. Funeral directors also need to have a background about religious customs for burial. In addition, it is usually customary to have an apprenticeship for at least a year or more in the field. States vary in their licensing requirements for funeral directors and embalmers. Morticians also study ethics, law, public speaking, funeral services, and grief counseling. The majority of states require a college education or completion of a mortuary program to enter the profession.
Funeral Director Salary and Wages
Salaries vary depending on the location of the funeral home, the volume of service performed, the funeral home chapel and facilities, and the experience of the funeral director. Median salaries average between $33,000 and $58,000. Funeral directors in well populated cities tend to make higher salaries than those in more rural areas. Funeral directors who want to own a funeral parlor tend to work in smaller funeral parlors that they can eventually take over. Larger funeral homes tend to provide better opportunities for salary increases and advancement.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Funeral Director Certifications
Certifications vary by state and some states have different requirements based on the educational background of the applicant. Generally, applicants are required to serve one or two years as an apprentice before qualifying for a license. Applicants are required to pass a funeral director’s test to obtain certification. Embalmers must also complete an apprenticeship and pass a test. Some states have a combination embalmer and funeral director license while others require separate licenses. Certification tests require applicants to pass oral and written sections. Although reciprocity is available between some states, many states require certification in their state to be able to practice.
Funeral Director Professional Associations
The National Funeral Directors Association offers resources for job and seminars. In addition, they offer a wide variety of continuing education for funeral directors that cover many subjects including counseling, services, business management, and other topics. They also offer legal support and forms as well as marketing assistance.
The American Board of Funeral Services Education provides accreditation for mortuary programs and also provides scholarship funding.
The Association of Executives of Funeral Boards provides a forum for boards to share ideas.
Many states also have funeral director associations that are geared to practicing funeral directors who are local. State associations usually provide legislative updates, business support, group benefits and continuing education opportunities.