Funeral Home Workers
Education and Training Requirements
If you are interested in entering the field of mortuary science, consider taking classes in algebra, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, biology, physics, and any other laboratory courses available. In addition, a psychology class might be helpful since funeral home workers must deal with distraught families and friends of deceased persons. English and speech classes will help you hone your writing and speaking skills.
Almost all states require funeral service practitioners to have completed postsecondary training in mortuary science varying from nine months to four years. Funeral directors need a minimum of an associate's degree in mortuary science. Several colleges and universities now offer two- and four-year programs in funeral service. The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits approximately 60 mortuary science programs. Visit http://www.abfse.org/html/dir-listing.html for a list of programs.
The funeral service curriculum, approved by the ABFSE, includes courses in:
- Public Health and Technical (microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, pathology, restorative art and embalming, including laboratory work)
- Business Management (business management, funeral arranging, funeral merchandising, funeral home management, computer applications, Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule, and accounting)
- Social Sciences (sociology of funeral service, psychology of grief, funeral directing, history of funeral service, communication skills and counseling)
- Legal, Regulatory, and Ethical Areas (business law, funeral service law and regulation, and professional ethics)
After completion of at least a two-year program, the graduate can apply to work as a mortuary science technician. Graduates who want to obtain a license in either embalming or funeral directing must work as an apprentice or intern in an established funeral home for one to three years, depending on the state's requirements. Some schools of mortuary science have arrangements with local area funeral homes to provide students with either a work-study program or a period of school-supervised funeral service work (residency or apprenticeship).
The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offers Green Funeral Practices Certificate Program and an International Professional Achievement Certificate Program. Contact the assiciation for more information.
Other Education or Training
The NFDA offers home study classes, teleconferences and webinars, online learning courses, and podcasts to help its members stay up to date with industry developments. Recent offerings included Professional Ethics in Funeral Service, Public Speaking: Comfortably, Marketing a Funeral Home for Long Term Profitability, and Personnel Management in Funeral Service. The NFDA also offers a Leadership Conference and a Professional Women's Conference. The Cremation Association of North America and the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association also provide continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
The National Funeral Directors Association offers the certified crematory operator, certified celebrant, and certified preplanning consultant credentials. It also offers an arranger training program. The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association offers the certified funeral executive, certified cremation executive, and other certification credentials. The Cremation Association of North America also offers certification. Contact these organizations for more information.
All states require embalmers and funeral directors to be licensed. Some states grant a combination single license covering the activity of both the embalmer and funeral director. In order to maintain licensure, a growing number of states require continuing education classes.
After successfully completing their formal education, including apprenticeship, prospective funeral service practitioners must pass a state board examination that usually consists of written and oral tests and demonstration of skills. Those who wish to practice in another state may have to pass that state's examination as well, although some states have reciprocity arrangements to waive this requirement.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
An associate's degree and one to three years of experience as an apprentice is needed to become a funeral director. No experience is needed to become a funeral attendant.
A strong sense of understanding, empathy, and a genuine desire to help people at a time of great stress are essential qualities for anyone wanting to work at a funeral home. Workers must be tactful and discreet in all contacts with the bereaved family and friends. Funeral service workers must always be compassionate and sympathetic, but also remain strong and confident to accomplish the necessary tasks of the job. Funeral home workers must also be good listeners. For example, when details such as cosmetics and clothing are discussed, they must be especially attentive to the client's wishes.
The work sometimes requires physical strength for lifting the deceased or their caskets. Good coordination is also needed to perform the precise procedures used in embalming, restoration, and cosmetology.