Funeral Service Occupations

Summary

funeral directors image
Funeral service workers handle the details of funerals.
Quick Facts: Funeral Service Occupations
2012 Median Pay $51,600 per year
$24.81 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2012 32,800
Job Outlook, 2012-22 12% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 4,000

What Funeral Service Occupations Do

Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a funeral.

Work Environment

Funeral service workers mostly work in funeral homes and crematories. They often are on call and work long hours, including evenings and weekends. Most work full time.

How to Become a Funeral Service Worker

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 service managers, all workers must be licensed. 

Pay

The median annual wage for funeral service workers was $51,600 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Those who are licensed as both funeral directors and embalmers and are willing to relocate should have the best job opportunities.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of funeral service occupations with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about funeral service occupations by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Funeral Service Occupations Do About this section

funeral directors image
Together with the family, funeral directors handle details of the memorial services.

Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a funeral.

Duties                                      

Funeral service workers typically do the following:

  • Provide emotional support to the bereaved
  • Arrange for removal of the deceased’s body
  • Prepare the remains (body)
  • File death certificate and other legal documents
  • Train junior staff

Together with the family, funeral service workers establish the locations, dates, and times of the visitations (wakes), funerals or memorial services, burials, and cremations. They handle other details as well, such as determining whether the body should be buried, entombed, or cremated. This decision is critical because funeral practices vary among cultures and religions.

Most funeral service workers deal with paperwork pertaining to the person’s death, including submitting papers to state officials to receive a death certificate. Some help resolve insurance claims or apply for veterans’ funeral benefits on behalf of the family. They also may notify the Social Security Administration of the death.

A growing number of funeral service workers collaborate with clients who wish to plan their own funerals in advance to ensure that their needs are met.

Increasingly, funeral service workers also help individuals adapt to changes in their lives following a death with support groups.

The following are examples of types of funeral service workers:

Funeral service managers oversee the general operations of a funeral home business. In this position, they perform a wide variety of duties, such as allocating the resources of the funeral home, managing staff, and handling the marketing and public relations.

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors plan the details of a funeral. They often prepare obituary notices and arrange for pallbearers and clergy. If a burial is chosen, they schedule the opening and closing of a grave with a representative of the cemetery. If cremation is chosen, they coordinate the process with the crematory. They also decorate and prepare the sites of all services, and provide transportation for the deceased and mourners. They also direct the preparation and shipment of bodies’ out-of-state or out-of-country for final disposition.

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors also handle administrative duties. For example, they often must apply for the transfer of any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.

Most morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors embalm bodies. Embalming is a cosmetic and temporary preservative process through which the body is prepared for a viewing of visitation by family and friends of the deceased.

Work Environment About this section

Funeral directors
Funeral directors often work long hours.

Funeral service workers held about 32,800 jobs in 2012. Approximately 97 percent worked in the death care services industry.

Funeral services typically take place in a home, house of worship, funeral home, or at the gravesite or crematory.

Funeral service managers work mostly in a funeral home office.

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors work mostly in funeral homes that have a merchandise selection room, and sometimes a chapel. Some may also operate a crematory or cemetery, which may be on the premises. The mood can be quiet and somber, and the work often is stressful, because workers must arrange the many details of a funeral within 24 to 72 hours of death. They also may be responsible for multiple funerals on the same day.

Although workers sometimes may come into contact with bodies that have contagious diseases, the work is not inherently dangerous if proper safety and health regulations are followed. Those working in crematories are exposed to high temperatures and must wear protective clothing.

Work Schedules

Most funeral service workers are employed full time. They often are on call and work long hours, including evenings and weekends.

How to Become a Funeral Service Worker About this section

Funeral directors
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.

Education

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.

Training

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.

Work Experience

Workers increasingly should have some office management experience, particularly for funeral service managers who run their own funeral home business.

Important Qualities

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.

Pay About this section

Funeral Service Occupations

Median annual wages, May 2012

Funeral service managers

$66,720

Funeral service occupations

$51,600

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

$46,840

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for funeral service occupations was $51,600 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,100, and the top 10 percent earned more than $94,860.

The median annual wage for funeral service managers was $66,720 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,420, and the top 10 percent earned more than $140,740.

The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors was $46,840 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,580, and the top 10 percent earned more than $80,900.

Most funeral service workers are employed full time. They often are on call and work long hours, including evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook About this section

Funeral Service Occupations

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Funeral service managers

13%

Funeral service occupations

12%

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

12%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment growth reflects an increase in the number of expected deaths among the largest segment of the population, aging baby boomers.

In addition, a growing number of older people are expected to prearrange their end-of-life services, increasing the need for funeral service workers. This service offers people a stress-free understanding that their final wishes will be met.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for funeral service workers are expected to be good overall and more favorable for those who are licensed as both a funeral director and an embalmer and are willing to relocate.

Some job openings should result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year.

Employment projections data for funeral service occupations, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Funeral service occupations

32,800 36,800 12 4,000

Funeral service managers

11-9061 9,300 10,500 13 1,200 [XLS]

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

39-4031 23,500 26,300 12 2,800 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of funeral service occupations.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Administrative services managers

Administrative Services Managers

Administrative services managers plan, direct, and coordinate supportive services of an organization. Their specific responsibilities vary by the type of organization and may include keeping records, distributing mail, and planning and maintaining facilities.

Bachelor’s degree $81,080
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers plan programs to generate interest in a product or service. They work with art directors, sales agents, and financial staff members.

Bachelor’s degree $115,750
Human resources managers

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers plan, direct, and coordinate the administrative functions of an organization. They oversee the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring of new staff; consult with top executives on strategic planning; and serve as a link between an organization’s management and its employees.

Bachelor’s degree $99,720
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $187,200 per year.
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and human behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $69,280
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers, clinical social workers, also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $44,200

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about funeral service occupations, including accredited mortuary science programs, visit

National Funeral Directors Association

For scholarships and educational programs in funeral service and mortuary science, visit

American Board of Funeral Service Education

National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association, Inc.

For information about crematories, visit

Cremation Association of North America

International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association

Candidates should contact their state board for specific licensing requirements.

O*NET

Funeral Service Managers

Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Funeral Service Occupations,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-service-occupations.htm (visited September 18, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014