Funeral Service Workers

Summary

funeral directors image
Funeral service workers handle the details of funerals.
Quick Facts: Funeral Service Workers
2014 Median Pay $52,520 per year
$25.25 per hour
Typical 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, 2014 60,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 3,100

What Funeral Service Workers Do

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

Work Environment

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

How to Become a Funeral Service Worker

An associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science is the typical education requirement for funeral service workers. With the exception of funeral service managers, all workers must be licensed in Washington, D.C. and every state in which they work, except Colorado which offers a voluntary certification program. 

Pay

The median annual wage for funeral service workers was $52,520 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Those who are licensed as funeral directors and embalmers and who are willing to relocate should have the best job opportunities.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for funeral service workers.

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Funeral Service Workers Do

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:

  • Offer counsel and comfort to families and friends of the deceased
  • Arrange for removal of the deceased’s body
  • Prepare the remains (body)
  • File death certificates and other legal documents
  • Train junior staff

Funeral service workers help to determine the locations, dates, and times of visitations (wakes), funerals or memorial services, burials, and cremations. They handle other details as well, such as helping the family decide 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 attend to the administrative aspects pertaining to the person’s death, including submitting papers to state officials to receive a death certificate. They also may help resolve insurance claims, apply for funeral benefits, or notify the Social Security Administration or the U.S. Veterans Administration of the death.

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

Funeral service workers also may help individuals adapt to changes in their lives following a death by providing information on support groups.

The following are examples of types of funeral service workers:

Funeral service managers oversee the general operations of a funeral home business. They perform a wide variety of duties, such as planning and allocating the resources of the funeral home, managing staff, and handling 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 services. 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 prepare the sites of all services and provide transportation for the deceased and mourners. In addition, they arrange the shipment of bodies out of state or out of country for final disposition.

Finally, these workers 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 by family and friends of the deceased.

Work Environment

Funeral directors
Funeral directors often work long hours.

Funeral service workers held about 60,400 jobs in 2014. Approximately 54 percent worked in the death care services industry. About half of all funeral service workers were self-employed in 2014.

Funeral services traditionally take place in a house of worship, in a funeral home, or at a gravesite or crematory. However, some families prefer holding the service in their home or in a social center.

Funeral service managers work mostly in a funeral home office.

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

Although workers sometimes may come into contact with bodies that have contagious diseases, the work is not 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 are often on call and long workdays are common, including evenings and weekends.

How to Become a Funeral Service Worker

Funeral directors
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. With the exception of funeral service managers, all workers must be licensed in Washington, D.C. and every state in which they work, except Colorado which offers a voluntary certification program. 

Education

An associate’s degree in 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. States have their own education requirements, and state licensing laws vary. Most employers require applicants to be 21 years old; have 2 years of formal education; serve a 1-year internship before, during, or after attending a mortuary college; and pass a state licensing exam after graduation. 

In some states, licensure for funeral directors and embalmers is separate.   

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits 58 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 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 provide valuable 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 internship may be completed before, during, or after completing a 2-year funeral service or mortuary science program and passing a national board exam. Internships provide practical experience in all aspects of the funeral service.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

With the exception of funeral service managers, all workers must be licensed in Washington, D.C. 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 2 years in an ABFSE funeral service or mortuary science program, and pass a national board exam
  • Serve an internship lasting 1 to 3 years

Applicants must then pass a state licensing exam. Working in multiple states will require multiple licenses. For specific requirements, applicants should contact each applicable state licensing board.

Most states require funeral directors and embalmers to receive continuing education credits annually to keep their licenses.

The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offer crematory certification designations. A growing number of states are requiring certification for those who will perform cremations. For specific requirements, applicants should contact their state board.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Workers increasingly are being required to 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 over a short timeframe.

Pay

Funeral Service Workers

Median annual wages, May 2014

Funeral service managers

$68,870

Funeral service workers

$52,520

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

$47,250

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for funeral service managers was $68,870 in May 2014. 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 $38,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $137,410.

The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors was $47,250 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,520.

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

Job Outlook

Funeral Service Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

7%

Total, all occupations

7%

Funeral service workers

5%

Funeral service managers

3%

 

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment of morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for funeral service workers will stem from deaths in the aging population.

These workers increasingly are performing day-to-day routine tasks, including many administrative duties, such as filling out paperwork and securing death certificates. In addition, as a growing number of baby boomers prearrange their end-of-life services, these workers, through their services, will offer people a stress-free understanding that their final wishes will be met.

Employment of funeral service managers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Despite growth of the death care industry, fewer managers will be needed as morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors increasingly handle the day-to-day activities at a funeral home.  

Job Prospects

Job prospects for funeral service workers are expected to be good overall. Opportunities should be particularly favorable for those who are licensed as both a funeral director and an embalmer, for those willing to relocate, and for certified crematory operators.

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

Employment projections data for funeral service workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Funeral service workers

71,000 72,400 2 1,400

Funeral service managers

11-9061 29,300 30,300 3 1,000 [XLSX]

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

39-4031 31,100 33,200 7 2,100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Administrative services managers

Administrative Services Managers

Administrative services managers plan, direct, and coordinate supportive services of an organization. Their specific responsibilities vary, but administrative service managers typically maintain facilities and supervise activities that include recordkeeping, mail distribution, and office upkeep.

Bachelor's degree $83,790
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

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

Bachelor's degree $123,450
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 $102,780
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 behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $70,700
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 $45,500

Contacts for More Information

For more information about funeral service workers, 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, 2016-17 Edition, Funeral Service Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-service-occupations.htm (visited February 06, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015