Summary

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Quick Facts: Funeral Service Workers
2016 Median Pay $54,830 per year
$26.36 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, 2016 54,400
Job Outlook, 2016-26 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 3,000

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. Most employers and state licensing laws require applicants to be 21 years old, have 2 years of formal education, have supervised training, and pass a state licensing exam.

Pay

The median annual wage for funeral service managers was $73,830 in May 2016.

The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors was $50,090 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 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:

  • Offer counsel and comfort to families and friends of the deceased
  • Provide information on funeral service options
  • Arrange for removal of the deceased’s body
  • Prepare the remains (the deceased’s body) for the funeral
  • File death certificates and other legal documents with appropriate authorities

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 a 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. Department of Veterans Affairs of the death.

Many funeral service workers work with clients who wish to plan their own funerals in advance, to ensure that their needs are met and to ease the planning burden on surviving family members.

Funeral service workers also may provide information and resources, such as support groups, to help grieving friends and family.

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.

Funeral directors and morticians 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 apply for the transfer of any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.

Most funeral directors and morticians 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 About this section

Funeral directors
Funeral directors often have long workdays.

Funeral service managers held about 25,700 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of funeral service managers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 67%
Death care services 32

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors held about 28,700 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors were as follows:

Death care services 88%
Self-employed workers 9

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 workers typically perform their duties in a funeral home. Workers also may operate a merchandise display room, crematory, or cemetery, which may be on the funeral home premises. The work is often stressful, because workers must arrange the various details of a funeral within 24 to 72 hours of a death. In addition, they may be responsible for managing multiple funerals on the same day.

Although workers 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 appropriate 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 About this section

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. Most employers require applicants to be 21 years old, have 2 years of formal education, have supervised training, and pass a state licensing exam.

Education

An associate’s degree in funeral service or 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.

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits 60 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 typically required, 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

Those studying to be funeral directors and morticians must complete training, usually lasting 1 to 3 years, under the direction of a licensed funeral director or manager. The training, sometimes called an internship or an apprenticeship, may be completed before, during, or after graduating from a 2-year funeral service or mortuary science program and passing a national board exam.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most workers must be licensed in Washington, DC 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 an ABFSE accredited funeral service or mortuary science program
  • Pass a state and/or national board exam
  • Serve an internship lasting 1 to 3 years

Working in multiple states will require multiple licenses. For specific requirements, applicants should contact each applicable state licensing board.

Most states require funeral directors to earn continuing education credits annually to keep their licenses.

The Cremation Association of North America (CANA); International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA); and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offer crematory certification designations. Many states require certification for those who will perform cremations. For specific requirements, applicants should contact their state board or one of the above organizations.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Funeral service managers typically have multiple years of experience working as a funeral director or mortician before becoming managers.

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 About this section

Funeral Service Workers

Median annual wages, May 2016

Funeral service managers

$73,830

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

$50,090

Total, all occupations

$37,040

Funeral service workers

$54,830

 

The median annual wage for funeral service managers was $73,830 in May 2016. 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 $39,240, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $147,990.

The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors was $50,090 in May 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,980.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for funeral service managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Death care services $73,860

In May 2016, the median annual wages for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Death care services $49,780

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

Job Outlook About this section

Funeral Service Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Total, all occupations

7%

Funeral service managers

6%

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

5%

Funeral service workers

5%

 

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment of funeral directors and morticians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for funeral service workers will stem from deaths in the aging population.

In addition, a growing number of baby boomers prearrange their end-of-life services. Funeral service workers will offer people a stress-free way to plan their arrangements and ensure that their final wishes will be met.

Employment of funeral service managers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

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, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Funeral service workers

54,400 57,400 5 3,000

Funeral service managers

11-9061 25,700 27,400 6 1,600 employment projections excel document xlsx

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors

39-4031 28,700 30,000 5 1,300 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 About this section

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 Help 2016 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, but administrative service managers typically maintain facilities and supervise activities that include recordkeeping, mail distribution, and office upkeep.

Bachelor's degree $90,050
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 $127,560
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 $106,910
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 $208,000 per year.
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.

See How to Become One $75,230
Social workers

Social Workers

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

See How to Become One $46,890

Contacts for More Information About this section

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, Funeral Service Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-service-occupations.htm (visited November 01, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

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Work Environment

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How to Become One

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.