Becoming a funeral director requires courses in ethics, grief counseling, and business law.
An associate’s degree in a funeral service or mortuary science education program is the education typically required to become a funeral service worker. Most employers require applicants to be 21 years old, have at least 2 years of formal postsecondary education, have supervised training, and pass a state licensing exam.
An associate’s degree in a funeral service or mortuary science education program is typically required for all funeral service workers to enter the occupation. Courses usually cover topics such as ethics, grief counseling, funeral service, and business law. Accredited programs also include courses in embalming and restorative techniques.
The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits funeral service and mortuary science programs, most of which offer a 2-year associate’s degree 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. Common fields of degree include mortuary science, psychology, and business.
High school students can prepare to become a funeral service worker by taking classes in biology, chemistry, business, and public speaking.
Students may gain relevant experience working part-time or summer jobs in a funeral home.
Those studying to be morticians and funeral arrangers 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 funeral service or mortuary science program and passing a national board exam.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Most states and Washington, DC, require workers to be licensed. An exception is 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 education program
- Pass a state and/or national board exam
- Serve an internship lasting 1 to 3 years
Working in multiple states requires multiple licenses. For specific requirements, contact each applicable state licensing board.
Most states require funeral directors to earn continuing education credits 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, contact your state board or the relevant professional organizations.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Funeral home managers typically have multiple years of experience working as a funeral director or mortician before becoming managers.
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 example, 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.