Bureau of Labor Statistics

Funeral Service Workers

funeral directors image
Funeral service workers handle the details of funerals.
Quick Facts: Funeral Service Workers
2020 Median Pay $58,170 per year
$27.97 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, 2019 55,200
Job Outlook, 2019-29 -4% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2019-29 -2,200

Summary

What Funeral Service Workers Do

Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a ceremony honoring a deceased person.

Work Environment

Funeral service workers are employed in funeral homes and crematories. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are common. Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Funeral Service Worker

An associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science is the education typically required to become a funeral service worker. Most employers and state licensing laws 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.

Pay

The median annual wage for funeral home managers was $74,200 in May 2020.

The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers was $54,100 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029. 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 ceremony honoring a deceased person.

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 of 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 help 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 home managers oversee the general operations of a funeral home business. They perform a variety of duties, such as planning and allocating the resources of the funeral home, managing staff, and handling marketing and public relations.

Morticians and funeral arrangers (also known as funeral directors or, historically, undertakers) plan the details of a funeral. They often prepare obituaries 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. (Data covering workers who may assist with these tasks are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: funeral attendant.)

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.

Many morticians and funeral arrangers 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. (Data covering those who specialize in this work are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: embalmers.)

Work Environment

Funeral directors
Funeral directors often have long workdays.

Funeral home managers held about 28,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of funeral home managers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 67%
Death care services 33

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers held about 26,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers were as follows:

Death care services 94%
Self-employed workers 5

Funeral services traditionally take place in a house of worship, in a funeral home, or at a gravesite or crematory. However, some families prefer to hold 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, and some work more than 40 hours per week. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.

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 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.

Education

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.

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.

Training

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.

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 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.

Pay

Funeral Service Workers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Funeral home managers

$74,200

Funeral service workers

$58,170

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers

$54,100

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for funeral home managers was $74,200 in May 2020. 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 $42,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $156,940.

The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers was $54,100 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,080, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,140.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for funeral home managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Death care services $74,070

In May 2020, the median annual wages for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Death care services $53,970

Most funeral service workers are employed full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends are common.

Job Outlook

Funeral Service Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers

-2%

Funeral service workers

-4%

Funeral home managers

-6%

 

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Demand for funeral service workers is expected to go down over the next decade as consumers increasingly prefer cremation, which costs less and requires fewer workers than traditional funeral arrangements.

Job Prospects

Despite projected employment declines, about 4,300 openings for funeral service workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Opportunities remain favorable for those who are licensed as both a funeral arranger and an embalmer, for those willing to relocate, and for certified crematory operators.

Employment projections data for funeral service workers, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Funeral service workers

SOC Code
Employment, 201955,200
Projected Employment, 202953,000
Percent Change, 2019-29-4
Numeric Change, 2019-29-2,200
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

Funeral home managers

SOC Code11-9171
Employment, 201928,600
Projected Employment, 202926,900
Percent Change, 2019-29-6
Numeric Change, 2019-29-1,600
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers

SOC Code39-4031
Employment, 201926,600
Projected Employment, 202926,100
Percent Change, 2019-29-2
Numeric Change, 2019-29-500
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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

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 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Administrative services managers

Administrative Services and Facilities Managers

Administrative services and facilities managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities that help an organization run efficiently.

Bachelor's degree $98,890
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers plan programs to generate interest in products or services.

Bachelor's degree $141,490
Human resources managers

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers plan, coordinate, and direct the administrative functions of an organization.

Bachelor's degree $121,220
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses and address health maintenance.

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.

See How to Become One $82,180
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.

See How to Become One $51,760

Contacts for More Info

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 Home Managers

Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Arrangers

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Funeral Service Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-service-occupations.htm (visited April 14, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

Permanently disable mobile site