Becoming a mortician is not for the faint of heart. It takes a special kind of person to deal with the dead (and their loved ones) on a daily basis. But if you have the strength for it, and the compassion to care for others in their time of need, then a career in funeral services may be a perfect fit.
Below is everything you need to know about the journey to becoming a mortician.
What Is A Mortician?
Morticians are responsible for the care and preservation of human remains. They work in mortuaries, funeral homes, and other related facilities to prepare bodies for burial or cremation. Morticians may also be involved in the sale of caskets, urns, and other funeral supplies.
Below are some typical tasks you may do in a day as a mortician:
- Prepare deceased bodies for burial or cremation
- Coordinate funeral arrangements
- Work with families of the deceased
- Manage mortuary and funeral home operations
- Sell caskets, urns, and other funeral supplies
Other Funeral Service Workers
Sometimes terms are used interchangeably to describe funeral service workers, so we wanted to clear up the different types of workers. These jobs are not exclusive so an embalmer can also be a mortician or a funeral home manager can also be an embalmer.
But in busier funeral homes you may find these jobs being more exclusive and not having as much overlap with other positions.
Funeral Home Managers are in charge of the operations of the entire funeral home. Their jobs may include accounting, staff management, marketing, and day-to-day customer relations work.
Morticians (also called undertakers or funeral directors) are the people that make a funeral happen. They handle all the details from arranging pallbearers to transporting the body to the cemetery. Their job is to make sure all details of their loved ones’ funeral and wake are covered for grieving families
Embalmers prepare the body for viewing publicly by family and friends. This requires additional education.
How To Become A Mortician
In order to become a mortician, you should complete an accredited mortuary science program. While this is the most common way to become a mortician, the exact requirements will actually vary by state. It is important you check your state requirements before you get started on your journey.
There are many schools across the country that offer these programs, so finding one should not be difficult. After completing your education, you will need to pass a licensing exam in order to practice as a mortician.
Before you commit to attending a school, we highly recommend you try and shadow a local funeral director or mortician. Ensuring you can handle the day-to-day work is a good idea before investing money into education for a career you may not love as much as you think!
STEP 1: Minimum Requirements
- State age requirements range from 18 -21 years of age
- High school diploma or GED
- Ability to pass a background investigation
STEP 2: Find State Requirements
Since each state will require different paths to become a licensed funeral director or mortician, it will be important to know what to expect. Some states might require an Associate’s degree while a few even require a Bachelor’s degree.
You can review the requirements for your state here.
STEP 3: Attend An Accredited Program or College
Mortuary science programs can be found at many colleges and vocational schools.
As a part of your formal education you may learn some or all of the following:
- Funeral service history
- Funeral service merchandising
- Grief counseling
- Mortuary law
- Funeral planning
- Embalming or restorative arts
- Business law
- Funeral service psychology
You can review the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) website to gain more insight into the educational requirements and find accredited schools. They are the national accrediting organization for funeral services and mortuary science education.
If cost is a concern you can also look into funeral service education scholarships.
STEP 4: Apprenticeship
It is required that you work under a more experienced mortician or funeral director for a period of time before receiving your license. You might do your internship at a local funeral home or even in a medical examiner’s office depending on what is available.
STEP 5: Test For Certification
Once your education and training are complete, you will be able to test for your funeral service license. Each state may require different testing but the most common are the National Board Exam (NBE), State Board Exam (SBE), and the Laws, Rules, and Regulations Exam (LRR).
STEP 6: Continuing Education
State-approved continuing education is required for morticians. Licenses will typically expire every 1 or 2 years depending on where you live and continuing education will be needed to keep it active.
Becoming a member of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) would be highly recommended once you are licensed.
Mortician Career Pros & Cons
- Helping loved ones during a difficult time.
- Creating an experience for friends and families that makes the loss less painful.
- Opportunities for self-employment can improve earnings.
- Days can be very long when funerals are taking place.
- Irregular hours and on-call hours are common.
- Health risks of dealing with bodies.
- Can be difficult to deal with mourning families.
What a real mortician thinks about his job.
I view the bodies as my work. You have to detach a little. I don’t try and think about what kind of person they were, or what they did. It is irrelevant to me at the time of the embalming. I have a job to do. I have been entrusted with this family’s loved one and they deserve my very best ability to make this person look natural and dignified. People deserve the opportunity to view their loved ones in a dignified manner, no matter what happened to them. No matter if it takes 8hrs to complete and after all my work if I brought the family just a little comfort, if I’ve made this experience just a little bit easier for them then I can sleep well that night. Spicemaster242, Reddit
How Much Do Morticians Make?
Salaries for morticians will range based on location, education, and types of certifications you have.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median annual salary for morticians was $74,000.
The highest-earning morticians earned an average of $135,660. These are typical funeral service workers that have many years of experience and work in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York, or Houston as an example.
Mortician Salaries By State
Below are the average annual and hourly salaries for morticians for each state. The median wage means half of all employed morticians make more and half make less.
Which state pays morticians the most?
You might be surprised to know that Delaware comes out on top for the highest mortician salary with a median annual wage of $79,440. Minnesota, New York, and Maryland also come in on the high end with salaries in the mid-high $60K range.
Mortician Job Outlook
The funeral industry is seeing strong growth and morticians are expected to see a growth in opportunities of about 8 percent through 2031.
While the growth is strong, it can be affected by the growing trend in cremation which requires less of the services that funeral service workers typically offer. Cremation is also a cheaper option, and with a struggling economy, this option may catch on even more and lessen the growth of a mortician career.