Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a funeral.
What they do
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.
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.
How to become a Funeral Service Worker
An associate 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.
An associate 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 degree programs offered at community colleges. Some programs offer a bachelor’s degree.
Although an associate 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.
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.
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.
The median annual wage for funeral home managers was $76,350 in May 2019. 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 $44,120, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $161,870.
The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers was $54,150 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,370, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,880.
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.
Similar Job Titles
Apprentice Funeral Director, Crematory Operator, Family Services Assistant (FSA), Funeral Assistant, Funeral Attendant, Funeral Greeter, Funeral Home Assistant, Funeral Home Associate, Funeral Home Attendant, Funeral Service Apprentice
Bailiff, Locker Room/Coatroom/Dressing Room Attendant, Shampooer, Baggage Porter and Bellhop, Retail Salesperson
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
Magazines and Publications
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOne Stop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org