Funeral Director: Career Information

Coffin decorated with flowers
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Job Description:

A funeral director assists families in planning all aspects of their relatives' funerals. He or she helps choose locations and times for wakes, services and burials; arranges transportation for the deceased and mourners; helps with preparing obituaries; and submits required paperwork to government officials. A funeral director is likely to be responsible for preparing the body for burial through a process called embalming.

Also called undertakers and morticians, funeral directors help people pre-plan their own funeral arrangements.

Employment Facts:

There were over 29,000 funeral directors employed in 2010. Most work full time and their hours typically include evenings and weekends. This job can be very stressful for several reasons including the following: funeral plans must be made rather quickly, multiple funerals often take place on the same day and families are usually very upset.

Educational Requirements:

To become a funeral director you need, at the minimum, an associate degree in mortuary science from a program that is accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). However, many employers prefer job candidates who have a bachelor's degree. The ABFSE has a state-by-state directory of accredited programs on their website.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

Funeral directors need a license from the state in which they work. Generally, to become licensed you must be at least 21 years of age and have completed two years of an accredited mortuary science program and a 1-3 year apprenticeship. Because requirements vary by state, you should find out what they are in the state in which you want to work.

You can do that by using the Licensed Occupations Tool on CareerOneStop.

In addition to the technical skills you will learn in school, there are personal qualities that will help you be successful in this field. These are known as soft skills. You need to be compassionate since the families with whom you work are going through a very difficult time. Good interpersonal skills are also instrumental. Good time management skills are needed to help plan multiple funerals at the same time.

Job Outlook:

The employment outlook for funeral directors is good. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that it will grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2020. This is thanks to an aging population and an increase in funeral pre-planning. Your willingness to relocate will improve your job prospects as will the ability to embalm.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?

Earnings:

In the US funeral directors earned a median annual salary of $46,840 annually and $22.52 per hour in 2012.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a funeral director currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Funeral Director's Life:

On a typical day a funeral director's tasks might include:

  • meeting with the deceased family to discuss arrangements
  • setting up transportation for the deceased and mourners
  • submitting paperwork to government agencies
  • preparing the body for burial
  • helping the family decide whether to bury, cremate or entomb the deceased's body
  • helping families write obituaries
  • meeting with individuals who want to pre-plan their funerals

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Funeral Director, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-directors.htm (visited August 08, 2013).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Funeral Director, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/39-4031.00 (visited August 08, 2013).