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Funeral Director Job Description, Career as a Funeral Director, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

directors homes family school

Education and Training: Vocational/technical school; license

Salary: Median—$45,960 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Funeral directors arrange funeral services and burials. They work in funeral homes, where bodies are kept until cremation or burial. Most funeral homes are small and owned by the funeral director. Some, however, have many employees. Funeral directors are sometimes called morticians or undertakers.

When funeral directors are notified of a death, they arrange for the body to be moved to the funeral home. They get the information needed for the death certificate and for the newspaper death notice, or obituary. They meet with the family of the deceased to discuss the details of the funeral service, including the selection of a casket. Funeral directors help the family to set the time and location for burial, arrange for a member of the clergy to conduct any religious services, and choose pallbearers. Once these plans have been made, funeral directors contact cemetery officials, the clergy, and the newspapers.

Funeral directors need to know about the funeral customs of various religious, ethnic, and fraternal groups. They must also be familiar with the laws dealing A funeral director is sometimes called a mortician or an undertaker. They need to know about the funeral customs of various religious, ethnic, and fraternal groups. (© R. Holz/zefa/Corbis.) with the handling of dead bodies. Since many funeral directors are also licensed embalmers, they may prepare the body for burial. They arrange the casket in a parlor and take care of lighting and flower arrangements. They stay in the parlor to greet and comfort the family and friends of the deceased and to make sure that the services run as planned. They also arrange transportation to the cemetery or crematorium for the family and pall-bearers. Funeral directors lead the funeral procession to the church or cemetery, where they may help direct the service. If burial is to be in another area, they oversee the preparation and shipment of the body.

Funeral directors may also help the family of the deceased with insurance claims. They may serve the family for several months until they have taken care of these and other details.

Education and Training Requirements

A person can begin to prepare for a career as a funeral director while in high school. Courses in science, biology, bookkeeping, art, sociology, speech, and business subjects are useful. Psychology courses may provide a better understanding of how and why people act as they do under the stress caused by death. A funeral director must be able to stay calm in stressful situations and be willing to handle distasteful tasks, such as the removal of burned or decomposed bodies.

Private vocational schools offer special programs to train funeral directors, called mortuary science programs. They take nine months to three years to complete. A few colleges also offer two-to four-year programs in funeral service. In addition, a person will probably need to serve an apprenticeship of about one to three years during or after formal training.

Most states require funeral directors to be licensed. Requirements vary, but, typically, a person must be at least twenty-one years old, a high school graduate, and a graduate of a school of mortuary science or funeral service. A candidate should also complete an apprenticeship and pass a state board examination. Continuing education is required to maintain a license. Most funeral directors get an embalming license as well.

Getting the Job

A person can apply directly to funeral homes for a job. Although most funeral homes are family businesses, many employ people who are not family members. Some funeral directors continue working at the funeral homes where they held part-time jobs while in school or where they served apprenticeships. Most schools that train funeral directors also have placement services that can help candidates find a job. Members of the clergy may be able to make introductions to local funeral directors. Also professional associations, newspaper classifieds, and career Web sites can be good sources for job leads.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Funeral directors can become managers in large funeral homes, buy an existing funeral home, or start a new one. Owning a business requires a great deal of money, but loans are available to qualified funeral directors. The employment outlook is anticipated to be good, though opportunities for funeral directors are expected to grow slower than the average through the year 2014. Jobs will become available as workers retire or leave the field, and relocating to another city may be necessary to find a position.

Working Conditions

Funeral homes are usually attractive and well kept. They range from small frame houses to large, modern buildings. They often serve as the homes of funeral directors and their families. Funeral directors are on call at all times. Evening or weekend funeral services or meetings are not uncommon, and funeral directors often work more than forty hours per week. Their hours are irregular, because there may be slow periods followed by a series of funerals within a short period of time. In larger funeral homes the directors may work in shifts.

Funeral directors are dealing with people under difficult conditions who often lack prior information about costs, are under time pressures, and are in a disturbed emotional state. Therefore, funeral directors must be tactful and sympathetic to problems. In addition, they should be respectful of the burial customs of all religions. Those who are also embalmers must be able to work well with their hands.

Where to Go for More Information

Associated Funeral Directors, International
PO Box 1382
Largo, FL 34779
(800) 346-7151

National Funeral Directors Association
13625 Bishop's Dr.
Brookfield, WI 53005-6600
(800) 228-6332
http://www.nfda.org

National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association
3951 Snapfinger Pkwy., Ste. 507
Decatur, GA 30035
(800) 434-0958
http://www.nfdma.com

Earnings and Benefits

The median yearly salary of funeral directors is $45,960, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experience, level of employment, and geographical location influence the earning potential. Those who own their own funeral homes and are very successful can earn much more. Benefits may include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

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over 7 years ago

I am very surprised to hear these negative remarks. In a few months, I am starting my first semester to be a mortician. When I was a little girl I saw my aunt laying in a casket. She had put a gun in her mouth and killed herself. As I stood looking at her, I saw the lines on her face where someone had put her face back together. I thought that was the greatest thing I had ever seen. I want to do that for people. I want to be able to make their deceased loved one look as good as possible for them. I think it is a very respectable profession.

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over 7 years ago

Funeral business is like most businesses. There are those who are crooked, but federal regulations inacted in the 1980's have eliminated many of them. Most funeral homes are run by caring professionals. Some of the larger corporate funeral homes are less personal than the family operated funeral home, but in general my experience with a wide variety of funeral homes has led me to the understanding that most funeral directors are there because they care about people. I once worked for an owner who cared about the bottom line. He did not last long in the business. He was a son who took over his father's business and the stress of running a business and caring for people in difficult situations cost him greatly. Finally out of self-preservation he retreated to looking at funeral service only from a business perspective. Eventually, he sold out to a larger firm and retired early. This is one story out of more than 50 funeral homes that I know of where this occured. Most funeral directors are dedicated caring people. Many are on call 24/7 because their firms are small. The overhead for running a funeral home that charges 2x to 3x the cost of the casket is balanced by the service charges. Funeral merchandizing is where many firms hope to balance the costs rather than charge all the costs of running the business in its service charge. Therefore, many firms take the risk that they will make it up in their casket sales. What does this mean for the consumer? It means that those who are less able to afford a full funeral still get one because the service charges do not reflect the true cost of running that funeral. Instead it is made up on the casket floor. Those who can afford a more expensive casket do so and provide the funeral home with a profit. Those who cannot afford and expensive casket provide just the rest of the service fee. Firms that are considered "discount" firms cut out a lot of service and find ways to gouge the consumer on the little items like filing the death certificate (which the funeral home is required to do by law) and transporting/housing the cremains. To lump all funeral directors negatively because of a few bad experiences is as great an injustice as to say everyone in the ministry is a pedophile because of a few bad ministers.

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about 9 years ago

Joe,

While you may have researched the cost of caskets and other funeral merchandise, you obviously have not researched the overhead costs of maintaining and running a funeral home nor the personal sacrifices involved. Do you have any idea of the licenses involved, including establishment, funeral director, embalmer, preneed provider, preneed seller, music, city business, county business, etc? Do you have any idea of the children's birthday parties, holiday meals or vacations that are cut short or missed entirely by funeral directors who are devoted to the families they serve? Please don't group us all in the same "crooked" category. There are still many noble funeral directors in this profession who are only trying to support their own families.

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about 8 years ago

Joe, as a funeral director you are very wrong. First no funeral director or home who buys a casket for $700.00 sells it for $5,000.00.



They might sell it for between $1,700 and 2400 depending on their overhead.



Overhead on a funeral home is very very expenses. Hearse are well over $140,000. Instruemtns are surgical like at a hospital and cost any where from $40.00 on up. Embalming fluid cost on averfage $100.00 a case. Embalming machines ar $5000.00. SUburbans and Caddy as we all know are over $40,000. We have to carry general business liability but also Malpractice. People sue funeral directors as much as doctors. While I can not say we don't have some bad crooked funeral directors out there, most are very truely concern and are trying for the small ones to make a living. I have gone 3 days strait working without sleep. Have you? I am exposed to all types of deadly disease and it is my job to embalming the body and disinfect it so people can say goodby which greif experts not funeral directors say is needed.



I feel sorry for you that you may have had a bad funeral director but very frankly, we deserve to get pay well and $45000 in not a whole lot for what we put in



So next time before you slander someone or profession, make sure you get your lazy but out of a chair, not listen to this people who don't believe in fuenral service and think is all about cost and find out the true facts.

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about 8 years ago

Joe, don't be hasty and group dedicated people (who by they way are very special) together like this because of a few what you call bad experiences. Think about all of the crap funeral directors go through to make an difficult time smoother for the families involved. I couldn't imagine being in the funeral directors position day in and out. It is bad enough issuing death certificates to the grieving families...give a little credit. They should make the money...

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over 8 years ago

Joe, thats life suck it up and get us to it. Life is not going easy and surely you don't think some one will just give you everything you want.

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about 6 years ago

What are the requirements in Florida to be licensed as funeral director? I don't want to embalm so I will not get a dual license. I have a bachelor of science degree in another field with a minor in business.

I have worked in this business for 2 years and love it so it would be an easy transition into Funeral Director.

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over 6 years ago

im 17 and from stockton, ive always wanted to be a mortician. But i dont exactly know how to begin a career as a mortician, got any advice on how i should start?

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over 8 years ago

im a freshman in high school and ive recently decided that i want to be a funeral director. the problem is my school doesnt offer some of the classes i need. what should i do?

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about 7 years ago

Joe,

you choose the wrong profession if ur just going to whine and complain.


Samantha,

take anatomy, psych, sociology, and humanities if ur school offers it. I know some schools in low finacial school districts may not offer all these courses

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over 6 years ago

I look forward to a job in this profession. Working with cadavers is so enticing. I have to contain my glee working with grief stricken customers. Perhaps I can just work in embalming. :D

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over 9 years ago

as one who has researched the price of caskets and other funeral goods , and who has been severley cheated by a funeral director on two seperate occassions I would have to say that this is the most crooked lying assed profession out there ! theres nothing quite like asking $5,000.00 dollars for a casket that cost $700.00 whole sale , and wringing your hands and crying about how you are losing money !

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about 5 years ago

I was wondering what schools are local for training for the embalming lic. I live right ont the MA RI line???

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about 8 years ago

Joe is pretty close to correct. I have been licensed as a funeral director and embalmer in Florida for 7 years. As an employee of a family run business the boss wants you sell as much service and merchandise as humanly possible, and knowing that everything is marked up at least 300% it is hard explaining the lifetime guarantee to a sobbing family member. My advice to anyone wanting to get in the business is... don't, drinking 3 gallons of drain cleaner will leave you better off. The hours suck, the pay is even worse especially all the responsibilities you're given. The business as a whole is a blue collar job with a white collar reputation. If you want to sell stuff work for a car dealership, if you want to help people volunteer for your favorite charity. I have not meet a single owner who really cares about their client families, they simply care about the bottom-line.

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almost 5 years ago

I am a freshman in highschool, and recently I have officially decided I want to become a embalmer.I've always thought it was really interesting, ever since I was little, now that i know more about it, I'm excitied to become one. But I still have lots of questions the internet won't answer : what would be the best age to start an apprenticeship, what are the requirements in North Carolina, and what classes should I take for the rest of highschool?
Thanks! - Tara

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over 4 years ago

Do you have to be licensed in Alabama ,to be a Funeral Director?