In fact, it is anticipated that there may not be enough qualified funeral personnel to handle the increasing death rate in the future.
In addition, it is anticipated that a large number of older funeral directors and embalmers will begin retiring in the next few years, furthering the need for additional personnel within this industry.
While the most commonly known profession within the funeral industry is that often known as an undertaker or mortician, there are actually several positions that make up this industry.
A funeral director may or may not handle embalming depending upon their training. The funeral director generally handles matters related to counseling the family regarding the funeral arrangements. The position of funeral director often also handles insurance related matters, record keeping as well as expenses and invoices.
An individual who has been trained in embalming and cremation handles the actual preparation of the body according to the wishes of the family or in some cases, the wishes of the deceased as noted in funeral pre-arrangements.
Some funeral homes also staff one or more persons to handle ‘making up’ the body to provide a natural appearance.
This may involve applying cosmetics, arranging hair and dressing the body. Many funeral homes are also showing a trend in employing personnel to handle prearrangement needs. This service allows an individual to handle matters related to their funeral before their death, sometimes even decades prior, thus relieving the stress and expense from the family.
The positions of funeral director and embalmer generally involve irregular hours and persons employed in these positions are usually ‘on call’ to respond to deaths when they occur. There may also be travel involved if they are needed to go pick up a body at an out of town location or travel with the body to an out of town burial site.
Regardless of the position for which they are hired, individuals employed in the death services industry may also need to pitch in to fill other needs as they arise. For example, individuals who are good public speakers may find that they are called upon to deliver a sermon at a funeral when a family does not have a regular minister.
Salary ranges for funeral staff tend to be quite good depending on the individuals experience and the area of the country where they are employed. Metropolitan areas usually offer greater opportunities and wages.
Employment Prospects for Funeral Jobs
Employment opportunities may be found in family owned funeral homes as well as branch operated ‘chain’ funeral homes. A small percentage of individuals choose to open their own funeral homes after they have obtained several years experience.
Job Search for Funeral Jobs
Membership in a funeral director’s association will generally lead to beneficial contacts and networking for the purposes of job search as the need arises. Open positions may also be listed in classified sections of newspapers and on related job boards.
Resumes for Funeral Jobs
Due to the licensure and education requirements of the death services industry for most positions a chronological resume is the best type of resume to use when searching for work in this field. The resume should highlight any apprenticeship experience if the candidate is currently attending mortuary school or has just graduated.
The applicant’s licensure status should be clearly noted as well and the resume should focus on the applicant’s dedication to customer service.
Individuals who are applying for positions in pre-need arrangements or in restorative art should focus on achievements with past employers or training as well as qualities such as compassion, composure and tact.
Cover Letters for Funeral Jobs
The cover letter utilized by individuals seeking work in the death services industry should focus on their ability to remain composed, offer tact and compassion to the family and observe ethics, regulations and funeral service law.
Training & Qualifications for Funeral Jobs
Funeral directors and embalmers must be licensed within their state in order to practice within this profession. Each state has their own individual licensing requirements, however; on average most candidates are required to be at least 21 years of age, attend a mortuary science school and work in an apprenticeship program for a period of about one year.
A formal written exam is also required in order to obtain licensure
Depending on the state, there may be a single licensed required that will serve both funeral directors and embalmers. Some states require separate licensure.
Mortuary science programs generally last between two to four years. Currently there are approximately 50 accredited mortuary science programs operating in the United States.
Most programs focus on courses such as:
- Business management
- Embalming techniques
- Grief counseling
- Funeral service law and psychology
More than half of all states require persons involved in the funeral industry to take continuing education classes and attend training each year in order to maintain their licenses.
The apprenticeship requirement may be served either before, during or after graduation from an accredited mortuary science program.
Restorative Art Specialists
Restorative arts specialists may be required to attend cosmetology school and possess a state approved cosmetologist’s license. Staff that handle pre-need arrangements may be required to obtain state licensure for the purpose of selling life insurance, as required by their State.
There is room for advancement and promotion within this industry.
Individuals may be promoted into management, handling an entire branch of funeral homes or may consider opening their own funeral home.