How to become a mortician: a guide for 2024

Last updated: April 24, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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How to become a mortician: a guide for 2024
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Anyone who’s had to navigate planning a funeral or memorial service for a loved one will agree on one thing: morticians are the unsung heroes of what are typically the toughest times in our lives.

So have you ever thought about what it takes to become one?

If you’re searching for a career that will allow you to support others and offer them a shoulder to lean on, then becoming a mortician might just be the perfect fit for you.

To help you decide whether this profession is right for you, our team at Jobcase has put together this comprehensive resource on how to become a mortician. Here you’ll find essential information about this line of work, including the typical responsibilities of a mortician, the level of education you’ll need, licensure and testing requirements, and job growth opportunities within the field.

Are you ready to make a difference? If so, then let’s jump into this guide to see if becoming a mortician is a suitable path for you.

Unveiling the mystery: what is a mortician, and what do they do?

A mortician, also known as an undertaker or funeral director, is a professional who handles the logistical and emotional aspects of a person’s final farewell. They play a critical role in helping grieving families navigate the emotional process of saying goodbye.

This position requires technical know-how and a compassionate touch.

So what does a mortician do, exactly? Their responsibilities go far beyond simply preparing a body for burial or cremation. Here are some of the key tasks that the job entails:

  1. Meeting with families: This is where the mortician’s compassionate side shines. They sit down with the bereaved to discuss their preferences, answer questions, and provide guidance on the various options available for the funeral or memorial service.

  2. Preparing the deceased: Depending on the family’s wishes, preparing the deceased could involve embalming the body, dressing it, applying makeup, or preparing it for cremation. A mortician must be able to handle these tasks with professionalism and sensitivity.

  3. Arranging the funeral service: Morticians work with families to plan the order of service, choose music, and coordinate with religious leaders, if applicable. They may also help with writing obituaries, designing programs, and organizing any special tributes or displays.

And that’s not all. Morticians also take care of the nitty-gritty details that families often don’t want to deal with during such a difficult time.

  1. Handling legal paperwork: From obtaining death certificates to filing the necessary permits, morticians ensure that everything is in order.

  2. Overseeing the burial or cremation: A mortician ensures that everything runs smoothly during the body’s final disposition (the process of laying the deceased to rest), whether that’s a traditional burial or a cremation.

  3. Offering grief support: Morticians are often a pillar of support for families during their time of need. They can offer resources, referrals, and a listening ear to help the bereaved cope with their loss.

Many people don’t know this, but morticians sometimes work closely with forensic pathologists and coroners in cases of unexpected or suspicious deaths. They make sure that the deceased’s body is handled with care and respected during examinations and autopsies. This collaboration also provides the deceased’s loved ones with accurate information and closure.

A mortician is a jack of all trades in the funeral service industry. They’re adept at balancing the practical elements of funeral planning with the emotional support that grieving families desperately need. This is a role that requires grace under pressure and a genuine desire to help others through some of life’s most challenging moments.

Does this sound like a calling you’d like to pursue? If so, let’s delve into how to become a mortician.

Your journey starts here: key steps to becoming a mortician

A career as a mortician involves not only mastering the technical aspects of the job but also the ability to provide solace and support to grieving families. The educational journey consists of the following key steps:

  1. Obtain a mortuary science degree

After graduating from high school or getting their GED, aspiring morticians must complete a specialized degree in mortuary science that varies by state. This program can be either an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Funeral Service or Mortuary Science.

Mortuary science programs combine academic coursework with hands-on experience and cover topics such as embalming, restorative techniques, and funeral home management.

Check out the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) for specific schools and universities with Mortuary Science accredited programs. And check to see what type of education your state requires, too.

  1. Become licensed

Each U.S. state has its own licensing requirements for morticians. In general, though, you’ll need to do the following to become licensed:

  • Obtain a mortuary science degree from an accredited program

  • Serve in an apprenticeship or internship — these usually are one to three years

  • Pass a state or national board examination

Again, some states have specific requirements in addition to the ones listed, so aspiring morticians should research their state’s regulations carefully.

A great place to start your research is the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) licensing board.

  1. Pursue continued education

Morticians are often required to complete a certain number of continuing education credits to maintain their licenses. This ongoing learning helps them stay up-to-date with industry developments and best practices, ensuring they can provide the highest possible level of care and support to the families they serve.

Unlock your potential: top skills every mortician must master

Becoming a mortician isn’t just about education and training — it also requires a unique set of interpersonal skills. Here are the top five skills needed to excel in this profession, along with an explanation of why each one matters so much:

  1. Compassion: Morticians must provide empathetic support and guidance to families during these emotionally distressing times. Being compassionate allows morticians to offer comfort and understanding, helping the deceased’s loved one through the grieving process.

  2. Attention to detail: Meticulousness is crucial in a mortician’s work, as even small mistakes can have significant consequences. Ensuring that every aspect of the funeral service is handled correctly and with care demonstrates respect for the deceased and their loved ones.

  3. Communication: Clear and effective communication with families, funeral home staff, and clergy is essential for a mortician. There are a wide variety of end-of-life celebration types, along with various cultural and religious beliefs. By fostering an open dialogue and actively listening, morticians can better understand the family’s wishes and coordinate the various aspects of the funeral service according to those wishes.

  4. Time management: Morticians must be highly organized and able to manage several tasks and responsibilities simultaneously, such as holding multiple services or meetings with family members. Staying organized helps to ensure a seamless funeral service that honors the deceased and provides closure for the family.

  5. Professionalism: Morticians must maintain a professional demeanor and appearance since they’re often the primary point of contact for families during the funeral planning process. Much like attention to detail, exhibiting professionalism reflects respect for the family and their loss while also fostering trust.

The emotional rewards and personal satisfaction that come from using these skills to support grieving families are immeasurable. As a mortician, you’ll be able to provide comfort and solace during the most challenging moments of people’s lives.

Mapping your future: mortician salaries and employment prospects

Now that you know the requirements and responsibilities of a mortician, you might be curious about the earning potential and job prospects. Let’s look into these details to give you a clearer picture.

Average salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for morticians in the United States was $48,950 per year as of May 2021.

Due to a variety of factors, the pay range for this career is quite wide. Specifically, the BLS reports a range of between $30,980 and $89,050 yearly.

Factors that influence salary and job outlook

Several factors can influence the salary and job outlook for morticians. These include the following:

  • Location: The demand for morticians varies by region. For instance, morticians in metropolitan areas like New York City or Los Angeles might earn higher salaries than those in smaller towns and rural areas. Similarly, states with a higher cost of living may offer higher salaries.

One thing to note regarding these highly paid states is that many have low employment rates, making it a bit more difficult to enter the field. Consider other states with comparable salaries but higher employment rates, such as Illinois or Indiana, when applying for a job.

  • Experience: As with any profession, a seasoned mortician with years of experience can expect to earn a higher salary than someone who’s just starting their career.

  • Specialization: Morticians who specialize in specific areas, such as pet funerals (more on this below) or eco-friendly funerals, might have unique earning opportunities due to their niche expertise.

Some morticians specialize in pet funerals, offering services such as cremation or full funeral ceremonies. These specialized services allow families to honor and say goodbye to their beloved pets.

Benefits and opportunities for advancement

In addition to salary, morticians may receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. Some funeral homes may also offer opportunities for advancement, such as becoming a manager or owner.

The BLS projects that employment for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors will add about 7,900 new jobs each year between 2021 and 2031. This growth is attributed to the aging population, which is likely to increase the demand for funeral services.

Satisfy your curiosity: your questions answered

Do you have questions about becoming a mortician? We’ve got answers! Check out the common questions below and discover some surprising insights into this rewarding profession.

How long does becoming a mortician take?

It depends on your state and the educational path you choose. In general, you’ll need at least an associate’s degree in mortuary science, which takes about two years to complete. Some states might also require a bachelor's degree, pushing your education to four years. And don’t forget about apprenticeships and internships, both of which can add more time to your journey.

Mortician or funeral director: What’s the difference?

These two terms are often confused, but there’s a subtle difference: a mortician prepares the body for burial or cremation, while a funeral director oversees the entire funeral service. Sometimes, one person takes on both roles. Keep in mind, however, that these terms aren’t universally defined and may vary by state or company.

What’s the hardest part of being a mortician?

Morticians face emotional challenges in their line of work. Common ones include working with grieving families, managing the physical demands of the job, and dealing with the emotional toll of working with death daily.

But don’t worry — self-care practices, like counseling, exercise, or hobbies outside of work, can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Pursue your calling: begin your mortician journey today

If you’re considering this field of work, you might be feeling a calling to become a mortician. Or maybe you’re still on the fence. And that’s okay — this is a big decision that requires careful consideration.

Fortunately, the benefits of becoming a mortician are numerous and incredibly rewarding. By providing comfort and support to grieving families to help ease the pain of their loss, you can make a real difference in your community — and find a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

You’ve learned all about the requirements to become a mortician, the typical responsibilities of the job, and the salary and job growth opportunities within the field.

You now also know about the skills necessary to become a successful mortician and some of the hardest parts of the job. You can use these insights to help you make an informed decision about whether this is the right career path for you.

Ready to take the first step and start your journey as a mortician today? Check out the job board at Jobcase for mortician jobs near you. You can also search related roles, such as a funeral director or embalmer.

Need more help getting hired? Check out our resources for tips that can help you get your dream job!

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