If you have excellent planning skills, the compassion to work with grieving families and the respect to tend to the deceased, you might wonder how to become a funeral director. Funeral directors coordinate funeral services, from preparing the body to scheduling services and arranging transportation. Funeral directors may also be called undertakers or morticians.
The job of a funeral director is an important one. Though everyone dies eventually, each individual death can be a heartbreaking experience for family members and friends. Funeral directors must treat bereaved families with compassion as they organize the details of services. They help families decide whether to have a funeral, wake or memorial service. They assist with securing a venue for the services, whether that means a house of worship, a funeral home or a private residence. Funeral directors help families set the dates and times of the services, make arrangements for transporting the remains of the deceased and the families and coordinate the delivery of flowers and arrival of clergy members. They may file the necessary paperwork to obtain death certificates, notify government agencies of the death, help families attain the benefits of life insurance policies and assist in preparing obituary notices.
In some ways, coordinating the logistics of a funeral service is similar to planning any event. The preparation of the body sets a funeral director’s job apart from other professional planning careers. Funeral directors help families decide whether to bury or cremate the body. They then embalm the remains, sanitizing and temporarily preserving and restoring the body, often for an open-casket viewing and service. During the embalming process, funeral directors must observe all health and safety regulations and work with the utmost respect for the deceased person and the family. When preparing the remains, the goal is to present the body in a way that is respectful to the deceased and comforting to the family.
Aspiring funeral directors must begin their career by pursuing a formal education in mortuary science from a school accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. While an associate’s degree was sufficient to secure a job in the past, more employers are now requiring candidates for funeral director positions to hold a bachelor’s degree. Coursework in a mortuary science program often includes grief counseling, funeral services, business law, ethics and embalming. Funeral directors typically gain work experience through apprenticeships under the guidance of licensed funeral directors. Candidates often spend one to three years as apprentices before they are prepared to take the qualifying examination required for state licensure.
Though the work may seem gloomy, funeral directors have solid earning potential, making a median annual salary of $54,140, in a field with consistent growth. They also have the opportunity to help bring closure to grieving families. If you are a compassionate person with the organizational skills to orchestrate important events, knowing how to become a funeral director could be the start of a new career that will always be needed.