What is a mortician?
A mortician’s role is to assist in honoring the life of the deceased. When someone passes, a collection of tasks needs to be completed in a timely manner, and a mortician helps take care of them. Depending on the location and size of the funeral home, morticians might also be known as embalmers, undertakers, and funeral directors.
Duties and responsibilities
The most important task for a mortician is to assist the families and loved ones as they grieve and plan the funeral services. This might include finding clergy members, planning obituaries, arranging transportation, and choosing urns and caskets. It requires getting to know the family and loved ones to make sure you meet their needs. Some grief counseling and supportive words can help with this; in some cases, morticians may help connect family members with a professional for more help.
In addition, the body needs to be prepared by embalming to prevent decomposition. This process includes dressing, cosmetically enhancing, and casketing them if that’s within the family’s wishes. All of this needs to be done in compliance with local laws and guidelines.
The third main task for morticians is administrative. There is paperwork that needs to be filed, like death certificates. It’s also a business; at the end of the day, some admin tasks will be required to help the business continue running successfully. Processing payments, completing marketing tasks, and ordering supplies would fall under this category.
The work environment is pretty standard for all morticians. Most of the work occurs at the funeral home, including meetings, overseeing services, and completing the embalming. When there aren’t family members or people in the building, it’s a quiet environment. Some off-site work is possible as well in this role. Morticians must often meet with people in other locations, like churches, cemeteries, or crematoriums. Each day looks a little bit different.
Typical work hours
Morticians and funeral directors don’t have standard hours. Most meetings will happen during the daytime, but there may be calls later in the evenings. There are no standard days of operation, typically, it can be seven days a week.
Timeliness is important in this field, so morticians are always on call. Services often happen on weekends as well. The workload changes from day to day, so some days will be light and can be used to catch up on administrative work.
How to become a mortician
In order to become a mortician, you will need a combination of education, training, and experience. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:
Step 1: Obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree
Many colleges and universities offer a mortuary science degree. Each state has a board determining the necessary requirements to be licensed in their jurisdiction. Before enrolling, ensure you know whether you need an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. If you aren’t sure about where you want to get a job and start your career, work towards a bachelor’s degree, and you’ll be set for any location.
Step 2: Learn the state requirements for a mortician
Use the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) website to find out the requirements of each state’s licensing board. There are clear guidelines for what level of education is necessary, the amount of time spent working alongside an experienced mortician, and what exams must be passed. It’s important to understand these requirements and plan to check them off the list.
Step 3: Receive certifications and coursework
Even with a degree, you can boost your resume and become more prepared for your career by taking courses and earning certificates in specific parts of the job.
- Udemy offers the Funeral Service National Board Exam Tutor course, which will help prepare you for the exam and serves as a refresher course to keep all of the required information fresh in your mind.
- The NFDA has a Certified Preplanning Consultant (CPC) program. It gives individuals more expertise in advanced funeral planning and funding options. Anyone who completes this program can better assist families and people wanting to preplan.
- The Cremation Certification Program is the most recognized certification for cremation services. It’s important for anyone who owns or operates a crematory is considering opening one or evaluating a third-party location.
Step 4: Complete an apprenticeship
Most states require an apprenticeship before receiving the necessary license. Find a licensed funeral director willing to take on an apprentice in the state you are looking to work in. Some states require specific documentation of each task, like embalmings and funerals. These apprenticeships are typically paid and will give you hands-on experience.
Step 5: Pass required licensing exams
Exams are created and managed by the state board. Most tests are multiple choice and timed. Practice tests are available, and as long as candidates study ahead of time and have some experience, passing the test should be fairly straightforward.
Step 6: Apply for jobs
Job postings are shared on different online sites, like LinkedIn and Indeed. Many state boards will also have job listings. Because it’s such a specialized position, the network is not as large. The more people you meet during your education and apprenticeship, the better the chance that someone will reach out when they know of an opening.
Step 7: Complete recertification as often as required
Mortician licenses typically expire every one to two years. You’ll need to follow the necessary steps to keep your license current while working in the field.
How much do morticians make?
There are many variables that go into determining how much a mortician makes, from company size to experience to education just to name a few.
The top-paying states for morticians to work in are (shown in annual mean salary):
- Delaware – $79,870
- Minnesota – $77,460
- New Hampshire – $73,920
- New York – $71,030
- Massachusetts – $70,670
The average national salary for a mortician is:
Top skills for morticians
Mortician qualifications and requirements vary by location. Some states require a bachelor’s degree and exam; others are simpler, with a high school degree and some experience as an apprentice. In addition to education, working alongside an experienced mortician or funeral director is important because there are parts of the job that cannot be learned from a textbook. The science of the role is critical and requires hands-on practice.
In addition to education, some skill sets are important for the role of a mortician. Compassion and empathy are crucial. Every single customer is dealing with something heavy and emotional. Being able to empathize while remaining calm and stoic will allow you to help people through the process as smoothly as possible.
The schedule is unpredictable, so good time management skills are beneficial. Being available and ready to jump into action is important for this role because most funerals must be planned within a few days, and there’s very little notice. Having a strong self-care routine is also the key to success. The job can be emotionally draining sometimes, and some balance can help prevent discontent.
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Once candidates have completed their education and apprenticeship, they are eligible for employment as a mortician or funeral director. Typically, that is a role someone remains in for a long time. Advancement is possible in larger funeral homes that employ more than one mortician and require a funeral home manager role to oversee the entire operation. It’s also possible for a mortician to purchase a funeral home and become a business owner.
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Position trends and outlook
There are two big impacts on this position for the future. First, more and more baby boomers are planning arrangements ahead of time and making sure their wishes are met. This allows funeral homes to plan ahead a bit more. The other impact is that more people are opting for cremations. Less work is required for cremations than for traditional burials, which could impact the job duties and required skills. Over time, that could also lead to fewer job openings in the field.
Employment projections for morticians
Employment trends for morticians and funeral directors are projected to grow by about 4% from 2020 to 2030. While the growth isn’t as strong as some other positions, this role is recession-proof and something that will always be necessary within the community.
Mortician career tips
Soft skills and traits for morticians
Morticians need to be empathetic and comforting to others. Those are the most important soft skills. Develop strong self-care routines to maintain a good balance to offset the grief and tragedy you face daily.
Avoid flashy outfits and jewelry and be extremely self-aware. The impression you give off at your interview for this role is even more important than other jobs because a low-key demeanor is necessary for this role. Be open to relocating if necessary. Each community needs a funeral home, so there may be less competition in another city or town.
Commonly required skills and qualifications
Familiarize yourself with multiple religions, traditions, and customs. If you can provide various services, you’ll be more helpful to a potential employer. Take a grief and bereavement counseling course to give you the basic skills to assist grieving families and loved ones. Become an expert in “green funeral services.” 56% of people expressed interest in more environmentally and cost-effective funerals, according to the NFDA.
Develop a professional network
Join one or more of the professional networks available for people in the funeral business. Here are a few national options:
- Cremation Association of North America (CANA)
- National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA)
- Association for Death Education and Counseling
- Funeral Ethics Organization
- Jewish Funeral Directors of America
Where the jobs are
Do morticians have to go to medical school?
Morticians and funeral directors can get their education at many universities and colleges; it does not require attending medical school.
How long does it take to become a mortician?
Each state has different requirements for licensed funeral directors. An associate degree program is required in some places, which averages about two years. Other states require a bachelor’s degree. An internship of one to three years is required as well before becoming certified.
Can you make a good living as a mortician?
Morticians are able to make a comfortable salary. The average salary in the United States for a mortician is $56,360. The salary depends on location and experience as well.
How can I work in a morgue?
There are several jobs available in the morgue. Morticians and funeral directors require schooling and specific licensing. If you want some experience before going through schooling, you can work as an assistant.
Are morticians and embalmers the same thing?
Morticians are typically trained in embalming. Some funeral homes have two separate positions where the embalmer prepares bodies, and the mortician is someone who works with the families and helps to plan the funerals and entire burial process.
Do morticians get days off?
Each funeral home will have its own schedule, but at least one person needs to be on call. Funeral services need to be organized quickly, so it’s important that a funeral director is available to help families within 24 hours sometimes. Vacations and days away are possible for everyone as long as there is someone that can act as backup.
What are the daily duties of a mortician?
Morticians spend their days planning all the details of a funeral, embalming, filing paperwork, and working closely with the families of the deceased. It involves working with cemeteries, pallbearers, cremation services, and relatives.
What’s the difference between a funeral director and a mortician?
Funeral directors and morticians can be interchangeable titles. In smaller places, the same person handles all the duties, but in larger funeral homes, a funeral director might handle the business side, and the mortician is the person who handles the embalming and preparing of the body.
Do morticians need to be religious?
Morticians don’t necessarily need to be religious themselves, but they need to be open to different religions. Some funeral homes are affiliated with certain religions, and others are open to all. It’s important to keep an open mind and be accepting of everyone.
Are autopsies done by morticians?
In most cases, morticians do not do autopsies. In some areas, there may not be a coroner’s office, which may happen at the funeral home. The person that performs the autopsy depends on who requests it.
What skills does a mortician need?
Morticians need to have an acute awareness of people’s feelings and an understanding of reactions. The desire to help others is the most important. It’s also important to be organized and knowledgeable about laws and regulations related to the funeral industry.
How do people become morticians?
To become a mortician, the first step is to determine your state requirements for licenses and education. Knowing that you can take steps to complete required coursework. An apprenticeship and license exam are the next steps in most places, and you can apply for open positions.