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Mortician Career Guide

What is a mortician?

A mortician is a professional in the funeral industry who plays a vital role in the post-life care of deceased individuals and the emotional support of the bereaved families. They are essential in upholding the dignified treatment of those who have passed away and ensuring that the final wishes of the deceased and their loved ones are respected and fulfilled. These professionals often manage funeral arrangements, prepare bodies for burial or cremation, and help families navigate the challenging process of saying goodbye.

Their work extends beyond the practical aspects of body preparation and funeral planning; it encompasses the provision of compassionate care and guidance to those who are grieving. The role is multifaceted, requiring a unique blend of technical skill, emotional intelligence, and a deep understanding of the cultural and religious customs surrounding death and bereavement.

Duties and responsibilities

Morticians are responsible for a range of services related to end-of-life care and funeral preparations. They work on embalming, which is the preservation and sanitization of the body, a process that allows for a more extended period before burial or cremation and for public viewings. They also arrange the details of the funeral service, working closely with the deceased’s family to determine the specifics, such as the type of service, the location, and any special customs to be included.

Additionally, they are tasked with administrative duties like filing death certificates and other legal documentation. These professionals must also manage the logistics of transporting the body, setting up the venue for the service, and coordinating with cemeteries or crematoriums. The role can also extend to providing grief counseling or resources for bereavement support to family members.

Work environment

The work environment of a mortician is diverse and can include funeral homes, crematories, morgues, and sometimes hospitals or places of worship. A significant portion of their work involves being indoors, particularly within the preparation room where they embalm and dress the deceased and in arrangement offices where they meet with families.

They are often exposed to chemicals used in embalming and must adhere to strict health and safety regulations. Due to the sensitive nature of their work, they must maintain a professional demeanor, a high degree of discretion, and a comforting presence for grieving families.

Typical work hours

Morticians often work irregular hours, as death can occur at any time, and families may need services outside of standard business hours. They may be required to be on call during evenings, weekends, and holidays to respond to new cases or to continue preparations for upcoming services. Their schedules can be unpredictable and may vary greatly from week to week, depending on the number of cases they handle.

Extended hours can be common, especially in smaller facilities where they might be one of a few or the sole professional managing all aspects of the funeral service. Despite the challenging hours, their work is of immense value, providing care and closure for those experiencing loss.

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 toward a bachelor’s degree, and you’ll be set for any location. 

Step 2: Learn the state requirements

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 and 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.

Highest paying states

  • Delaware – $79,870
  • Minnesota – $77,460
  • New Hampshire – $73,920
  • New York – $71,030
  • Massachusetts – $70,670

Browse mortician salary data by market

Top skills for morticians

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a mortician.

Technical proficiency in mortuary science

These professionals must have a comprehensive understanding of mortuary science, including embalming, restorative techniques, and cremation processes. Proficiency in these areas is crucial for the preparation and presentation of the deceased for viewing and burial. This ensures that all health regulations are adhered to and that the wishes of the family and the deceased are respectfully honored.

Empathy and compassion

Interacting with people who are grieving requires a high level of empathy and the ability to offer comfort and support. They must be able to understand and respond to the emotional needs of families, providing a compassionate service that helps ease their burden during a difficult time. This emotional intelligence is vital in creating a trusting relationship with the family and facilitating a healing experience.

Business management

Many morticians are responsible for the administrative and business aspects of funeral services. This includes managing finances, filing death certificates and other paperwork, and maintaining compliance with state and federal laws. Effective business management ensures that the establishment operates efficiently and provides a high standard of service.

Communication skills

Strong communication skills are essential, as they need to convey information clearly and sensitively to bereaved families. These professionals must be adept at discussing funeral arrangements, explaining services and options, and handling any questions or concerns the family might have. Being a good listener is just as important, as it helps them understand the needs and desires of the family.

Attention to detail

Morticians must pay close attention to detail when preparing the deceased and organizing funeral services. This can range from ensuring that the deceased’s appearance is as the family wishes to overseeing the logistics of the funeral process itself. Accuracy and meticulousness in every aspect of the job are essential to honor the memory of the deceased and meet the family’s expectations.

Mortician career path

The path typically begins with education; aspiring morticians often complete an associate’s degree in mortuary science, and some states require a bachelor’s degree. Following education, an apprenticeship under a licensed mortician is usually the next step, where one gains hands-on experience in funeral service operations.

Upon obtaining the necessary licensure, which involves passing a national or state exam and meeting other state-specific requirements, individuals can start working as a funeral director or mortician. In this role, you are tasked with coordinating funeral services, preparing the deceased for burial or cremation, and offering comfort and guidance to the bereaved families.

With experience, they can move on to more senior roles, such as funeral home manager or owner, where they take on additional responsibilities like overseeing business operations, marketing services, and managing staff. Specializing in areas such as grief counseling or embalming can provide further professional development opportunities.

For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, owning a funeral home is a common aspiration and can be achieved by starting a business or purchasing an existing establishment. Additionally, some professionals choose to focus on the educational side, teaching in mortuary science programs, or move into more specialized roles within the field, like forensic pathology assistance, provided they have the required education.

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

Employment trends for morticians and funeral directors are projected to grow by about 3% through 2032. 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

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 mortician jobs are

Top states

  • Indiana
  • Oregon
  • Arizona
  • Pennsylvania
  • Alabama

Top job sites

  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • ZipRecruiter
  • Careerbuilder
  • Monster


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. 

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 the 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 they are available to help families within 24 hours sometimes. Vacations and days away are possible for everyone as long as there is someone who 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 who 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.