Training to become a funeral cosmetologist is available at both the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. In these programs, topics like embalming, counseling, biology, and ethics are addressed. Laboratory experience is a common part of the curriculum. Students can typically enter these programs after earning a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Although each state has different requirements, most programs feature a combination of classroom education and practical experience in order to qualify for professional licensing exams. Bachelor's programs include both classroom instruction and lab experience. Students learn ways to prepare a body for viewing in a funeral ceremony using plaster, wax, and cosmetics to restore the face and body of the deceased.
Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science
A funeral director or mortician is responsible for handling all ceremonial and practical aspects of a funeral or memorial service in accordance with the wishes of the decedent and his or her family. Students in an associate's degree program in mortuary science learn a variety of skills in the sciences, grief counseling, embalming techniques, and business skills.
Funeral cosmetology is usually taught in combination with restorative art. Students learn how to prepare a body for viewing in a casket, how to mend or disguise trauma to the body, and how to use cosmetics to restore a life-like appearance to the face. Students also learn about legal aspects of the funeral industry such as the laws surrounding disposition of the body, tax status, and death certificates.
Mortuary science students may take courses in:
- Human anatomy, physiology, and biology
- Business law and ethics
- Funeral service law
Bachelor of Science in Funeral Home Management
Funeral industry professionals returning to complete a degree or students interested in studying a broad liberal arts education while preparing for a career might be interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree in mortuary or funeral home management. There are fewer than ten programs accredited by the ABFSE in the U.S. that grant a Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science.
In addition to the core set of courses for the profession, students are required to complete a full selection of general education courses in the humanities, business, and social science. Typical coursework in the funeral home management curriculum can include:
- Body presentation and cosmetics
- Psychology of grief
- Small business management
- Embalming science
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of funeral directors was expected to increase as fast as the national average for all other occupations, at 5%, between the years 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Opportunities were expected to be best for those employees who had a broad education and who had skills in multiple areas of the industry, such as a funeral director with both management and embalming skills. The BLS also reported that as of 2015, the median annual wage of a funeral director was $48,490.
Popular Career Choices
Students interested in funeral cosmetology might specialize in embalming of the deceased. Other career options in the funeral industry include:
- Hearse driver
- Grief counselor
- Funeral arranger
- Cremation technician
Continuing Education Information
While every state in the U.S. requires funeral directors to be licensed, the actual requirements vary; students should check the necessary requirements with their state departments. Graduates of a program accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) are usually required to meet a minimum age requirement and complete an internship or apprenticeship in order to qualify to take the licensing exam. Some states may require separate licenses for funeral directors and embalmers.
An associate's degree in mortuary science and a bachelor's degree in funeral home management are two possible routes someone interested in pursuing a career as a funeral cosmetologist or funeral director can take. Both programs combine coursework with practical experiences.