How to Become a Mortician: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a mortician. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information and experience required for starting a career in funeral direction.

Do I Want to Be a Mortician?

Morticians, more commonly referred to as funeral directors, help the families of the deceased by managing various details involved in planning a funeral. Duties include moving the body to a mortuary, preparing the remains for a ceremony, performing rites in accordance with the spiritual requirements of the family and arranging for the final disposition of the body.

The work can be stressful and emotionally taxing, and funeral service workers generally must be on call 24 hours a day. However, job prospects are predicted to be relatively stable in this career, and education requirements are minimal.

Job Requirements

Funeral directors must typically possess a minimum of an associate's degree or an equivalent number of college credits in order to meet licensing requirements. Additionally, an internship or apprenticeship is required. The following table outlines education and licensing requirements:

Common Requirements
Degree Level An associate's degree; although some states require a bachelor's degree*
Degree Field Must include funeral service education*
Licensure A state license is required; candidates must pass a state or national board licensing exam*
Experience 1-3 years of apprentice or internship work is required for licensure*
Key Skills Sensitivity, compassion and interpersonal communication skills, knowledge of laws and ethics regarding funeral service and preparation*
Additional Requirements Morticians typically must be at least 21 years old in order to obtain licensure**

Sources: *American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Step 1: Complete Education Requirements

State licensing boards that issue credentials to morticians generally have minimum education standards, which can vary from a high school diploma and completion of mortuary college to 1-2 years of college courses plus mortuary college. Some states also specify required courses, such as gerontology and computer science.

Mortuary science programs may be accredited by the ABFSE; states may require completion of an accredited program for licensing. Coursework generally includes professional ethics, anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, pathology, embalming, funeral service psychology and counseling, chemistry, restorative art, federal regulations and mortuary law.

Success Tips:

  • Take business courses. Taking business courses can benefit morticians who intend on running their own business later in their careers.
  • Take communication courses. A large part of a mortician's job is interacting with families of the deceased, which may require tactful yet effective conversational skills in order to determine families' wishes during an extremely stressful time.

Step 2: Complete an Internship or Apprenticeship

The ABFSE requires morticians to apprentice or intern for 1-3 years. The apprenticeship can be performed before, during or after the formal education process depending on state requirements. Some states require the apprentice to have an apprentice license which works like a driver's permit. Mortuary work can be performed, but only under direct guidance and supervision of an experienced professional.

Step 3: Pass a Licensing Exam

Morticians are required to pass a national licensing exam, and in some cases, a state licensing examination as well. Subjects covered in the national exam include psychology, business law, funeral service merchandising, funeral service history, microbiology, pathology, restorative arts, anatomy and embalming. Even if a mortician decides not to become an embalmer, he or she must understand the process.

Step 4: Continue Education

Many states require morticians to participate in continuing education activities in order to maintain licensure. Continuing education will enable a mortician to stay current on laws regarding funeral services as well as advancements and trends in the industry. Continuing education options are available through distance or on-site learning. Distance options include webinars, teleconferences and online coursework. On-site options include professional development courses, workshops and seminars.

Success Tip:

  • Earn voluntary designations. Voluntarily earning optional designations, such as the Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP) offered by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice can help a mortician stand out in the field and expand career options.

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