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.

Should I Become a Mortician?

Morticians, more commonly referred to as funeral directors or undertakers, help 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, including evenings and weekends. Morticians who work in crematories must where protective clothing to protect against high temperatures.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree; some employers prefer a bachelor's
Degree Field Mortuary science
Licensure Licensure required for funeral directors and embalmers
Training 1 to 3 years apprenticeships typically required by employers
Key Skills Compassion, interpersonal, business and time-management skills, knowledge of laws and ethics regarding funeral service and preparation
Salary $40,356 per year (2015 median salary for all morticians)

Sources: American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), (August 2015)

Step 1: Complete Education Requirements

State licensing boards that issue credentials to morticians require candidates have an associate's degree. Most mortuary science programs accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) are associate's degrees; although, a few are bachelor's programs. 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, which may require tactful yet effective conversational skills in order to determine families' wishes during an extremely stressful time.

Step 2: Complete an Apprenticeship

The ABFSE requires morticians to apprentice for 1 to 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. Mortuary apprentice can perform work only under direct guidance and supervision of an experienced professional.

Step 3: Pass a Licensing Exam

Morticians are required to pass a state licensing examination. Candidates must be at least 21 years of age and have already completed an accredited 2-year degree and apprenticeship program to be eligible for licensure. Subjects covered in the national exam include psychology, business law, funeral service merchandising, funeral service history, microbiology, pathology, restorative arts, anatomy and embalming. Some states issue the funeral director and embalmer license separately.

Step 4: Maintain Licensure

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. 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.

Related to How to Become a Mortician: Education and Career Roadmap

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools