Embalming Training Programs and Requirements

In a mortuary science training program, students learn the techniques and protocols for preparing a deceased body for a funeral, with science-based courses and a direct experience internship.

Essential Information

Mortuary science training programs give students the skills necessary to perform embalming work for funeral homes and the like, as they learn about how to wash, sanitize and preserve deceased bodies, replace blood with embalming fluid and rebuild, reshape and reconstruct tissues using wax, clay, cotton and plaster. They also are trained on how to apply make-up and grooming techniques. Curriculum includes sciences, like anatomy, physiology and pathology, and a 1-3 year apprenticeship under the supervision of an experienced and licensed funeral director. Apprenticeships can be completed during or after mortuary school and expose participants to funeral planning, visitation procedures and burial ceremonies. Although most of these programs come in the form of a 2-year associate's degree, bachelor's programs are also available. There are 60 mortuary science programs accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education.

  • Program Levels: Associate's and bachelor's
  • Program Length: At the associate's level, 2 years. Apprenticeships last 1-3 years.
  • Other Requirements: The start of an apprenticeship

Associate's Degree in Mortuary Science

Associate's degree programs in mortuary science are multi-discipline to provide students with the knowledge and skills to handle the intimate and specific details surrounding death and funeral services. Examples of the various involved fields are:

  • Restorative art
  • Business management and ethics
  • Funeral law
  • Psychology
  • Grief counseling
  • Communication

Continuing Education

Licensure is required to work as an embalmer and/or funeral director in all 50 states. Some states offer umbrella licensure for both areas, while others mandate two separate licenses. In either case, applicants be at least 21 years old, have 2 years worth of formal education, complete a 1-year apprenticeship and pass the licensing examination. Over 30 states require embalmers and funeral directors to maintain licensure with continuing education credits, that can be attained through annual seminars and workshops offered by state-level associations. The National Funeral Directors Association is a professional forum for mortuary science specialists that organizes these associations.

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