Funeral Director Licensure and Credentialing Information

Funeral directors are licensed by their state of residence. An aspiring funeral director must take coursework in mortuary science, complete an internship, and pass a written examination to qualify for licensure. Degree programs in mortuary science provide the necessary training.

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Aspiring funeral directors can benefit from information about licensure, including exam requirements, eligibility and continuing education options, as well as pre-licensure training programs.

Funeral Director Licensure

Exam Requirements

Funeral directors must pass a state licensing examination, although in many states a passing score on the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards' National Board Examination may suffice. This exam tests knowledge in:

  • Funeral directing
  • Funeral service marketing and merchandising
  • Counseling
  • Compliance with regulations
  • Crematory and cemetery operations

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to take the examination, most states require funeral directors to hold a degree from a state-recognized mortuary college and to be at least 18 or 21 years old. A 1-year internship is also required for licensure, and in some states, students with a bachelor's degree in another field may become licensed if they complete the internship.

Continuing Education

Funeral directors are required to take continuing education courses to maintain licensure. The specific requirements may vary by state, but they typically include a certain number of hours of coursework. Continuing education courses enable funeral service directors to expand their expertise and stay current in a wide range of subjects. Options may include:

  • Ethics
  • Mortuary law
  • Preplanning basics
  • Organ donation
  • Environmentally friendly burials
  • Tissue donor restoration
  • Supporting suicide survivors

Pre-Licensure Training Requirements

Educational requirements for most states can be fulfilled through an associate degree program in mortuary science, and bachelor's degree programs are also available. Both programs require students to complete a 1- to 2-year internship. These internships are completed under the direct supervision of a licensed funeral director and provide hands-on training in funeral service, including the transportation of remains and embalming.

Many degree programs also require students to pass the National Board Examination before graduating. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58 funeral service and mortuary science degree programs are accredited as of 2017.

Mortuary Science Coursework

A 2-year Associate in Applied Science in Mortuary Science program covers a wide range of topics. In addition to general education courses, students may also take courses that cover:

  • Current trends in funeral services
  • Human anatomy
  • Mortuary law
  • Microbiology
  • Embalming
  • Restorative modeling
  • Chemistry
  • Presentation and cosmetics

A Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science program can be completed in 2 to 4 years, depending on each student's previous education. The program covers many of the same topics as associate's degree programs, as well as additional subjects, especially those related to business. Some course topics include:

  • Psychology of death and dying
  • Grief counseling
  • Mortuary management
  • Small business management
  • Business law

By earning an associate's or bachelor's degree, aspiring funeral directors can build the knowledge and skills they need for success on state licensure exams. To maintain licensure, they need to complete continuing education courses.

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