Funeral directors help family members of the deceased through the funeral process, offering assistance with logistical and practical issues, such as body embalming, casket purchases, leading a service and other funeral-related tasks.
Programs in funeral services are available as graduate certificates, associate's degrees or bachelor's degrees. Associate's degree programs typically take 2 years to complete, while a bachelor's program usually takes 4 years. All educational programs include courses in the laws pertaining to this industry, customer service and practical labs, while the degree programs are more detailed and often include courses in the business and psychology of the funeral service industry. Some courses and programs are available online.
Applicants to the associate's or bachelor's degree program need a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as transcripts from previous coursework, college entrance examination scores and letters of reference.
Certificate Programs in Funeral Services
Certificate programs in funeral directing or funeral services provide students with an overview of necessary skills and practical knowledge needed for professional employment, such as basic funeral management principles and contemporary embalming methods. Certificate programs are post-secondary endeavors specifically designed to train students in various aspect of funeral science, through classroom coursework and laboratory practice. Course topics include:
- Funeral service pathology
- Restorative arts and embalming
- Funeral services management
Associate of Applied Arts in Funeral Services Program
Students gain a comprehensive education in the logistics of funeral planning, modern embalming techniques, ethical complications, contract management and funeral directing. Lectures, coursework and laboratory studies are at the heart of the program. An associate's degree program offers students the opportunity to take general-education requirements along with specific courses in the funeral services concentration, such as those discussing:
- Embalming technology
- Grief consulting
- Medical terminology
- Death and society
Bachelor of Science in Funeral Services Program
Bachelor's degree programs are intended to train students for specific career paths as funeral directors, morticians, embalmers or related roles. Funeral directors guide family members through the funeral process, helping them with logistical issues and various bereavement services. This curriculum is typically comprised of general-educational courses as well as funeral services classes. A practical lab in embalming methods is also required. Some course topics include:
- History of funerals
- The psychology of funerals
- Mortuary regulations
- Funeral home management
- Mortuaries and the law
A certificate may equip its holder to obtain an internship or entry-level employment in a funeral home. Often employers look for higher education--such as an associate's or bachelor's degree--along with some professional experience for higher positions.
According to the BLS, funeral directors are required to be licensed by the state in which they work; this entails completing some formal education, participating in an internship and passing a qualifying examination (www.bls.gov). A bachelor's degree is considered the terminal degree in funeral services and mortuary science.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Funeral directors, also known as morticians and undertakers, earned an annual average annual salary of $52,990 as of 2015, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There is a 7% expected job growth for funeral directors from 2014-2024, and those who embalm and are open to relocating may have the best opportunities, per the BLS. Also in 2015, the BLS reported that the 3,800 embalmers, who ready bodies for burial, earned an annual median salary of $40,410 per year.
Popular Career Options
Graduates holding a bachelor's degree in funeral services are able to seek internships or entry-level employment in a number of occupations, such as:
- Cemetery manager
- Casket salesman
- Funeral director
With a combination of traditional coursework and practical labs in all areas of funeral service, individuals interested in working in this field can enroll in a certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree program to gain the training and knowledge needed to work in the funeral service industry.