Should I Become a Funeral Arranger?
Funeral arrangers, also known as funeral directors, undertakers and morticians, handle the logistics of funeral services. They work with families to set up the dates and locations for possible cremations, religious services and burials, as well as manage funeral homes where wakes and memorial services are often held. Additionally, many funeral arrangers embalm the deceased. Compassion is needed when working with families dealing with grief, and these professionals may offer support group assistance.
Funeral arrangers carry out sensitive work under stressful conditions and must demonstrate compassion and empathy at all times. They may work long hours, including evenings and weekends, and field on-call needs as well. Time management and multitasking are important, along with computer proficiency and data management and clerical software programs. Funeral arrangers are typically skilled embalmers and knowledgeable about restorative tools and techniques. Median salary for funeral arrangers, morticians, undertakers and funeral directors was $48,490, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2015.
Steps to Becoming a Funeral Arranger
There is a firmly established sequence of education and training required for this career.
Step 1: Obtain an Associate's Degree
An individual interested in becoming a funeral arranger will need to complete a mortuary science program at a community college or mortuary college. Each state has its own educational requirements for funeral arrangers, and most require at least an associate's degree or 60 credit hours in such a program. Bachelor's degree programs are also available at a handful of 4-year colleges and universities. Many states require that one graduate from a mortuary science program accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Courses in these programs cover topics such as grief counseling, funeral service administration, ethics, embalming and restorative techniques.
Get ahead while still enrolled in the degree program. Pursue practical instruction. Experience is essential for a career in funeral arranging. For this reason, some mortuary science programs incorporate practicums into their curricula. In programs that don't offer practicums, students can pursue such real-world training on their own. For example, they could seek a part-time job at a funeral home or hospice.
Step 2: Attend an Apprenticeship
Aspiring funeral arrangers need to participate in an apprenticeship program to meet licensing requirements. These programs last from 1-3 years, depending on the requirements of the state. In some states, funeral arrangers can take this apprenticeship before or during mortuary college, though many specify that this training must be completed after postsecondary school. An apprentice prepares for the career by gaining hands-on instruction under the supervision of a licensed, experienced funeral director.
Step 3: Get Licensed
Licensing requirements vary by state but generally require that applicants, 21 or older, have completed two years of mortuary science education and have completed an approved apprenticeship program. Some states have different licensing requirements for embalmers and for funeral directors who do not conduct embalming. In such cases, a high school diploma coupled with apprenticeship training may suffice. Qualified candidates must then pass a state or national exam to obtain licensure.
Step 4: Maintain Your Credentials
Most states require funeral arrangers to receive continuing education credits to keep their licenses current. This requirement often ranges from 6-12 hours of continuing education per year. The National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association (NFDMA), for example, offers continuing education opportunities such as teleconferences, home study programs and online courses. State-specific funeral director associations may also offer local training as well as online coursework.
Step 5: Consider Certification
Funeral arrangers might increase their chances of employment and advancement by earning the Certified Preplanning Consultant (CPC) designation from the NFDMA. Additionally, many states accept obtaining the CPC designation as a form of continuing education. Candidates must be state-approved or licensed to preplan funerals. Funeral directors do not need to meet experience requirements, though non-funeral directors must have one year of preplanning experience. An applicant must then pass the certification exam to earn the CPC designation.
Join a professional organization. By joining an organization such as the NFDMA, you will have access to journals, education, speakers, and conventions that will help enhance managerial knowledge and leadership skills. Educational scholarships are also available for members.
Funeral arrangers use technical and people skills they've picked up through degree programs, apprenticeship, and state licenses to work with families preparing loved ones for burial or cremation.