Students of mortuary science associate's degree programs gain knowledge of human anatomy and learn fundamental procedures for working with deceased human bodies. Students might obtain more comprehensive education in a bachelor's-level program in mortuary science. Business aspects of the funeral industry and the psychology of the grief-stricken are emphasized. Students also learn about cremation and restorative art. Training programs are less commonplace today than they once were.
Regardless of program choice, applicants are required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Internships may be offered in both the associate's and bachelor's degree programs.
Associate's Degree Programs in Mortuary Science
Mortuary science is the study of funeral work, deceased human bodies, and posthumous preparation and treatment. Students are prepared to work with the deceased in funeral homes, hospitals, medical centers, and schools.
The coursework in an associate's degree program in mortuary science is usually centered on basic biological knowledge of the human body and posthumous treatment of the body. There are also a handful of classes that deal with grief, as well as business practices. One might expect to take classes such as:
- Human anatomy
- Embalming theory
- Managing a mortuary
- Modern funeral practices
- Funeral service marketing
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Mortuary Science
In a bachelor's degree program in mortuary science, a standard liberal arts curriculum is combined with the study of human anatomy and the treatment of the deceased. The program involves an in-depth study of the funeral business and the psychology of people who are in mourning. This approach prepares students for a future as mortuary science professionals. Examples of courses in the program include:
- Business law
- Funeral service history
- Fundamentals of cremation
- Restorative art
- Counseling and grief psychology
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an annual median wage of $52,650, in 2018, for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors. Job projections were strong, particularly for licensed morticians with the ability to embalm and the willingness to relocate. The BLS projected that there would be 4% growth in employment opportunities between 2018 and 2028 for occupations in the funeral service industry, which is as fast as average compared to all occupations.
Many states require that graduates hold a 4-year degree in mortuary science in order to gain employment. Entry-level positions are available as:
- Mortician/funeral director
- Forensic investigator
Training Program Options
In the past, degree programs were not necessary to become a mortician or funeral director. This was often accomplished through an apprenticeship or internship at a funeral home. However, this has become increasingly rare as apprenticeship and hands-on experience are typically gained through associate's and bachelor's degree programs. Today, it is mandatory in almost all states to attain a degree in mortuary science in order to become a licensed professional.
Aspiring funeral directors and morticians can pursue either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in mortuary science. Common courses include studies of human anatomy, embalming and cremation, funeral business history and grief psychology. Most states require that degree programs be completed in order to become licensed professionals.