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Careers in Death & Dying

Death affects each person at some point in their life. This article looks at career fields that involve providing services to individuals to prepare them for their own death or to help with the death of a loved one.

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Career Options that Involve Death & Dying

There are a number of occupations in a range of career fields that involve working with individuals who are dying or handling matters related to a person's death. While some of these professionals work in religious or personal services, others specialize in healthcare, media and law.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Healthcare Social Workers $53,760 19%
Hospice Nurses $68,450 (registered nurses) 15% (registered nurses)
Clergy $45,740 8%
Funeral Service Managers $73,830 6%
Morticians $50,090 (morticians, undertakers and funeral directors) 5% (morticians, undertakers and funeral directors)
Lawyers $118,160 9%
Writers and Authors $61,240 8%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for Occupations that Involve Death & Dying

Healthcare Social Workers

Healthcare social workers focus on providing support to individuals who are dealing with a medical issue or have a family member who is ill. They also work with people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and are preparing for death. They may help these individuals make preparations for their death, or they may provide counseling to their family members. Healthcare social workers typically need a master's degree in social work to prepare for their career, and licensure or certification is also common.

Hospice Nurses

Hospice nurses specialize in providing medical care to patients who are dying. They may give patients medications and provide routine medical care. Nurses may also update patient records and alert other staff to changes in a patient's condition. In order to become a nurse, it's necessary to complete postsecondary training and earn a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing and then obtain a nursing license. Experienced hospice nurses can pursue certification in hospice and palliative care nursing, which is typically voluntary but may be preferred or required by some employers.

Clergy

Clergy are responsible for providing religious leadership to individuals. It's common for those who work in this field to have a master's degree, often in a field like theology or divinity. Clergy may lead services for individuals who have passed away. They also help to counsel members of their faith, which can involve working with individuals who are terminally ill or who have had a loved one pass away.

Funeral Service Managers

Funeral service managers are responsible for overseeing the business side of funeral homes. They ensure that they have qualified staff in place to perform all required duties. They are also responsible for connecting their facility and the services they offer to people who have died or have had a family member pass away. Funeral service workers are typically required to have an associate's degree in funeral service.

Morticians

Morticians perform a wide range of duties related to funeral planning, such as transporting deceased individuals to the funeral home, making arrangements for the funeral and embalming the deceased person's body. Their entire career centers around providing services to the families of individuals who have died or helping people plan their funeral before their death. A mortician must have an associate's degree in mortuary science or a comparable subject. Additionally, they must complete a formal internship or apprenticeship and earn licensure.

Lawyers

In order to become a lawyer, it's necessary to earn a law degree (Juris Doctor) and a law license by passing the bar exam. Lawyers can be involved with a wide range of legal services, such as representing clients in court or negotiating settlements for legal disputes. Lawyers also prepare wills for their clients. They may specifically focus on advising clients about issues related to their death or the death of a loved one.

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors use their written communication skills to produce publishable materials such as books or reports. Some writers and authors focus on publishing fiction, while others concentrate on a range of non-fiction topics. Writers and authors may opt to specialize in writing about death and dying or may address death and dying while concentrating on other topics, such as family or pet care. It's common for writers and authors to have a bachelor's degree in a subject such as English, and they must have strong writing skills to succeed in this career field.

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