How to Become a Funeral Director

If you enjoy helping families who have suffered a loss, can communicate well and are comfortable multitasking, becoming a funeral director might be a great career for you. Members of this profession are also known as undertakers or morticians.

Job Overview
Associates Degree
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Many people think funeral directors only work when funerals are scheduled or when it’s necessary to order supplies. In reality, you could often work for long stretches, including holidays, nights and weekends.

A funeral director has many different responsibilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this individual is responsible for transporting and preparing the remains of the deceased, filling out and filing appropriate paperwork, helping plan services, dealing with a crematorium, communicating with the family of the deceased, helping people pre-plan funerals and training other staff members.

More than 90 percent of funeral directors have jobs in the funeral services industry. Some serve as instructors. The primary places where you would work are funeral homes and crematories. The military services also offer employment.

Similar Jobs

If this type of work sounds appealing, you might be interested in related careers. Among them are personnel who sell funeral supplies such as coffins, grief counselors, drivers and transporters and military mortuary technicians. Funeral homes also use the services of hairdressers and makeup artists.

Career Outlook

In 2010, there were 29,300 U.S. jobs for funeral directors, the BLS says. The agency expects jobs to increase by 5,300 between 2010 and 2020. This 18 percent increase is considered average growth.

Statistics for 2010 show median pay of $54,330 a year for this profession. This works out to $26.12 an hour.

The ultimate career goal of many funeral directors is owning a funeral home.


In order to become a funeral director, you must be at least 21 years old and licensed. While licensing laws vary by state, in general, you must complete a two-year mortuary science program and an apprenticeship that lasts between one and three years. According to eHow, some states require a four-year degree.

While most states require an apprenticeship after training, in some, you need to finish it before you begin a degree.

To become a successful funeral director, you must be a compassionate individual with excellent time management skills.

Licensing requirements vary per state. In some jurisdictions, you’ll need to pass just one board exam. Others require passing a series of tests on specific knowledge of this profession.

Continuing education is important to a licensed funeral director. More than 30 states require it, eHow adds. The training typically covers management techniques, new counseling methods, and technology updates.

Typical Education

In fulfilling state requirements for a two- or four-year degree in mortuary science, you should be sure the school you select is accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE).

This organization has the responsibility of accrediting 57 mortuary science programs. Nine of them grant bachelor’s degrees. The remainder offer two-year degrees. You can access a directory of accredited educational programs here.

Steps to Becoming a Funeral Director

The first step to entering this profession is making sure you’re prepared for a mortuary science program. If you didn’t take biology and chemistry classes in high school or if you lack public speaking skills, you should complete these prerequisites.

To find out if working in the funeral industry is a good fit, consider doing part-time work such as cleaning at a funeral home. After completing around 45 credits in funeral service courses and an appropriate apprenticeship, you’ll be ready to take a state licensing exam or exams.

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) posts a list of licensing requirements by state here. Professional organizations such as the NFDA have job boards to help in the search for your first job.

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