How to Become a Funeral Attendant in 5 Steps (With Skills)
Updated 29 March 2023
A funeral attendant, also known as a funeral assistant or a funeral director's assistant, typically works alongside a funeral director to arrange and manage funeral ceremonies. This profession is commonly a starting point for a more advanced position, such as that of a funeral director. Learning what to expect from the role can help you get a job as a funeral attendant more easily. In this article, we explain how to become a funeral attendant, describe their primary duties, discuss their skills and provide information about their earnings and job outlook.
How to become a funeral attendant
If you want to learn how to become a funeral attendant, explore the following steps:
1. Complete your compulsory education
Being largely an entry-level role, the position of funeral attendant rarely has any specific education requirements, but employers in this field may prefer individuals who've completed Year 10. Meeting this requirement may demonstrate a work ethic and degree of intelligence that employers often seek in their ideal candidates.
2. Consider earning a certificate
Formal qualifications are usually optional for working in the funeral services industry. While employers are unlikely to require them, they can certainly improve your ranking among the candidates for a funeral attendant position. Consider the following nationally recognised qualifications, which only registered training organisations can provide:
Certificate II in Funeral Operations
The target audience for Certificate II are individuals who work under supervision in a funerary setting, performing or assisting in the following duties:
transferring remains or coffins/caskets
operating and maintaining vehicles at a funerary establishment
conducting funeral ceremonies
providing support in funerary administration and operations
maintaining cemetery grounds and structures
Funeral attendants and cemetery workers are the two principal positions to which this qualification applies.
Certificate III in Funeral Operations
Certificate III is for funerary employees who perform support activities but exercise some degree of autonomy. They may assist in body preparation tasks and ceremony conduction under the supervision of a funeral director but also work on their own, contributing to burial sales activities and related responsibilities. With this qualification, you may be eligible for higher-level roles, such as a funeral consultant, mortuary assistant or assistant funeral director.
3. Develop your skills
A funeral attendant's job typically emphasises demonstrable abilities over credentials and experience, so developing relevant skills can give you the best chances of entering the profession. Employers in this field commonly value competencies such as communication, organisation and interpersonal qualities. Work on improving such skills through techniques such as mindfulness in your activities, conscious planning and regular socialisation.
4. Contact a funeral home
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
The Australian Funeral Directors Association recommends contacting local funeral homes to learn what qualities would optimise your potential to find employment as a funeral attendant. As funeral directors are typically the ones that make final decisions on new hires, they can provide you with insight that you can use to your advantage. Apply their advice to your application documents to increase your appeal to potential employers. Also, consider asking them about the current or future availabilities at their funeral home.
5. Seek opportunities online
If none of the local funeral homes are hiring, search for opportunities online via job search sites or industry-specific boards. Typically, you can specify your search by criteria such as location, education level and desired salary. When you find a listing that interests you, read the job description carefully to determine how well you match the employer's conception of the ideal candidate. Use keywords from the listing in your application documents to demonstrate your alignment with the employer's values.
What does a funeral attendant do?
A funeral attendant typically assists in the tasks necessary to perform funeral arrangements and ceremonies. Their responsibility is usually to ensure that a ceremony proceeds smoothly and within the specifications of the bereaved. Working closely with the mortician, cemetery staff, crematorium staff and any religious figures, they perform a variety of tasks aiming to minimise the stress that people experience during a funeral. Their duties may include the following:
speaking with the family and associates of the deceased to guide them through funeral arrangements, such as selecting the type of service and coffin
collecting the deceased from the morgue, hospital or place of death
preparing the facility for the funeral, which involves cleaning the reserved room, setting up chairs and decorating the space with flowers, photos and other ornamentations
preparing the body and casket for the wake or funeral
moving the casket from the morgue to the reserved room for viewing
escorting mourners into the chapel or the reserved room
distributing and gathering tribute and attendance cards
driving hearses or mortuary vans
standing in as a pallbearer when necessary
ensuring the issuance and processing of all legal documents, including death certificates and cremation certificates.
Important skills for funeral attendants
Here are skills that can help you succeed as a funeral attendant:
Active listening refers to the practice of giving your complete attention to a speaker, monitoring for both verbal and non-verbal cues and providing appropriate feedback or cues in return. An active listener demonstrates an attentiveness that can help the speaker feel important and at ease. As a funeral attendant, you frequently converse with individuals experiencing grief, which can hinder their ability to convey ideas accurately and cause them to feel vulnerable. Applying active listening skills can ensure that you fully understand the wishes of the bereaved while guiding them through a difficult situation.
Communication is the ability to express ideas and convey messages in a way that others can easily understand. When carrying out the duties of a funeral attendant, both verbal and written communication may be important. For example, you may speak directly with the relatives of the deceased, so a strong communicative ability can help you express yourself appropriately and professionally. You can also expect to make arrangements with funerary professionals and vendors, such as florists. This typically involves interactions via telephone and email.
Compassion is a personality trait that involves feeling empathy and genuine concern for others. Working with grieving individuals, funeral attendants regularly exercise compassion by making sure that the family and friends of the deceased feel comforted. Though compassion is a trait, you can still develop it as you would a skill. Making a conscious effort to be more mindful and present can greatly strengthen this quality in you.
A person with critical thinking skills can objectively observe and analyse a situation, interpret it and come to a fair conclusion. Funeral attendants often require this ability during the early stages of funeral arrangements. While speaking with the bereaved about the ceremony, an attendant usually gathers information through active listening and guides the family and associates towards options that can best meet their needs. In this way, they can be a reliable steward for individuals who may not be familiar with the intricacies of funeral planning.
Interpersonal skills are abstract qualities that can allow a person to have effective, pleasant or meaningful interactions with others. As a funeral attendant, you typically work with a variety of people, such as the friends and families of the deceased, vendors and funerary professionals. Having excellent interpersonal skills may help you to provide them with great service and develop lasting professional relationships.
Organisation and time management
Organised people can approach their tasks systematically and complete them in a timely and thorough manner. Funeral attendants typically carry out various duties, so the ability to keep all their tasks and records in order is important. Good organisation closely relates to the ability to manage your time effectively. With well-developed time management skills, you can make sure that the various elements of a funeral ceremony are in place at the right moment.
Salary and job outlook for funeral attendants
Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
The National Skills Commission (NSC) keeps employment data about funeral workers, the broad category that includes funeral attendants. According to the NSC, the average funeral assistant salary is $1,356 per week. It's important to note that full-time funeral attendants typically work an average of 45 hours per week and that 71% of these professionals work full time. With that in mind, the wages for this profession amount to $34 per hour.
The NSC also expects the field of funeral workers to grow by 5.7% between 2021 and 2026. This qualifies as moderate growth. By the most recent count, the number of funeral workers totalled 3,200 in 2021. By 2026, the NSC expects this number to reach 3,300.
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