How to Become a Mortician in 5 Steps (With Skills Guide)
Updated 9 July 2022
Offering mortuary services entails a wide range of activities, making it a rewarding career for multi-talented people who enjoy having a varied schedule. If you're interested in science and enjoy supporting others through challenging times, you may consider becoming a mortician. Before deciding whether being a mortician is the right career choice for you, consider the requirements and job details for easier entry into this profession. In this article, we explore what a mortician is, outline the steps on how to become a mortician and share the desirable skills, work environment and salary expectations in this field.
What is a mortician?
A mortician, also known as a funeral director, offers funerary services for deceased individuals, depending on the instructions given by their loved ones. They work with clients from various backgrounds and may provide religious and secular services, depending on client's requests. Morticians organise all aspects of a funeral, such as preparing the body and handling legal documents, easing the burden of handling these processes by their grieving clients. Some of the primary duties of a mortician include:
providing clients with burial options, such as cremation and other methods for treating the deceased body
suggesting casket designs, urns, floral arrangements and other funeral service decorations
washing, embalming and applying make-up to the body to prepare for viewing
writing funeral programs and obituaries
organising services with cemeteries and churches
counselling and comforting their grieving clients or suggesting outside resources for support
organising transportation from the reception location to the burial site
filing death certificates and submitting them to the government on their client's behalf
How to become a mortician
The following steps can help you learn how to become a mortician:
1. Get a degree in mortuary science
Although some employers may require a bachelor's degree, most states require at least an associate degree in mortuary science to qualify as a mortician. This may take two to four years, depending on the program. If you have a university degree, you can take a few supplementary classes and complete the program in an even shorter time. Although some states have some options for becoming a mortician without a degree, these programs may limit you from working freely in other states. If you move to a state with varying requirements, it might be necessary to undergo training to become licensed.
The associate and bachelor's degrees in mortuary science cover professional ethics, anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, psychology, counselling, embalming and mortuary law. Most programs also have information technology (IT) and finance courses to help prepare for funeral services' financial, technological and regulatory aspects. Your degree program may also require you to complete an internship or several hours of practice at a funeral home.
2. Learn mortuary skills with an apprenticeship
Mortician certifications typically require you to gain one to three years of practical experience via an apprenticeship. Mortuary science university programs may help connect you with funeral homes in need of apprentices. Depending on your state's requirements and schedule, you may concurrently complete your apprenticeship with your university program or may choose to enrol for an apprenticeship after you graduate.
Working as a mortician's apprentice requires you to imitate your mentor to learn how to handle mortuary activities while practising under close supervision to hone your skills. Some states specify the hours you may spend on specific responsibilities, like embalming or cremation.
Related: What Is an Apprenticeship?
3. Earn your mortuary licenses and certifications
After gaining enough experience, you can aim to receive your certification, which typically happens after passing the licensing exam in your state. Because of the varying licensing requirements, it's advised that you check for particular certifications for specific states. Many states also require having a separate Certificate IV in Embalming to become a licensed mortician. You could also consider undergoing a Certificate II in Funeral Operations or a Certificate III in Cemetery and Crematorium Operations to strengthen your application for your mortician licence.
Besides education, apprenticeship and licensing, some states and prospective employers may require a complete police background check, a valid driver's license, updated immunisation record and first aid certification.
4. Develop a relevant cover letter and resume
After gaining the required qualifications, compile an application for a position as a mortician. Your resume may include and emphasise the skills and experience you gained during your internship or apprenticeship. List your certifications and any other business, financial, technological or administrative skills you may bring to a funeral home. Your cover letter may express your passion for being a mortician and how you plan to develop your career.
Related: How to Write a Cover Letter
5. Apply for positions at funeral homes
You can start searching for work opportunities as a mortician at the funeral homes you're already familiar with, such as the ones where you performed your apprenticeship or internship. Write a letter of interest, distribute it physically to local funeral homes or search job sites for related job openings. You can also start by taking administrative or support positions at funeral homes and later search for promotion after advancing your skills and passion.
Skills for a mortician
Here are some skills that may be essential to become a successful mortician:
Attention to detail: The complexity of funerals, wakes and burials requires focus and attention to detail. Morticians handle most aspects of these events, from the floral arrangements to the burial schedule.
Time management: Morticians may plan multiple funerals at once and consistently meet deadlines. They may therefore learn how to manage their time and multi-task to ensure everything is prepared in time for the funeral date.
Customer service: Mortician's work requires them to operate closely with their grieving clients throughout the planning process. They empathise with clients through their grieving process and provide them with services that can contribute to their healing.
Communication: Planning a funeral requires morticians to communicate with third parties when scheduling the reception and coordinating with cemetery staff. Morticians typically require written and verbal communication skills to manage funerals flawlessly and make sure there's no miscommunication with scheduling.
Financial literacy: Morticians develop budgets for burial and other funeral services, such as the purchase of coffins and hearse arrangements for clients. They may use financial literacy skills to manage a budget and balance funeral services costs.
Legal knowledge: When filing documents and handling their clients' post-mortem legal issues, morticians apply their knowledge of government institutions and laws to ensure smooth processes. Every state may have different rules that morticians may follow.
Personality traits of a mortician
Below are some personality traits that may lead to an aptitude for mortuary work:
Morticians work closely with people who have just recently experienced the loss of a loved one. These professionals rely on sensing other people's emotions to guide tough conversations about death appropriately. Good morticians can naturally empathise and relate to how others feel during hard times.
Being a mortician requires being calm when under pressure and maintaining professionalism, even when working with grieving clients. Morticians also may maintain focus and remain relaxed when working with bodily fluids and corpses. The ability to remain composed when handling moments of sorrow can be an exceptional asset for anyone interested in becoming a mortician.
Interested in science
Mortuary work is mostly scientific, so it may suit you if for you to have a passion for science. Comprehending the decomposition process and the chemical compounds necessary for embalming helps you handle the technical aspects of preparing a body for a funeral properly. This also helps you avoid contracting diseases from contaminated and decomposing bodies.
Mortician work environment
Morticians mostly work in funeral homes. They spend most of their time making bodies ready for viewing and running funeral services. They also travel to the clients' designated spaces for funeral services such as homes, places of worship, cemeteries and other sites.
Morticians may also transport bodies to crematoriums or cemeteries. Since these professionals aim to deliver their services to multiple clients promptly, they may work longer shifts during the week and on weekends. Morticians are typically available for calls and may return to work areas to finish their assigned tasks based on their clients' or employers' earlier requests.
Related: Preparing for the Future of Work
Mortician average salary
The national average salary for a mortician is $53,965 per year. The salary of a mortician depends on an array of factors, such as demand, experience level and the type of funeral services they offer to clients. Morticians who run their own funeral homes may have higher earning potential than those employed at funeral homes.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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