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Death is an inevitability of life. While most people prefer not to ponder this reality for too long, others make death their entire career. When a person passes, trained professionals step in to take care of the body, evaluate the terms of death, and remember the things they’ve done with their life.
There’s a lot of ways that expired humans can become regular co-workers. Below are 13 occupations that work directly with the dead.
Gravedigger. The ominous title of this job is a dead giveaway to their responsibilities. Gravediggers are a particular type of cemetery caretaker who makes way for graves in the ground by digging a hole.
They use a bulldozer-like contraption to create a final resting place. In addition to tasks associated with their job title, gravediggers also help with other cemetery tasks, like funeral preparation and grounds maintenance.
Since it’s primarily a labor job, gravediggers aren’t required to have a formal education past high school. Most of a gravedigger’s duties can be learned through on-the-job training. While they don’t directly handle the dead, gravediggers are forced to know that every time they dig a new plot, there’s a body going in it.
Salary range: $20,000-$36,000
Education requirements: High school diploma or equivalent
Cemetary caretaker. A cemetery caretaker is similar to a gravedigger, but they aren’t responsible for digging the graves. Their position is more involved in the upkeep of the cemetery over time. This includes usual groundwork maintenance, like mowing the lawn, planting flowers, and trimming any weeds.
Their caretaking tasks differ greatly depending on the time of year, but one task they always do is preparing a burial site. A gravedigger physically pulls the earth up, and the cemetery caretaker dictates where it should be placed.
Working in cemeteries gives many people the creeps. Some are anxious at the mere idea of spending their days surrounded by buried bodies. However, if you can get past that, the bulk of the position is yard work and gardening activities. Plus the occasional burial plot decision.
Salary range: $17,000-$56,000Job type you wantFull TimePart TimeInternshipTemporary
Education requirements: High school diploma or GED
Crime scene cleaner. After a tragic accident, suicide, or murder, there are hazardous remains, like blood and other bodily fluids, left behind at the scene.
These materials and anything they come in contact with is a biohazard that needs to be removed appropriately. As gnarly as that sounds, it’s the job of a crime scene cleaner.
Crime scene cleaners are brought in to remove any contamination from a violent scene and restore the area to its normal state. This could involve removing carpets, floor tiles, and sometimes even surrounding walls while wearing protective gear.
The average person can’t stomach the duties of a crime scene cleaner. They get up close and personal with the disturbing remains of dead bodies, which can be both dangerous and nauseating.
With that said, crime scene cleaners play a crucial role in saving a grieving family from the pain of seeing the aftermath of a loved one’s death.
Salary range: $18,500-$58,500
Education requirements: High school diploma or GED and on-the-job training
Embalmer. Before a person can be viewed by their family and friends one last time after passing, their body must be appropriately prepared. Death does a lot of nasty and confusing things to a body, such as rigor mortis setting in and organs decaying.
To avoid a person looking like a dead body at their funeral, an embalmer takes care of these aspects. This involves tasks like disinfecting the skin, injecting embalming fluid, applying makeup, and putting caulk inside the mouth to make the face more lively. These actions make the body appear as if it’s just a person sleeping.
Embalmers spend most of their professional life working with the dead, but their actions make an unfortunate situation a lot easier for the living to handle.
Salary range: $34,000-$64,000
Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree from a university accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education
Grief counselor. The death of a loved one can knock a person off their feet for an extended amount of time. Grief is a feeling that can quickly absorb someone’s life. Grief counselors aim to lessen the detrimental impacts of death by providing support and educated guidance to those in need.
A grief counselor speaks candidly with grieving people to work out all the emotions pumping through their body because identifying them is a step closer to understanding. They also teach their patients about healthy coping mechanisms to deal with grief to handle it better in the future.
Grief counselors are an integral piece of a person’s grieving process. They act as a soundboard for intense emotions of grief and supply worthwhile suggestions for coping. It might sound depressing to deal with grieving people every day, but it’s a job that does a lot of good in the world.
Salary range: $40,000-$65,000
Education requirements: Master’s degree in counseling
Funeral director. A funeral director handles the preparations for a funeral ceremony, but they focus much more on the grieving family than the dead body. They work in a funeral home and organize all aspects of the service.
This includes meeting with families to discuss their expectations, ordering all the materials needed for the requested services, and managing the preparations on the day of the funeral.
In addition to supervisory skills, being a funeral director requires an enormous amount of empathy and compassion for the grieving.
Salary range: $33,000-$72,000
Education requirements: At least an associate’s degree in mortuary science
Coroner. Behind every dead body is a story of how it ended up that way. Whether the person succumbed to death by natural causes, like a heart attack, or more nefarious reasons, like murder. The cause and manner of death is essential information for everyone to know. A coroner is a person who provides these details post-mortem.
A coroner can work at many different educational levels. Some coroners get a medical degree to become medical examiners and perform autopsies to determine a concrete reason for demise.
Others work with law enforcement to determine methods of death when foul-play is suspected. These coroners don’t need nearly as much schooling and usually operate at the scene of a crime by examing the outer appearance of a deceased body.
Coroners work with dead bodies to see what they have to tell about the past and provide answers to those who need them, like detectives and the family.
Salary range: $15,000-$77,000
Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a related field and coroner certifications
Crime scene investigator. While a crime scene investigator isn’t always working with the dead, it’s common in the occupation. Crime scenes come with unfortunate circumstances, and often, that means evidence is left behind as the result of a death.
It’s the responsibility of a crime scene investigator to collect and analyze all the relevant evidence that’s left behind when a crime occurs.
This evidence could include:
The findings of crime scene investigators are a pivotal part of any investigation. While it’s a job that deals with a lot of unsavory circumstances, it’s also essential in solving heinous crimes.
Salary range: $35,000-$78,000
Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree in a natural sciences field
Obituary writer. When a person passes, it’s a long-standing tradition that their life is chronicled in the form of an obituary. An obituary writer creates this document to memorialize the individual and establish a historical marker of their death for future generations.
An obituary writer is basically a journalist who deals exclusively with pieces about a deceased person’s life. This means that the job requires excellent written communication, research skills, and editing abilities.
The position demands a compassionate writing style and mindfulness of the loved ones who will read the obituary.
With an average of 8,000 people dying daily in the United States, there is more obituary writing positions out there than you might think, and they offer great job security.
Salary range: $33,000-$81,000
Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field
Crematorium technician. Nearly half of all dead people are cremated, as opposed to buried, a statistic that’s risen in recent years. This has resulted in an employment uptick for crematorium technicians.
While their responsibilities are often associated with performing the actual cremation, they also spend a lot of time interacting with the deceased person’s family.
Like most professional positions that handle the situations directly following a person’s death, crematorium technicians need to be ultra-sensitive to the feelings of their clients. Even though cremation is their business, technicians need to always keep in mind that their work involves the worst part of a grieving loved one’s life.
Salary range: $21,000-$83,000
Education requirements: High school diploma and on-the-job training
Hospice caregiver. The role of a hospice caregiver is exceptionally tough on the heartstrings, even though they don’t work directly with the dead.
Alternatively, they provide care for people who are terminally ill in the time before their death. This includes monitoring their health conditions, physically supporting them in daily tasks, and acting as emotional support.
Since they work with patients nearing their death, a big part of a hospice caregiver’s job is ensuring their comfort every step of the way. Building relationships with people to watch them pass away as a career is not meant for everyone. It requires extraordinary compassion and strength to be the hospice caregiver that a terminally ill patient needs.
Salary range: $16,000-$104,000
Education requirements: High school diploma and a CNA license
Forensic entomologist. If the sight of a spider slowly crawling up the wall sends shivers down your spine, then a career as a forensic entomologist probably isn’t for you. A forensic entomologist is a scientist who studies the insects on a corpse to determine answers about their death.
Surprisingly, there’s a lot of information that can be gathered from insects infesting a dead body.
For example, estimating the age of insects by evaluating the egg deposits in the remains can give a rough timeline to when the person probably died. Additionally, insects can allude to a geographical location of death and highlight points of trauma in the body.
It’s a niche career that requires a few years of schooling but being a forensic entomologist can bring in a six-figure salary and help provide crucial information in criminal investigations.
Salary range: $24,000-$178,000
Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree in entomology and a technician certification
Forensic pathologist. A forensic pathologist, also sometimes known as a medical examiner, is a type of physician who is specifically trained to determine a person’s cause and manner of death by conducting an autopsy.
The cause of death describes the exact reason they died and details if it was due to homicide, suicide, accident, or natural causes. Post-autopsy, forensic pathologists are required to document all of their findings in official reports.
Forensic pathologists can work in hospitals or directly with government agencies. It’s a demanding position that involves spending much more time with dead bodies than most people would enjoy.
However, forensic pathologists contribute valuable details to death investigations through their work and have the potential to receive an impressive salary and benefits.
Salary range: $58,000-$294,000
Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree, medical degree, and residency
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