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Working as a Funeral Director

What Does a Funeral Director Do

Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a funeral.

Duties  

Funeral service workers typically do the following:

  • Offer counsel and comfort to families and friends of the deceased
  • Arrange for removal of the deceased’s body
  • Prepare the remains (body)
  • File death certificates and other legal documents
  • Train junior staff

Funeral service workers help to determine the locations, dates, and times of visitations (wakes), funerals or memorial services, burials, and cremations. They handle other details as well, such as helping the family decide whether the body should be buried, entombed, or cremated. This decision is critical because funeral practices vary among cultures and religions.

Most funeral service workers attend to the administrative aspects pertaining to the person’s death, including submitting papers to state officials to receive a death certificate. They also may help resolve insurance claims, apply for funeral benefits, or notify the Social Security Administration or the U.S. Veterans Administration of the death.

A growing number of funeral service workers work with clients who wish to plan their own funerals in advance to ensure that their needs are met.

Funeral service workers also may help individuals adapt to changes in their lives following a death by providing information on support groups.

The following are examples of types of funeral service workers:

Funeral service managers oversee the general operations of a funeral home business. They perform a wide variety of duties, such as planning and allocating the resources of the funeral home, managing staff, and handling marketing and public relations.

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors plan the details of a funeral. They often prepare obituary notices and arrange for pallbearers and clergy services. If a burial is chosen, they schedule the opening and closing of a grave with a representative of the cemetery. If cremation is chosen, they coordinate the process with the crematory. They also prepare the sites of all services and provide transportation for the deceased and mourners. In addition, they arrange the shipment of bodies out of state or out of country for final disposition.

Finally, these workers handle administrative duties. For example, they often must apply for the transfer of any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.

Most morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors embalm bodies. Embalming is a cosmetic and temporary preservative process through which the body is prepared for a viewing by family and friends of the deceased.

How To Become a Funeral Director

An associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science is the typical education requirement for funeral service workers. With the exception of funeral service managers, all workers must be licensed in Washington, D.C. and every state in which they work, except Colorado which offers a voluntary certification program. 

Education

An associate’s degree in mortuary science is the typical education requirement for all funeral service workers. Courses taken usually include those covering the topics of ethics, grief counseling, funeral service, and business law. All accredited programs also include courses in embalming and restorative techniques. States have their own education requirements, and state licensing laws vary. Most employers require applicants to be 21 years old; have 2 years of formal education; serve a 1-year internship before, during, or after attending a mortuary college; and pass a state licensing exam after graduation. 

In some states, licensure for funeral directors and embalmers is separate.   

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits 58 funeral service and mortuary science programs, most of which are 2-year associate’s degree programs offered at community colleges. Some programs offer a bachelor’s degree.

Although an associate’s degree is usually adequate, some employers prefer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.

High school students can prepare to become a funeral service worker by taking courses in biology, chemistry, and business, and by participating in public speaking.

Part-time or summer jobs in funeral homes also provide valuable experience.

Training

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors must complete hands-on training, usually lasting 1 to 3 years, under the direction of a licensed funeral director or manager. The internship may be completed before, during, or after completing a 2-year funeral service or mortuary science program and passing a national board exam. Internships provide practical experience in all aspects of the funeral service.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

With the exception of funeral service managers, all workers must be licensed in Washington, D.C. and every state in which they work, except Colorado which offers a voluntary certification program. Although licensing laws and examinations vary by state, most applicants must meet the following criteria:       

  • Be 21 years old
  • Complete 2 years in an ABFSE funeral service or mortuary science program, and pass a national board exam
  • Serve an internship lasting 1 to 3 years

Applicants must then pass a state licensing exam. Working in multiple states will require multiple licenses. For specific requirements, applicants should contact each applicable state licensing board.

Most states require funeral directors and embalmers to receive continuing education credits annually to keep their licenses.

The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offer crematory certification designations. A growing number of states are requiring certification for those who will perform cremations. For specific requirements, applicants should contact their state board.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Workers increasingly are being required to have some office management experience, particularly for funeral service managers who run their own funeral home business.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Knowledge of financial statements and the ability to run a funeral home efficiently and profitably are important for funeral directors and managers.

Compassion. Death is a delicate and emotional matter. Funeral service workers must be able to treat clients with care and sympathy in their time of loss.

Interpersonal skills. Funeral service workers should have good interpersonal skills. When speaking with families, for instance, they must be tactful and able to explain and discuss all matters about services provided.

Time-management skills. Funeral service workers must be able to handle numerous tasks for multiple customers, often over a short timeframe.

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Average Salary$53,904
Job Growth Rate4%

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Average Salary for a Funeral Director

Funeral Directors in America make an average salary of $53,904 per year or $26 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $72,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $39,000 per year.
Average Salary
$53,904

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary
New York, NY
Salary Range49k - 97k$69k$69,479
Manalapan, NJ
Salary Range49k - 97k$69k$69,092
Redding, CA
Salary Range48k - 89k$66k$65,908
El Paso, TX
Salary Range46k - 83k$62k$62,432
Oak Lawn, IL
Salary Range45k - 81k$61k$60,923
Portland, OR
Salary Range43k - 79k$59k$58,654
$35k
$97k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Funeral Director
Funeral Director
Byrnes & Rupkey, Inc.
Byrnes & Rupkey, Inc.
11/11/2020
11/11/2020
$45,00011/11/2020
$45,000
Funeral Director Macon, Georgia REC
Funeral Director Macon, Georgia REC
ESR Healthcare
ESR Healthcare
10/03/2020
10/03/2020
$60,00010/03/2020
$60,000
Funeral Director
Funeral Director
Job Juncture
Job Juncture
07/26/2020
07/26/2020
$45,00007/26/2020
$45,000
Funeral Director
Funeral Director
Byrnes & Rupkey, Inc.
Byrnes & Rupkey, Inc.
06/24/2020
06/24/2020
$45,00006/24/2020
$45,000
Funeral Director
Funeral Director
Byrnes & Rupkey, Inc.
Byrnes & Rupkey, Inc.
04/17/2020
04/17/2020
$45,00004/17/2020
$45,000
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Funeral Director Demographics

Gender

male

61.1 %

female

35.6 %

unknown

3.3 %

Ethnicity

White

66.0 %

Hispanic or Latino

15.2 %

Black or African American

9.2 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

64.7 %

French

11.8 %

German

5.9 %
See More Demographics

Funeral Director Education

Majors

Business
14.2 %

Degrees

Associate

42.8 %

Bachelors

29.4 %

High School Diploma

9.0 %

Top Colleges for Funeral Directors

1. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN

In-State Tuition
$14,760
Enrollment
31,451

2. Stanford University

Stanford, CA

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

3. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

4. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

5. Point Park University

Pittsburgh, PA

In-State Tuition
$31,450
Enrollment
3,170

6. SUNY College of Technology at Canton

Canton, NY

In-State Tuition
$8,389
Enrollment
3,127

7. Maine Maritime Academy

Castine, ME

In-State Tuition
$13,478
Enrollment
979

8. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

9. California State University - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, CA

In-State Tuition
$7,309
Enrollment
9,142

10. SUNY at Binghamton

Vestal, NY

In-State Tuition
$9,808
Enrollment
13,990
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Funeral Director

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Part Time
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Top Skills For a Funeral Director

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 18.2% of funeral directors listed communication on their resume, but soft skills such as compassion and interpersonal skills are important as well.

Best States For a Funeral Director

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a funeral director. The best states for people in this position are New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Funeral directors make the most in New Jersey with an average salary of $69,133. Whereas in New York and Rhode Island, they would average $69,070 and $62,405, respectively. While funeral directors would only make an average of $62,248 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. New York

Total Funeral Director Jobs:
25
Highest 10% Earn:
$129,000
Location Quotient:
1.89
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Rhode Island

Total Funeral Director Jobs:
2
Highest 10% Earn:
$116,000
Location Quotient:
2.25
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Michigan

Total Funeral Director Jobs:
8
Highest 10% Earn:
$108,000
Location Quotient:
1.2
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Funeral Director Employers

1. Service Corporation International
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$52,741
Funeral Directors Hired: 
41+
2. StoneMor Partners L.P.
3.6
Avg. Salary: 
$46,423
Funeral Directors Hired: 
5+
3. G H Herrmann Funeral Homes
3.7
Avg. Salary: 
$31,114
Funeral Directors Hired: 
4+
4. Heritage Funeral Homes & Crematory
3.6
Avg. Salary: 
$39,348
Funeral Directors Hired: 
4+
5. Davis Homes
3.7
Avg. Salary: 
$46,550
Funeral Directors Hired: 
3+
6. Taylor Community
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$42,006
Funeral Directors Hired: 
3+

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Recently Added Funeral Director Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020