Are you comfortable with death? Do you wonder why others are always so afraid of 'dark' things like cemeteries and biological remains? If so, you may be cut out for a career in the mortuary sciences. Not everyone is; but those who are tend to be smart and resilient individuals possessing both business sense and 'emotional intelligence' with respect to others - namely, the bereaved.
Mortuary science demands a great deal of patience. Students and workers in this field get asked a lot of questions by curious bystanders. Conservative dress codes that frown on tattoos and loud fashion statements are common. This point underscores the importance of respect for traditions, ceremonies and religious beliefs as a funeral services provider. Discretion is key.
What do funeral directors do? Funeral directors, traditionally called 'morticians' or 'undertakers,' arrange for the transport of human remains from sites-of-death; embalm and recover bodies; arrange visitations; and direct funeral services. They may also coordinate merchandise sales like caskets and urns, make cremation referrals and assist clients with services like grief counseling.
Cremations are on the rise and traditional funerary services are in decline, a trend that has been slowing overall growth. However, the aging American population will drive more business to small and large operations alike in the coming years. Thus, moderate long-term growth in this field is expected.
All programs should be accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education, or ABFSE. ABSFE is the only legitimate accrediting agency for this discipline in the United States. A large number of ABFSE-accredited schools are two-year community college programs that supply associate degrees to graduates.
To become licensed, prospective directors must become familiar with the specific regulations for their state. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) maintains a complete list of state board licensing requirements. Most states want funeral directors to have a formal education, a documented apprenticeship or internship, and passing scores on the NBE or an equivalent state examination.
The NBE, or National Board Examination, is administered by the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards (ICFSEB). The NBE is graded on a pass/fail basis; passing scores are released to the student's desired state-of-practice. Additional state-specific exams may also be required.
Many states are quite specific about the order in which postsecondary education, vocational education, internships, certification and licensure must occur. Others - like Colorado - do not license funeral service providers at all. It is wise to check on these benchmarks prior to enrolling in a mortician school.
Do you have to go to college to become a funeral director? In most cases, yes, although it ultimately depends on the state. The classroom career of an aspiring mortician often lasts about two years, frequently in a associate-level degree-granting program at a community college. In some states, licensure candidates must earn both a postsecondary education and a diploma from mortuary school.
A mortuary science curriculum covers a variety of science, business management, law and ethical topics. Students are also exposed to a selection of social sciences, including parts of history, sociology and psychology applicable to industry subjects-of-interest, like grief and bereavement counseling. Some educational programs require criminal background checks prior to admission.
Quality programs will enable graduates to master the National Board Exam, or NBE. Following formal classroom instruction, a registered, supervised resident training program, lasting one year in some states and two years in others, follows the completion of coursework and passage of the NBE. This is referred to as an internship or apprenticeship.
The apprenticeship is a good opportunity to discover if this career is really for you. Many states like students to complete two years as apprentices before they commit to the profession. Note that interns, assistants, apprentices or trainees may also require special licensing in some states, such as Illinois and Indiana.
Mortuary science students aim to acquire the primary CFSP - Certified Funeral Service Practitioner - credential through the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice (APFSP). How do students earn this professional certification? Following the completion of an academic program, graduates will need to apply for membership with the APFSP. Once accepted, members will need to complete 180 hours of educational activities, equivalent to 18.0 CEUs.
Practitioners can earn their credits in one of four categories: Academic, Professional Funeral Service, Public Education and Service, and Career Review - the latter allowing candidates to submit any qualifying work accomplished post-licensure prior to joining the APFSP. Once certified, CFSPs will need to earn continuing education credits as they practice.
An adequate funerary program confers at least an associate's degree or the equivalent in credit hours. The most common degree at this level is the Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science.
According to the ABFSE, students should look for programs that offer at least 45 hours targeted specifically at mortuary science. There should be at least 60 total semester hours of academic coursework, one-fourth of which should focus on general education.
Many states require students to complete not only a mortuary program but also a non-vocational postsecondary education. Some students choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science in order to simultaneously qualify for state licensure and increase the odds of success in a field with relatively low compensation for entry-level workers.
The central area of specialization in this field is embalming, the practice of preserving, recovering and cosmetically altering human remains prior to visitation and burial. Different states have varying expectations with respect to the art and science of embalming. Some states, for instance, want each Funeral Director to be a certified Embalmer; others license the two positions separately.
Aside from Embalming, here are some common secondary certifications:
- Death Care Consultant
- Funeral Preplanner
- Burial Association Agent
- Certified Preplanning Consultant
- Certified Crematory Operator
- Forensic/Autopsy Mortician
We found 58 schools offering mortuary science degree programs in the U.S.
|American Academy Mcallister Institute of Funeral Services||New York||NY||146|
|Arapahoe Community College||Littleton||CO||7436|
|Arkansas State University - Mountain Home||Mountain Home||AR||916|
|Bishop State Community College||Mobile||AL||4058|
|Carl Sandburg College||Galesburg||IL||3220|
|Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science||Cincinnati||OH||144|
|City Colleges of Chicago - Malcolm X College||Chicago||IL||8638|
|Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service||Houston||TX||147|
|Cuny La Guardia Community College||Long Island City||NY||11778|
|Dallas Institute of Funeral Service||Dallas||TX||138|
|Delgado Community College||New Orleans||LA||12784|
|Delta College||University Center||MI||9358|
|East Mississippi Community College||Scooba||MS||2534|
|Fayetteville Technical Community College||Fayetteville||NC||8310|
|Ferris State University||Big Rapids||MI||9847|
|Fine Mortuary College||Norwood||MA||58|
|Gogebic Community College||Ironwood||MI||1106|
|Grand Rapids Community College||Grand Rapids||MI||13400|
|Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service||Decatur||GA||278|
|Holmes Community College||Goodman||MS||3022|
|Hudson Valley Community College||Troy||NY||9304|
|Jefferson State Community College||Birmingham||AL||5652|
|John A Gupton College||Nashville||TN||36|
|John Tyler Community College||Chester||VA||5238|
|Kansas City Kansas Community College||Kansas City||KS||5238|
|Lynn University||Boca Raton||FL||2034|
|Mercer County Community College||West Windsor||NJ||7751|
|Mesa Community College||Mesa||AZ||22821|
|Miami Dade College||Miami||FL||46834|
|Mid - America College of Funeral Service||Jeffersonville||IN||36|
|Milwaukee Area Technical College||Milwaukee||WI||14296|
|Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College||Perkinston||MS||8768|
|Mount Ida College||Newton||MA||1196|
|Mt Hood Community College||Gresham||OR||8556|
|Nassau Community College||Garden City||NY||19621|
|Northampton County Area Community College||Bethlehem||PA||4797|
|Northwest Mississippi Community College||Senatobia||MS||4776|
|Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science Inc||Pittsburgh||PA||119|
|Point Park University||Pittsburgh||PA||2816|
|Saint Louis Community College - Forest Park||Saint Louis||MO||6749|
|San Antonio College||San Antonio||TX||19253|
|Simmons Institute of Funeral Service Inc||Syracuse||NY||71|
|Southeastern Community College||West Burlington||IA||2537|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale||Carbondale||IL||22552|
|St Petersburg College||Clearwater||FL||19900|
|Suny College of Technology at Canton||Canton||NY||2126|
|The Community College of Baltimore County||Dundalk||MD||18168|
|University of Arkansas Community College - Hope||Hope||AR||1176|
|University of Central Oklahoma||Edmond||OK||14099|
|University of Minnesota - Twin Cities||Minneapolis||MN||45481|
|Wayne State University||Detroit||MI||30408|