Funeral Services And Mortuary Science

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.

About Mortuary Science


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.

Educational Options in Mortuary Science

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.

Primary Certification

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.

Associate Degrees

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.

Bachelor Degrees

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.

Secondary Certifications

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

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We found 58 schools offering mortuary science degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 58 Funeral Services And Mortuary Science Colleges in the U.S.

Mortuary Science Schools By Total Enrollment

Miami Dade College
Miami, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 46834

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Minneapolis, MN  |  Total Enrollment: 45481

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI  |  Total Enrollment: 30408

Degrees Offered: Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
Mesa Community College
Mesa, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 22821

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Carbondale, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 22552

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
Cypress College
Cypress, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 21361

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
St Petersburg College
Clearwater, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 19900

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Nassau Community College
Garden City, NY  |  Total Enrollment: 19621

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Associate's
San Antonio College
San Antonio, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 19253

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
The Community College of Baltimore County
Dundalk, MD  |  Total Enrollment: 18168

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Associate's

Browse All 58 Colleges With Mortuary Science Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Amarillo College Amarillo TX 8422
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem PA 4797
Ferris State University Big Rapids MI 9847
Jefferson State Community College Birmingham AL 5652
Lynn University Boca Raton FL 2034
Suny College of Technology at Canton Canton NY 2126
Southern Illinois University Carbondale Carbondale IL 22552
John Tyler Community College Chester VA 5238
City Colleges of Chicago - Malcolm X College Chicago IL 8638
Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science Cincinnati OH 144
St Petersburg College Clearwater FL 19900
Cypress College Cypress CA 21361
Dallas Institute of Funeral Service Dallas TX 138
Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service Decatur GA 278
Wayne State University Detroit MI 30408
The Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk MD 18168
University of Central Oklahoma Edmond OK 14099
Gannon University Erie PA 3377
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville NC 8310
Carl Sandburg College Galesburg IL 3220
Nassau Community College Garden City NY 19621
Holmes Community College Goodman MS 3022
Grand Rapids Community College Grand Rapids MI 13400
Mt Hood Community College Gresham OR 8556
University of Arkansas Community College - Hope Hope AR 1176
Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service Houston TX 147
Gogebic Community College Ironwood MI 1106
Mid - America College of Funeral Service Jeffersonville IN 36
Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City KS 5238
Arapahoe Community College Littleton CO 7436
Schoolcraft College Livonia MI 9016
Cuny La Guardia Community College Long Island City NY 11778
Mesa Community College Mesa AZ 22821
Miami Dade College Miami FL 46834
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee WI 14296
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis MN 45481
Bishop State Community College Mobile AL 4058
Arkansas State University - Mountain Home Mountain Home AR 916
John A Gupton College Nashville TN 36
Delgado Community College New Orleans LA 12784
American Academy Mcallister Institute of Funeral Services New York NY 146
Mount Ida College Newton MA 1196
Fine Mortuary College Norwood MA 58
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston MS 8768
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
East Mississippi Community College Scooba MS 2534
Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia MS 4776
Briarwood College Southington CT 518
Simmons Institute of Funeral Service Inc Syracuse NY 71
Hudson Valley Community College Troy NY 9304
Delta College University Center MI 9358
Vincennes University Vincennes IN 9169
Southeastern Community College West Burlington IA 2537
Mercer County Community College West Windsor NJ 7751
Worsham College Wheeling IL 137