Morticians: A Quick Look
Median Salary $54,330 per annum
Entry-level education Associate’s degree
On-the-job training No
Primary employers Funeral homes
Number of positions (U.S.) 29,300
Job Growth (2010-2020) 18% (Average)
New positions (2010-2020) +5300

How to Become a Mortician

What does a mortician do?

A career as a mortician is more than working with the deceased and the living, it calls for the individual to be part scientist and embalmer in some cases, small business owner, counselor and even groundskeeper. You need to be prepared to deal with death and the bereaved day in and day out which doesn’t work for everyone.

This career choice also calls for sensitivity and more importantly, great time management skills. Most morticians also organize and plan out the logistics of the funerals they handle as well as any details that need sorted out. They help the families set up the dates of the services and burials, establish locations, and help them choose whether the body should be entombed, cremated or buried, often based on religious and cultural affiliations.

Duties

Mortician duties vary depending on what the job function is as well as where they are located. If your funeral home is in a small, rural community you may end up washing the hearses, cleaning the mortuary, doing the embalming, and more general duties like meeting with families, being a shoulder to cry on, just about everything it takes to run a business like this in a small town.

In metropolitan areas, especially if you own or are employed by a corporate funeral service, you’re skill level and duties will be more specialized. For example there may be a number of employees, each with their own duties, one doing the embalming, another meeting with the families and helping them prepare for and plan their loved one’s funeral, and going to the actual funeral as well with the family.

Alternative Job Titles

  • Funeral directors
  • Undertakers
  • Embalmers

How much do morticians make? The median mortician salary is $26 an hour or about $54,330 annually. The top 10% of morticians earned $98,340+ while the bottom 10% earned $29,890 or less. The mortician’s salary ranges from state to state and rural vs urban areas.

Morticians work full time and are often required to work on weekends and evenings. They are usually on call, and long working hours are not uncommon.

The position is also always in demand, and the number of jobs in this field are expected to rise nearly 18% by 2020. The employment growth for morticians reflects a boost in the number of expected deaths among the biggest portion of the population; the baby boomers. In addition, a rising number of older individuals are expected to prearrange their funeral services, meaning the need for more qualified funeral directors. Current Jobs in the U.S. amount to 23,070 jobs.

Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Funeral Directors

States With the Highest Employment for Morticians

State Employment Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Texas 1,820 $23.01 $47,850
New York 1,660 $25.68 $53,400
California 1,510 $32.63 $67,860
Florida 1,410 $24.98 $51,960
Ohio 1,130 $25.30 $52,630

Guide to Becoming a Mortician

Before beginning your path to become a mortician, you may want to call a local mortician or funeral director to ask them about their experiences. Paying a visit to the mortuary or funeral home can help you decide whether or not working with the dead is for you.

Each state has their own requirements for becoming a mortician. In states that license embalmers, an associate’s degree from an accredited Funeral Services or Mortuary Science program is required; however, in some states only a bachelor’s degree and mortuary training are required.

Some embalmers earn a degree in business, followed by a mortuary degree, while others earn a bachelor’s degree in Mortuary Science. In some states, embalmers need to be funeral directors, and in others, a funeral director is not required to become a licensed embalmer.

Look up your state’s Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers (nfda.org) to find out education requirements and accredited mortician programs as you plan on beginning your career as a mortician even before planning out your courses.

The path to becoming a mortician can begin at the high school level. Students can begin by taking chemistry and biology courses, as well as public speaking and business classes. Working part-time at a funeral home is another great option for high school and college students to get a head start into this field. In addition, aspiring morticians must complete on the job training during a 1-3 year apprenticeship with a licensed funeral director. Apprenticeships can be completed before, during, and after a Mortuary Science Associate’s degree is earned.

Educational Requirements

Morticians must have a minimum of an associate’s degree in Mortuary Science; however, more and more employers are  beginning to favor applicants who have a bachelor’s degree. The are a total of 57 ABFSE accredited mortuary science programs in the U.S. Most programs consist of 2-year associate’s degree courses offered at local community colleges. About nine of these accredited programs also offer bachelor degrees.

In all Mortuary Science programs, students take courses in

  • funeral services
  • grief counseling
  • ethics
  • business law
  • restorative and embalming techniques

Online mortuary science programs are also available, offering courses that do not require hands-on experience or labs. All programs are typically taught by experienced funeral directors and morticians who have been working in their fields for a significant amount of time.

See our listing of the top mortuary science schools & training programs

Note: Specific educational requirements required to become a mortician may vary state-by-state.

If you’re considering becoming a mortician there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, only 20% of your time will more than likely be spent with the departed, with 80% being spent helping the families get through a very difficult process so it’s important that you are a people person, and a good listener with a compassionate side.

It’s a good idea to consult with your local mortician and ask them about their job; most would be happy to answer your questions. Afterwards if you still want to pursue this time honored profession, visit the AFSBE website, browse through their many resources, and checkout schools in your area and what they have to offer; then all you need to do is choose a school and get on the road to a rewarding career as a mortician.

Certification

There are several certifications as a mortician you can attain, however most are a boost for your resume, rather than a requirement for working in the profession. The degree and experience is more important than any mortician certification however, depending on your goals and your state, pursuing certification may be worthwhile.

Licensing

All practicing morticians must be licensed in the state in which they practice. In order to get a morticians license you need to pass a state or national, exam and be 21 years of age. Mortician school programs will prepare you for this exam. Typically this is only a written test but this can vary as well. Working in numerous states may lead to additional license requirements; applicants should contact their state licensing board for more information.

All states require morticians to be licensed and licensing laws will vary by state. In order to be licensed most applicants need to:

  • As mentioned above applicants must be 21 years of age
  • Complete the 2 year AFSBE mortuary science program
  • Serve as an apprentice for 1 to 3 years
  • Pass the approved exams.

In addition, in order to keep their licenses, most states require morticians to complete continuing education credits annually.