Funeral Service Worker

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Salary Range: $40,000 to $59,999

Average Hourly: $ 27.97

Education: Associate's degree

Number of Jobs: 37500

Jobs Added to 2029: 1400

Growth: Slower than average



Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.

What Funeral Service Workers Do

Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a ceremony honoring a deceased person.

Duties

Funeral service workers typically do the following:

  • Offer counsel and comfort to families and friends of the deceased
  • Provide information on funeral service options
  • Arrange for removal of the deceased’s body
  • Prepare the remains (the deceased’s body) for the funeral
  • File death certificates and other legal documents with appropriate authorities

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 of a 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. Department of Veterans Affairs of the death.

Many funeral service workers help clients who wish to plan their own funerals in advance, to ensure that their needs are met and to ease the planning burden on surviving family members.

Funeral service workers also may provide information and resources, such as support groups, to help grieving friends and family.

The following are examples of types of funeral service workers:

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

Morticians and funeral arrangers (also known as funeral directors or, historically, undertakers) plan the details of a funeral. They often prepare obituaries 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. (Data covering workers who may assist with these tasks are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: funeral attendant.)

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

Many morticians and funeral arrangers 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. (Data covering those who specialize in this work are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: embalmers.)


Work Environment

Funeral service workers are employed in funeral homes and crematories. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are common. Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.


Work Environment Details

Funeral home managers held about 12,500 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of funeral home managers were as follows:
Death care services 80%
Self-employed workers 19

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers held about 25,000 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers were as follows:

Death care services 98%
Self-employed workers 1

Funeral services traditionally take place in a house of worship, in a funeral home, or at a gravesite or crematory. However, some families prefer to hold the service in their home or in a social center.

Funeral service workers typically perform their duties in a funeral home. Workers also may operate a merchandise display room, crematory, or cemetery, which may be on the funeral home premises. The work is often stressful, because workers must arrange the various details of a funeral within 24 to 72 hours of a death. In addition, they may be responsible for managing multiple funerals on the same day.

Although workers may come into contact with bodies that have contagious diseases, the work is not dangerous if proper safety and health regulations are followed. Those working in crematories are exposed to high temperatures and must wear appropriate protective clothing.

Work Schedules

Most funeral service workers are employed full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.


Job Outlook

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 4,000 openings for funeral service workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


How to Become a Funeral Service Worker

An associate’s degree in a funeral service or mortuary science education program is the education typically required to become a funeral service worker. Most employers require applicants to be 21 years old, have at least 2 years of formal postsecondary education, have supervised training, and pass a state licensing exam.

Education

An associate’s degree in a funeral service or mortuary science education program is typically required for all funeral service workers to enter the occupation. Courses usually cover topics such as ethics, grief counseling, funeral service, and business law. Accredited programs also include courses in embalming and restorative techniques.

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

Although an associate’s degree is typically required, some employers prefer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. Common fields of degree include mortuary science, psychology, and business.

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

Students may gain relevant experience working part-time or summer jobs in a funeral home.

Training

Those studying to be morticians and funeral arrangers must complete training, usually lasting 1 to 3 years, under the direction of a licensed funeral director or manager. The training, sometimes called an internship or an apprenticeship, may be completed before, during, or after graduating from a funeral service or mortuary science program and passing a national board exam.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states and Washington, DC, require workers to be licensed. An exception is 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 an ABFSE accredited funeral service or mortuary science education program
  • Pass a state and/or national board exam
  • Serve an internship lasting 1 to 3 years

Working in multiple states requires multiple licenses. For specific requirements, contact each applicable state licensing board.

Most states require funeral directors to earn continuing education credits to keep their licenses.

The Cremation Association of North America (CANA), International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA), and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offer crematory certification designations. Many states require certification for those who will perform cremations. For specific requirements, contact your state board or the relevant professional organizations.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Funeral home managers typically have multiple years of experience working as a funeral director or mortician before becoming managers.

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 example, 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.


United Kingdom Job Data

Source:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Funeral Service Workers, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-service-occupations.htm (visited ).