Morticians have a great many duties, but their primary job responsibilities are to help families with funeral planning, prepare bodies for burial and cremation, manage legal paperwork and documents, and aid grieving loved ones who are trying to make difficult end-of-life decisions. Also known as funeral directors or undertakers, morticians work in funeral homes and crematories, and many get into this profession as part of a family business. The process, age requirements, and education and training required to become a mortician vary from country to country and even within regions, so if you are looking into becoming a mortician, you will have to determine the requirements where you wish to practice.
Part 1 of 2:Obtaining Education and Certification
1Complete your high school education. This is important regardless of whether your state or province requires you to have post-secondary education to become a mortician. If you weren't able to complete your high school education or its equivalent, take the GED (general educational development) examination.
A GED is a certification that indicates you have secondary school equivalency standing, and there are preparation courses you can take if you think you might need to brush up on some subjects.
2Learn the specific requirements in your area. There are many different requirements for becoming a mortician, and they vary greatly depending on where you live. In the United States, the National Funeral Directors Association website has all the requisite information available for each state, but in general, the requirements may include:
An age minimum, which is usually 21 in the United States and 18 in Canada.
Post-secondary education or a diploma program from an accredited school.
Certification, which is achieved by passing the necessary state or provincial exams.
The completion of an apprenticeship.
Licensing, which is often the final step of the process.
Also take note of regions that differentiate between embalmers and funeral directors, as the educational and apprenticeship requirements can differ from each other in those states.
3Take the necessary courses. The most common post-secondary schooling requirement to become a mortician is either an associate's or bachelor's degree in mortuary science. These programs generally take two to four years. Some states require between 30 and 60 semester hours at a college, university, or school that's accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Mortuary science courses will teach you about:
Embalming and restoration
Chemistry, anatomy, pathology, and microbiology
Psychology, ethics, and grief counseling
Business and business law
Funeral service practices and traditions
4Pass the exams. Most states and provinces require students to pass state, provincial, or national exams to become morticians, and a few states require both exams.
In the United States, the national and state exams are administered by the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards.
In Canada, students may have to pass a provincial licensing or legislation exam.
5Find an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship or internship with a licensed mortician may last anywhere between one and three years, depending on where you live. Some states allow you to work during school, while others require that the apprenticeship comes after graduation. During your apprenticeship, you may have to accumulate:
Participation in a certain number of funeral services.
An allotted number of hours spent working or volunteering at a funeral home.
A specific number of embalmings you must perform under supervision.
Keep detailed records of the hours you put in and the services you perform during your apprenticeship, as you may need to submit this information to get your license.
6Get licensed. Most states and provinces require licensing for morticians, and you can usually apply for this after taking the necessary training, passing the exams, and completing your apprenticeship.
There are some states, such as Colorado, that have no real requirements for becoming a mortician, but they do have a voluntary certification program in place.
7Take continuing education courses. Many areas require that morticians participate in a certain number of continuing education hours per year in order to maintain their licenses. Some of the time requirements for different areas include:
Six to 12 hours per year
Eight to 12 hours every two years
Training courses for HIV/AIDS
Part 2 of 2:Finding Employment
1Understand the skills required. Being a mortician requires you to assist people at the most difficult time in their lives, and it demands patience, dedication, compassion, and communication skills. Time management and organizational skills are also an asset, because you will have to manage multiple clients at once. Other skills that an employer will look for include:
Attention to detail
Open-mindedness toward other cultural practices
Having a dignified and respectful manner
Being sensitive and emotionally stable
2Meet the other requirements. Your state, province, or potential employer may require you to meet some non-academic requirements before you can work as a mortician. These include, but are not limited to:
Having updated immunization records
Submitting to a police or criminal background check
Holding a valid driver's license
Being certified to perform CPR or First Aid
3Prepare your resume and cover letter. Before you even have a chance to meet a potential employer, you'll have an opportunity to make your best first impression through your cover letter and resume. These documents should be professional, concise, relevant, and customized for each potential employer. Without being repetitive, include details about:
Your training and education
What knowledge and experience you have that are specific to the funeral industry
What makes you an excellent and unique candidate
4Apply for jobs. Because of the aging population bubble, the funeral industry is forecasting growth over the next several years. That doesn't mean landing a job will be easy, but it does mean there will be more opportunities available.
When starting out as a mortician, you can increase your chances of finding employment by looking outside your immediate surroundings.
Check with your alma mater to see if they offer job placement services for graduates.
Always check local classified ads, employment websites, and state, provincial, and national certification boards for job postings.