5 Things That Make a Career in Funeral Services So Worthwhile
Funeral directors (sometimes called undertakers or morticians) are part of a profession that modern society simply can't do without. But even though death is a natural part of our existence, it isn't something most of us spend a lot of time thinking about. So, for many people, the benefits of a career in the mortuary field might be hard to recognize at first. Once you see the upsides, though, it's difficult to ignore them. Here are six of the best ones:
1. Profoundly Satisfying Moments
Serving others during some of their darkest hours can lead to feelings of real pride and accomplishment. But that's what the work of a funeral director is all about. It's doing what's necessary to help grieving families honor the people they've lost—to help them feel better. As a result, many funeral directors receive heaps of appreciation for their efforts.
2. Community Impact and Respect
Funeral service professionals would be missed if they didn't exist. So even though they might not be at the top of our minds until we need them, we still hold them in high regard. They simply make it easier for us to get through the passing of our friends or family members.
But another source of professional dignity comes from the credentials you must have. In every state other than Colorado, you need to earn licensure in order to work as a funeral director or embalmer (or both). Although the requirements of each state vary, that usually means you need to:
- Earn at least a two-year associate's degree by completing a mortuary science or related program that is accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE)
- Complete between one to three years of practical work experience—before, during, or after your schooling—under the supervision of a funeral manager or licensed funeral director
- Pass a qualifying exam known as the National Board Examination
- Earn a certain number of continuing education credits each year
It's important to note that you don't necessarily need to become a funeral director to work in this field right away. Some people choose to enter the industry by learning the basics through an online or correspondence course. Then they get on-the-job experience that can be used later on should they wish to advance their education and gain licensure.
3. Challenge and Variety
In the U.S., the average mortuary handles 113 cases per year.1 Each one comes with its own set of challenges. But, almost without exception, the duties of a funeral director are interesting and diverse. That's because most of what they do is an artful mix of listening and event planning. Common tasks include things like:
- Coordinating the removal and transportation of a deceased person's body
- Preparing the death certificate and obituary notice
- Consulting with family members
- Scheduling the time and place for a memorial service
- Arranging for clergy and pallbearers
- Decorating the setting where services will be conducted
- Assisting with the preparation of a body if a viewing is requested
- Coordinating with a cemetery for burial or a crematory for cremation
- Organizing the transportation of mourners to all sites of a service
- Applying for death benefits or life insurance payouts on behalf of the deceased's beneficiaries
4. Excellent Pay and Advancement Potential
According to national estimates from 2018, funeral directors earned median annual wages of $52,650. And some made more than $89,050.2
But many people in this profession eventually choose to pursue more advanced roles as funeral service managers. They direct the resources and run the operations of funeral homes. Sometimes, they even become owners. Their median wages were estimated to be $79,180 in 2018, but they went as high as $151,680 or more.2
5. Career Stability
Even through changing times, the death care industry remains a constant source of employment. It just adapts.
For instance, here's an interesting fact: In 2003, only 29.6 percent of deceased people in the U.S. were cremated. By 2018, that number rose to 53.1 percent as a national average. And by 2023, it could rise to over 59 percent. Plus, as of 2017, it was already higher than 76 percent in states like Nevada, Washington, and Oregon.3
Despite that kind of change, funeral directors continue to be essential in our society. That's because, regardless of whether families request burial or cremation, they still need proper memorial services and assistance with administrative matters.
And mortuary professionals might become even more in demand due to another fact: The American population is getting older, and that's expected to result in a higher rate of deaths. In fact, the death rate stood at only 8.3 deaths per 1,000 people during the period from 2010 to 2015. But by 2050 to 2055, it is projected to reach 10.2 deaths per 1,000 people.4
These trends point to a stable or increasing need for people who have the grace and organizational ability to provide one of humanity's most vital services.
1 National Funeral Directors Association, website last visited on October 15, 2019.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on October 15, 2019.
3 Cremation Association of North American, website last visited on October 15, 2019.
4 Pew Research Center, website last visited on October 15, 2019.