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How to Be a Funeral Director?

Do you want to build a career that is unique, worthy, and peerless? If yes, the funeral director is on the mark choice for you!

It may sound grim to you, but it is one of the market's highly appreciated and demanding occupations! 

Throughout the blog, we will explain the works and steps of becoming a funeral director. 

Funeral directors or morticians provide a variety of services to the deceased and their family members.

Funeral directors work with clients to determine the best possible service for their loved ones after death.

If you are interested in becoming a funeral director, it may be helpful to gain insight into what they do and how to become one before you start your career path. Need help in planning a funeral service? Check out Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals in Melbourne.

This article discusses what a funeral director does and how you can become familiar with frequently asked questions.

What Does a Funeral Director Do?

Funeral directors or morticians are professionals who assist family members of the deceased with all aspects of planning a funeral service. Some of the responsibilities of a funeral director include:

  • Preparing obituary notices
  • Collaborating with the family of the deceased to arrange the logistics and details of the funeral according to their wishes
  • Establishing location, dates and time schedules of burials, wakes and memorial services
  • Providing the deceased, the family of the dead and flowers with transportation
  • Setting up and decorating each site for service.
  • Overseeing the preparation and shipment of bodies for burials out of the state

How to Become a Funeral Director

funeral director

There are a few requirements you must complete before you can become a funeral director. Here are the most common steps to follow to become an established funeral director:

What Are the Basic Requirements for Becoming a Funeral Director?

Both funeral service education and licensing requirements vary by state. Most states request:

  • A high school diploma or an equivalent GED
  • An Associate Degree in Funeral Service Education— sometimes a Bachelor's Degree—from an accredited program.
  • An apprenticeship, typically lasting for one to three years
  • A passing mark on the national board examination and state licensing examination

Funeral Director Requirements:

Passed State Examination

After earning their license, funeral directors usually start their careers by becoming staff member in a funeral home. 

If you are interested in becoming a funeral director, then make sure to review your state's licensing board for full details and requirements.

There are currently 59 mortuary science programs that have accreditation from the Board of Funeral Service Education. These programs are typically two to four years long.

State board licensing examinations differ from state to state but are usually composed of verbal and written sections and require candidates to demonstrate specific practical skills. 

If a funeral director wants to work in another state, he or she may have to pass that state's examination.

Reciprocity arrangements exist between some states; in such instances, funeral directors who change conditions will be granted a license without passing that state's examinations.


Apprenticeships can be served before, during, or after mortuary school. The internship duration varies according to state regulations, but they are one to three years long. Apprentices' work alongside experienced and licensed funeral directors to gain practical experience in all aspects of the funeral service profession.

Personal Traits

Funeral directors should possess many critical personal traits, including tact, composure, and the ability to interact comfortably and communicate well with the public. Most importantly, funeral directors should want and be able to comfort people during times of grief appropriately.

Obtain an Associate's Degree

Before becoming a funeral director, you must complete the minimum education requirements and obtain an associate degree. 

The program you choose should be accredited since many states require accreditation before you can become licensed.

During your education in mortuary science, you will be expected to take classes such as professional ethics, microbiology, chemistry, pathology, embalming, mortuary law, anatomy, federal regulations, grief counselling and funeral service psychology. You will learn how to:

  • Dissect cadavers
  • Restore and present a damaged corpse
  • Use embalming chemicals
  • Work with hazardous chemicals and infectious body tissues while following safety procedures.

Most programs take about two to four years to complete depending on the degree you select. 

Some prospective funeral directors may choose to take business courses if they are interested in opening their mortuary in the future.

You may start preparing for a career in funeral directing by taking public speaking, biology and chemistry courses in high school. 

Some mortuaries have opportunities for students to gather experience in part-time or summer jobs.

Qualities of Morticians and Funeral Directors

Morticians, also called funeral directors, are responsible for helping families prepare the details of a funeral. 

They coordinate the clergy services, prepare obituaries, schedule the ceremonies, and arrange for the burial or cremation. 

These are the essential details that are often too hard for loved ones to coordinate, but funeral directors make it possible.

Funeral directors often act as the shoulder to lean on, much like a counsellor, when grieving families need support. In addition to the above, morticians may prepare bodies for burial or cremation, where the mortuary "science" comes into play.

As you can see, the role is multifaceted. For this reason, it is recommended that aspiring funeral directors and morticians develop the following skillsets:

  • Compassion – Death, of course, is a delicate matter. Families will be in their most emotional and vulnerable states. Funeral directors and morticians must act with compassion and treat clients with care and respect.
  • Empathy – You do not always need to understand someone's grief, but you should be able to validate their feelings and sympathise with what they are going through.
  • Interpersonal skills – When you work in funeral services, you work closely with people. When speaking with families, you must communicate compassionately, tactfully, and tastefully when explaining the benefits and next steps.
  • Business acumen – Many people do not know about funeral directors because they are the backbone of their business. Funeral directors often manage the funeral home's operations, in addition to coordinating the events of wakes and funerals. As a result, these professionals must be organised, detail-oriented, and understand budgeting, inventory, and other administrative affairs.
  • Time and project management – As noted above, funeral directors and morticians often run the business operations. They must handle multiple clients and various tasks at once, often on a tight schedule. For this reason, time management and project management skills are a must.
  • Strength, particularly in the sciences – While the sciences can be learned in your educational program. You must possess the power to be successful in this role. You must handle the morose and morbid parts of the position, as you will be working with deceased bodies. Many compare the work of a mortician to that of a surgeon in that morticians must be precise and detail-oriented in their work. They must be knowledgeable of human anatomy and the chemical and biological sciences that go into preserving bodies.

Complete an Apprenticeship

Once you complete your formal education in mortuary science, you are then required by the ABFSE to complete an apprenticeship that lasts anywhere from one to three years. 

Depending on your schedule and the state requirements where you live, you may be able to complete the apprenticeship before, during or after your formal education.

When you are an apprentice at a mortuary, you may only perform tasks under the direct supervision of an experienced mortician. 

This will give you hands-on experience in the industry that you will need to obtain a job as a funeral director.

Obtain State Licensure

To become a funeral director, you must pass a state licensing exam after completing your apprenticeship and at least a two-year degree. 

Prospective funeral directors should be at least 21 years of age by their scheduled examination date. 

The subjects covered in the exam include psychology, funeral service merchandising, business law, funeral service history, microbiology, pathology, therapeutic arts, embalming and anatomy. 

The funeral director and embalming license may be issued separately, depending on the state you reside in.

Update Your Resume

After you obtain your funeral director's license, it is essential to update your resume. You may add your relevant work experience, including the hands-on experience you received during your apprenticeship or internship. 

You may also include your highest education level along with any professional references. If you had a good rapport with the mortician you completed your apprenticeship with, you might choose to ask them for a letter of recommendation to improve your chances of being hired.

Maintain Licensure

Your state may require you to participate in continuing education activities to maintain your funeral director's license. 

You have the option to continue your education through distance or on-site learning. For example, you may complete online coursework, participate in webinars or teleconferences for distance learning.

On-site learning is typically conducted in person through seminars, workshops and professional development classes.

You may also choose to obtain an optional certification to distinguish yourself in the funeral service industry by becoming a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP) offered by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice.

This continued education will ensure that you are updated about funeral service laws and trends, and advancements in the funeral service industry. Looking for Melbourne Funeral Services? Look no further, Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals is here.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Here is a list of common questions you may have if you are considering entering the funeral service industry as a funeral director or mortician:

What are some characteristics of a funeral director's work environment?

Funeral directors work primarily in a funeral home or crematorium. 

There are various aspects to their jobs that include travelling to and from funeral services generally conducted in a place of worship.

Funeral directors spend a significant amount of time on their feet and a computer.

What Skills Do I Need to Become a Funeral Director?

As a funeral director, the essential skills you'll need are empathy, communication, organisation, and customer service skills. 

Funeral directors communicate with family members of the deceased. They must share with them in an empathetic way and organise the funeral details efficiently since they may have more than one funeral per day.

What Are the Long-Term Career Prospects for Funeral Directors?

When funeral directors gain experience and tenure, they may oversee the overall operation by becoming a funeral service manager. 

Funeral service managers supervise all employees in a funeral home and manage all business operations. 

Many funeral service managers choose to open their funeral home businesses.

How Can I Learn More About Becoming a Funeral Director?

You may learn more about becoming a funeral director by researching the position further to see if you are interested. 

An excellent site to research through is the National Funeral Directors Association website. It may also be helpful to network and talk to those in the industry to answer in-depth questions about their professional job duties.

Can I Complete My Degree in Mortuary Science Online?

The American Board of Funeral Service Education does provide accredited programs through distance learning courses. 

However, you may not be able to complete your entire degree online. You may have to do hybrid courses that include online and in-person coursework.

Who Is a Funeral Director?

A funeral director is a person involved in the funeral ritual business. He/she is also known as an undertaker. 

The tasks entail embalming and burial of the deaths and the arrangements for the funeral ceremony. 

A funeral director may sometimes perform dressing, casketing, and cosseting. The term casketing means placing the corpse in the coffin. 

Cosseting is applying any cosmetic or substance that enhances the appearance of the body. 

What Is the Role of a Funeral Director?

Now that we've defined the funeral director let's go to the fathom of the tasks they need to perform. The duties include:

  • Preparing death notices.
  • Arranging pallbearers and clergy services.
  • Collaborating with the departed family and preparing the logistics and details of the funeral as per their wishes.
  • Selecting location, dates and time schedules of burials, wakes and memorial services.
  • Scheduling the opening and closing of a grave with an agent of the cemetery.
  • Coordinating the process with the crematory.
  • Setting up and decorating the sites of all services.
  • Supplying transportation for the deceased and grievers
  • Devising the shipment of corpses out of state or out of the country for final disposition.
  • Tackling the managerial tasks. For instance, they often apply for transferring any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.
  • The funeral directors also embalm bodies. Embalming is a cosmetic and non-permanent preservative process. With it, they prepare the dead body for the final goodbye by the family and friends of the deceased.
  • Notifying and resolving any customer issues or complaints.
  • Keeping positive relationships with vendors, church officials, and cemetery directors.
  • Designing and regulating the funeral home budget.
  • Supervising payroll processing and circulating it to funeral home employees.
  • You have to line up supplies for the funeral home as needed.

Things to Know Before Becoming a Funeral Director

The funeral is the most unfortunate and unexpected occurrence in our lives. And you have come forward to become a funeral director, a gloomy yet rewarding job. 

Before anything else, you must know that it's a physically demanding job. Always you have to get up and go to set everything up. 

Sometimes you need to wake up in the witching hour and perform your duties. These hampers your sleep and alone can cause physical illness.

It's emotionally draining too. Daily you have to see dead bodies, the mourning of their near and dear ones. 

You have to deal with unnatural deaths. Sometimes you will bury the resting souls of minor children, which will cause a mental breakdown.

This field is not humourless either! On the contrary, sometimes hilarious situations arise as people talk about the departed souls and their funny activities. 

Also, by hearing the stories, you will often get inspirations and insights about life.

Are you comfortable enough to roam around mourning people? If not, this career option is not for you. 

Situations can become very upsetting and moving that you can't help but cry! But I believe you are strong enough to handle such softness.

You have to be well educated in mortuary science and business management. 

You will learn the history of funeral services, merchandising, and embalming chemistry. Also, you will get knowledge of management courses, pathology, and stimulating art courses.

Embalming is both art and science. You're in charge of how a person will look when people say their goodbyes. 

You have to make them look as natural and peaceful as possible. Sometimes people die with wounds or tumours, and you need to remove those if a family requests. 

You can use wax to smooth the skin.

And the working schedules! They will be more pathetic as there are no regular hours. You know death and birth aren't bound to abide by the 9 to 5 rule!

Every so often, people will take their frustration out on you. Unfortunately, to many people, grief means getting mad at the whole shooting match. 

Your family will be out of their mind about how long something takes, and they're crazy that it costs money to die. Some will become a lunatic fringe as their loved one has died. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide low-cost funeral services.

You have to be around dead people all the time. It will change the way you feel about the departure from life. Some funeral directors note that the job normalises demise for them.

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