Working in the funeral industry may sound to be grim work, but it is a respected profession that requires specific training. Funeral care providers train as grief counsellors, salespeople and laboratory technicians. They train to be called upon as funeral organisers for different religious and ethnic groups. Funeral workers must possess the demeanour and composure to deal with all types of people during moments of stress and grief. Funeral workers also serve as an appreciated and comforting presence.
Funeral home workers take on a number of duties, including transporting the deceased to the funeral home and preparing the body for cremation or burial. Funeral home workers assist grieving families through the process of funeral arrangements, prepare the obituary and handle the paperwork, such as obtaining the death certificate. Some of these skills are learnt in formal classroom settings while others come from practice during an apprenticeship or internship.
Funeral directors, also known as morticians or undertakers, must be licensed by the state in which they wish to work. Generally, state licensing requires two years of education in a mortuary science program and an apprenticeship in the funeral business and a passing grade on the state funeral directors' exam. College mortuary science programs run two to four years with courses in anatomy, pathology and embalming. Programs usually include training in grief counselling, basic business practices, and funeral law and ethics. Apprenticeships generally last one to three years under the guidance of a licensed funeral director.
People who choose this career path should be gifted communicators with the ability to be tactful and composed under uncomfortable circumstances. Kindness, respect, empathy and compassion are also useful traits. Another key element in training for a career in the funeral business is learning the embalming procedure. Training to embalm and becoming state-licensed to perform this task opens more doors. Funeral training continues throughout the span of the career as most states require funeral directors to meet continuing education requirements to maintain their license to practice.
Work Environment and Duties
Funeral staff often work in shifts and may be called to work at any time of day or night. Duties range from accounting to laboratory to counselling to sales. The National Funeral Directors Association offers resources for those interested in pursuing a career in funerals. For example, it lists training programs for a multitude of funeral home tasks and explains educational options in the field, such as online courses and nationally accredited mortuary science programs. It is also a resource for those already in the business who are looking for continuing education options.
The funeral industry remains a strong field during good economic times and bad. In 2007, American funeral homes employed more than 102,000. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of funeral workers should continue to increase at a steady 12 per cent through 2018 due to the ageing population. Because funeral directors tend to be older on average than workers in other professions, more will be retiring, opening positions for newcomers in the field. As of 2008, the average wage for funeral directors was £33,800, with those in larger cities earning more than their rural counterparts. Salaries vary depending on years of experience, location and services offered by the funeral home.
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