While they've been the focus of highly stylised, dramatic television shows such as "Family Plots" and "Six Feet Under," undertakers (also called morticians and funeral directors) spend their workdays out of the spotlight. An undertaker is in charge of funeral arrangements, announcements and body handling. Some undertakers also perform the process of embalming. Undertakers may own their own funeral homes or work on site, shepherding the deceased family and friends through the grieving process.
Across the country, undertakers earned an average national wage of approximately £39,253 per year, reported the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009. Governmental employees in the federal executive branch earned at a higher rate, with annual mean wages of £45,623.
East Coast undertakers had a significant advantage over their coworkers across the country in 2009. Top-paying states for undertaker salaries were all along the eastern seaboard, with Massachusetts far ahead of the median annual salary at £53,807. New Jersey came in second with an annual mean wage of £51,889, closely followed by Rhode Island at £50,843. Still far above the median wages were Delaware at £49,302 and New York, paying £47,970.
Every state in the country regulates the funeral director profession; while requirements may vary slightly, most require the person in the position to have completed a degree in mortuary science through one of the 60 programs accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Funeral directors may also be required to perform an apprenticeship and pass an exam. Undertakers who will be performing embalming must also become licensed.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 12 per cent growth rate in undertaker employment, adding approximately 3,600 jobs to the field. Some of the job vacancies are attributed to the ageing-out process of current undertakers, as the profession is considered one with an older population. The BLS suggests that undertakers who undergo the embalming certification will find the most opportunities to secure a salary.