Morticians or undertakers are involved in the sensitive subject of death. In addition to preparing the deceased for funerals and wakes, they often direct the funeral home and may even conduct funeral services. Their duties are not common knowledge, and morticians must undergo specific training and education requirements to be successful in the field.
Morticians are responsible for embalming. This involves washing the body and replacing blood with embalming fluid to preserve tissue. If the body is badly damaged, wounds may have to be covered, and morticians may use a variety of substances, including, clay, wax, cotton and other materials to make the body presentable. To learn these skills, most undertakers complete a degree program in mortuary science.
Students can fulfill bachelor's degrees in mortuary science at some universities who offer the extended program. There are also schools devoted entirely to training morticians, such as the London School of Embalming, which a two years day release course. Education in the mortuary science program teaches students about anatomy, physiology, pathology, embalming, restorative art, business management and accounting. Additional courses may include funeral service law, social sciences, grief counselling and business and law ethics.
Aspiring morticians must complete a one-year qualifying apprenticeship to be eligible to become members of the British Institute of Morticians. You will have to pass an exam to become a member. During this time, the student shadows or works with an experienced mortician to receive hands-on experience with embalming and directing funeral operations.
There is no specific licensing requirements for the job. However, you are unlikely to progress in the field without membership of the BIE.
In addition to the two or four-year degree in mortuary science, you will also need to keep up to date with developments in the profession. If you hope to eventually run your own funeral service you will also need to study business management.