Funeral directors may be the most visible professionals when dealing with preparations for a service, but they are assisted by a much less visible contingent of workers whose job is to basically remain invisible as they prepare bodies to be buried. Embalmers work to remove disease from bodies and prepare them to be viewed at a funeral, attempting to bring as much life back to the person as possible for the benefit of visiting mourners. Although the embalming field does not require a distinct bachelor's level or higher degree, candidates who wish to earn salaries as embalmers must dedicate time to gaining education in their profession.
Funeral homes and mortuaries were home to approximately 6,780 embalmers as of May 2010, with the median salary for the profession at £28,262, as recorded in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment and Wages report. The highest paid embalmers received £40,969 or higher in the 90th percentile and £17,309 or less in the 10th percentile. Unlike other professions which may find employment across multiple industries, embalmers fell into only one of the BLS industry categories, death care services.
Highest Salary States
Embalmers in the state of Massachusetts earned the highest salaries at the time of the BLS study, with annual mean wages of £37,732. Employers in Connecticut paid the second highest, at £36,263. Salaries in Illinois placed third on the BLS list, with income levels at £33,897. Iowa and Maryland's embalmers earned the fourth and fifth highest salaries, at £33,527 and £32,903 respectively.
Per Capita Income
With one exception, the BLS states with the highest per capita employment of embalmers also paid salaries above the median level. Only Georgia, which topped the BLS list of highest employment in the profession, paid below average wages of £26,455. California, the second largest per capita employer of embalmers, paid £30,927. The study's third largest employer, Ohio, had salaries of £30,043, while Massachusetts, the BLS top paying state, paid £37,732 for its fourth place per-capita employment finish. Rounding out the BLS list of largest employers was Virginia, with salaries of £31,947.
Although college programs in mortuary science are available, there is no single educational requirement to earn a salary in the embalming field -- employers' requirements may vary. After completing high school, prospective embalmers may gain experience on the job through an apprenticeship or internship. In most cases, a technical, vocational or community college degree in mortuary science along with the passing of a licensing exam will help the candidate. Studies of state-specific information on chemicals and handling of bodies is something embalmers must keep informed of, even after having obtained a position.