Exploring a Career in Funeral Service

Serving Others

Funeral Directors provide compassionate, professional, and personalized services to families coping with the loss of a loved one. Their career satisfaction comes from helping others in a difficult and often devastating time. Funeral Directors take great pride in what they do and make a difference in their communities.



The roles and responsibilities of a Funeral Director include arranging and planning meaningful services, coordinating details on behalf of the family with state and local agencies, third-party vendors, celebrants or clergy, newspapers, or florists, caring for decedents, organizing transportation, burial, cremation or other tasks for completion, and supporting each family through their grief.

·         Before the Service – the Funeral Director meets with the family for an initial arrangement conference where service options are presented, the details of the service are discussed, vital and legal information is gathered for filing the death certificate, and other related duties, such as placing an obituary notice and ordering merchandise, are completed. Funeral Directors would also coordinate shipment of remains for an out-of-state service.

·         During the Service – at the service, the Funeral Director confirms all the details are in place, they provide compassionate attention to the mourning family and friends, possibly control the music, microphones, or AV system, and provide transportation to the cemetery, final place of rest, or crematory.

·         On-going Responsibilities – after the death of a loved one or after the service takes place, the Funeral Director offers support to the family, helps families adapt to the changes they will face, and stays connected should any other need arise. The Funeral Director may educate families on grief and offer grief support resources at the funeral home.


Education & Training

Education and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Check with your state funeral directors licensing board for specific details. Some basic prerequisites for most states:

·         High School Diploma or GED

·         Associate Degree in Funeral Service/Mortuary Science

·         An Apprenticeship ranging from one to two years

·         Passing the National Board Exam and/or State Licensing Examination

The American Board of Funeral Service Education requires coursework in the following areas of study:

·         Public Health and Technical – Chemistry, Microbiology and Public Health, Anatomy, Pathology, Embalming and Restorative Art.

·         Business Management – Accounting, Funeral Home Management and Merchandising, Computer Applications, Funeral Directing, Small Business Management.

·         Social Sciences/Humanities – Dynamics of Grief, Counseling, Sociology of Funeral Service, History of Funeral Service, Communication Skills.

·         Legal, Ethical, Regulatory – Mortuary Law, Business Law, Ethics.

·         Electives – Various electives in general education to meet graduation requirements.

The most important skills you’ll need as a Funeral Director are empathy, communication, organization, and customer service skills. Funeral Directors must communicate to families in an empathetic way and organize details of a funeral efficiently since they often only have a few days to plan the service.

When Funeral Directors gain experience and tenure, they may go on to oversee the overall operation of a mortuary 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 own funeral home business.


How to Get Started

To learn more about funeral directing as a challenging yet satisfying human service career, you may want to do some personal research. Talk to your local funeral directors, mortuary school faculty, guidance counselor, and your state funeral director association for insights and about being a funeral director in your state.


The following websites are helpful resources:

National Funeral Directors Association



American Board of Funeral Service Education



US Department of Labor




Written by: Britta Holloway

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