Learn About Being a Mortician

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

What does a mortician do?

A mortician oversees all aspects of funerals for deceased people and their loved ones. Traditionally, morticians only prepared the deceased person for burial. However, as funeral homes have gotten smaller, most modern morticians also interact with the friends and family members of the deceased in addition to arranging and managing funerals. As their role has expanded, morticians are often called funeral directors. While duties may vary according to the size of the funeral home, most morticians are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Embalming and preparing the deceased person for private viewing before or during the funeral

  • Providing support and information about funeral service options to the deceased person’s family and friends

  • Helping individuals pre-plan their own funeral arrangements

  • Conducting funeral services

  • Arranging for burial or cremation, according to the wishes of the deceased or loved ones, including booking the process and organizing transport for the body

  • Filing death certificates and other legal paperwork

Average salary

Mortician salaries vary according to their level of experience, location and place of employment. Large funeral homes can typically pay their morticians more than smaller funeral businesses. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in U.S.: $58,203 per year

  • Typical salaries range from $29,050 to $89,050 per year.

Mortician requirements

Morticians must be at least 21 years old and hold a degree in funeral service or mortuary science and certification. They must also complete a trainee program and possess the technical and interpersonal skills to give families and friends peace as they say farewell to their loved ones. The requirements for being a mortician include:

Education

Morticians require an associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science. Aspiring morticians can prepare for this degree by studying biology, chemistry and business at high school.

Aspiring morticians should obtain an associate’s degree accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). These degrees are usually two-year courses you can earn at community colleges. They teach students restorative and embalming techniques, grief counseling, anatomy, how to run a funeral service, ethics surrounding grief, and business law.

Some colleges also offer bachelor’s degrees in funeral service and mortuary science. While a bachelor’s degree is not essential for a mortician, some funeral homes may prefer hiring candidates with this degree.

Training

Many aspiring morticians begin their training before graduation with part-time or summer jobs at funeral homes. These positions can teach students how funerals are organized and run and how bodies are prepared.

Practicing public speaking can help morticians increase their interpersonal skills. This can also help aspiring morticians gain the confidence they need to conduct funeral services.

Completing an internship or apprenticeship is a key part of a mortician’s training. You can complete these training programs while studying or after graduation. During these training programs, aspiring morticians work closely under the guidance of licensed morticians or funeral managers. Apprenticeships and internships for morticians last between one and three years.

Certification

Morticians in every state and district in the United States, except Colorado, require certification to work in the funeral industry. While certification is voluntary in Colorado, it is still preferred by many funeral homes. Candidates receive certification after passing an International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards test. Depending on your state, you may need to take one part of the test or both, so contact your state licensing board to confirm your local requirements. Some states require morticians to obtain state and national licenses.

State license for funeral service

Review the candidate handbook and study materials on the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining boards website before scheduling your State Board Exam and paying your fees. This is a two-part computer-based exam with 300 multiple-choice questions testing your knowledge of funeral arts and sciences. The funeral arts section has questions about funeral arranging, directing, marketing, counseling, legal and regulatory compliance and cemetery and crematory operations. The sciences section tests knowledge of embalming, restorative art, preparing for burial or cremation and funeral service sciences.

National license for funeral service

You must graduate from an ABFSE to obtain a national license for funeral service. Review the candidate handbook and study materials on the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining boards website before scheduling your National Board Exam and paying your fees. This two-part computer-based exam has 340 multiple-choice questions testing your knowledge of funeral arts and sciences. This test covers the same topics as the state test. It also contains pretest questions that do not determine your final score.

Skills

Funeral homes look for the following skills in their applicants for mortician positions:

  • Compassion: Morticians rely on their compassion to support families and close friends struggling with the loss of their loved ones.

  • Interpersonal skills: Making decisions around death and funeral arrangements can be challenging for people nearing the end of their lives and the family and friends of the deceased. Morticians use tact, patience and a comforting demeanor to help these people make the plans they need.

  • Technical skills: Morticians use their technical skills when embalming and performing restorative techniques to ensure bodies look their best when presented.

  • Time management: People typically do not want to wait long before burying or cremating their loved ones. Morticians must work efficiently and prioritize tasks to ensure multiple clients get their funeral services delivered quickly and professionally.

  • Open-mindedness: Traditions around death vary from culture to culture and family to family. Morticians must respect the wishes of the deceased and loved ones and help them create the funeral service they want, without judgment.

  • Verbal communication: Morticians must speak confidently and respectfully when conducting funeral services. Good verbal communication skills help them perform the best services for their grieving clients.

Mortician work environment

Morticians are employed by funeral homes. They spend the majority of their time in the funeral home preparing bodies and conducting funeral services. They may also travel to places of worship, private homes, cemeteries and significant sites for the deceased or their loved ones to conduct funeral services. They may also travel with the bodies to cemeteries or crematories.

Long shifts through the week and weekends are common as morticians work to deliver their services to multiple clients in a timely fashion. Morticians are typically on call and return to work to complete tasks as required.

How to become a mortician

Morticians must gain relevant qualifications and licenses, then spend time training before obtaining their desired role in funeral services. Follow these career steps to become a mortician:

1. Pursue education.

An associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science accredited by the ABFSE is the minimum educational requirement for morticians. You might continue your studies and obtain a bachelor’s degree, especially if you hope to become a funeral manager.

2. Gain relevant work experience.

Working as a trainee or intern at a funeral home can help you feel more comfortable and confident with funeral procedures. A funeral director or funeral manager will oversee your work embalming bodies, advising family members and friends about their service options and performing other tasks around the funeral home. Expect to gain more responsibility as you progress through your one- to three-year training program. 

3. Gain a funeral service license.

Most states require a funeral service license to become a mortician. Pass the relevant state and/or national International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards exam for your state to gain this certification. 

4. Prepare your resume.

Your resume should detail your highest level of education, your training and the knowledge and experiences you have that make you well-suited to become a mortician. Ensure your resume looks professional and is concise, with only relevant details included. 

5. Apply to funeral homes.

After earning your education and working in a funeral home, you are ready to become a mortician. Submit your resume and a customized cover letter that highlights why you are a good candidate for the funeral homes you want to work for. You may have the best chance of obtaining a position at a funeral home you have worked at previously, even if it does not have an advertised position.

Mortician job description example

Our funeral home seeks a full-time mortician to join our team. You will be responsible for preparing bodies for burial or cremation and helping clients plan funerals for their loved ones. You should be a compassionate person with experience in grief counseling and embalming and restorative techniques. As we are located in a multicultural community, you should also be sensitive to different cultural requirements for funeral arrangements. An associate’s degree from an ABFSE-accredited institution and a state license in funeral service are essential. Evenings and weekend work will be required, but you will be adequately compensated for your commitment to our funeral home.

Related careers

  • Psychologist

  • Social workers

  • Anesthesiologist

  • Phlebotomist

Explore more articles

  • Learn About Being a Software Engineer
  • Learn About Being a Lab Technician
  • Learn About Being a Billing Clerk
  • Learn About Being a Direct Support Professional
  • Learn About Being an Assembler
  • Learn About Being a Pediatrician
  • Learn About Being a Marketing Specialist
  • Learn About Being a Nursing Assistant
  • Learn About Being a Laborer
  • Learn About Being an IT Technician
  • Learn About Being a Physical Therapist
  • Learn About Being a Home Health Aide