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How To Become a Funeral Service Worker

funeral service worker

A Funeral Service Worker plays an essential role in how a family deals with the grief of losing their loved one. As some deaths are expected, others are a horrific unexpected event that puts families into a state of shock. 

The Funeral Service Worker must be compassionate and readily available to accommodate clients on many different levels. Find out more below to see if the funeral business is for you! 

Related Article: The 40 Highest Paying Jobs With A Trade School Education

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does a Funeral Service Worker do?

As you can imagine, losing a loved one is upsetting, stressful, and often life-changing. As a Funeral Service Worker, you will have many responsibilities, such as: 

  • Consult with clients to choose final arrangements,
  • Schedule visitations,
  • Schedule and direct memorial services, 
  • Pick up the deceased body and prepare for burial or cremation,
  • Handle cremations and ashes,
  • Provides counsel to families, often based on their religion and culture,
  • File death certificates with state and SSA or VA,
  • Handle pre-planned funeral arrangements,
  • And, much more, depending on your training! 

How do I become a Funeral Service Worker?

Generally, to enter the funeral service business, you will be expected to have earned an associate degree in funeral service or mortuary science. Your program should take you about two years to complete.

Depending on your potential employer, they may prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree in the field. 

What will I learn in an associate degree program?

Coursework will include grief counseling, business law and ethics, grief counseling, restorative techniques, and embalming, just to name a few.

What are the requirements for obtaining a job in a Funeral Service career? 

Most employers will require you to have an associate degree and be at least 21 years old. If hired, you will receive on-the-job training under the watch of a licensed Funeral Manager (usually lasting one to three years), and then you will need to pass your licensing exam per your state’s requirements.

What is the accrediting agency for schools offering associate degrees in the funeral industry?

Most community colleges offer two-year associate degrees designed to assist you in the Funeral Service career. The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) is the appropriate accrediting agency to look for.  

What jobs are available within the field of Funeral Service?

If you are interested in entering the funeral industry, there are several career options to consider, such as: 

  • Funeral Home Director
  • Funeral Director
  • Crematory Technician
  • Mortician/Embalmer
  • Ceremonialist
  • Funeral Supply Sales
  • Armed Services Funeral Services
  • Pathology Technician
  • Funeral Service Sales
  • Administrative Services
  • Grief Counseling
  • Cosmetologist/Make-up Artist
How To Become a Funeral Service Worker - fact

How much money do Funeral Service Workers earn?

According to the BLS, Funeral Home Managers earned, on average, $74,200 annually as of May 2020, with the highest 10% earning upwards of $156,940 per year. 

Morticians, Funeral Arrangers, and Undertakers earned $54,100 per year, with the highest 10% earning upwards of $91,140 annually during the same time period. 

Is there a job demand for Funeral Service personnel?

According to the BLS, the job growth rate for Funeral Service Workers is projected to grow by 4% between 2020 and 2030, adding about 4,000 new positions to the job market each year. 

Am I suited to work in the Funeral Services business?

Becoming a Funeral Service Worker is not the job for everyone, as many do not want to be exposed to this stage of the life cycle… which is death. Understandably, this field can be stressful and depressing for some. 

To excel in this field, you should have the following qualities, in addition to the proper training: 

  • Empathetic and compassionate towards others,
  • Good communication skills,
  • Interpersonal skills,
  • Excellent time-management skills,
  • Physical strength,
  • Well-organized,
  • Good listening skills,
  • Creative,
  • Mentally strong,
  • Reliable,
  • Works well under pressure, 
  • Have exceptional business skills.

Do Funeral Service Workers need licenses or certifications?

Yes, most states will require you to be licensed. Qualifications vary per state; however, typical requirements include:

  • A minimum of 21 years old,
  • Graduated from an ABFSE accredited associate degree program, 
  • One to three years of on-the-job training, 
  • And, of course, pass the national board exam.

If you work in multiple states, you will need the applicable license to work there. Also, you will need to continue your education to keep your license current.

In addition, you may be required to have certifications in cremation, offered by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA), or the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).

Will I need to work an internship for experience?

After graduating from your degree program, on-the-job experience will be invaluable and is required to obtain your license.

If you are a High School student interested in working in the Funeral Service business, you should seek an internship during the summer for wonderful real-world work experience and a feel for the industry before entering a degree program. Internships are great for “testing the waters,” as it’s not for the faint of heart!  

10 BEST SCHOOLS FOR A FUNERAL SERVICE WORKER DEGREE

Wayne State University

Wayne State University

(Hybrid) BS in Mortuary Science 

Graduates of WSU’s BS in Mortuary Science program can apply for licensure in any of the 50 states. Due to its online format, students also have relative freedom in choosing their schedules. Earning a degree doesn’t mean getting buried in debt either, as WSU is a public research university with affordable tuition and financial aid options. 

Faculty members with extensive credentials, including funeral service experience, lead the online courses and encourage student success. Students can access the learning platform (Canvas) 24/7 and get hands-on experience through an internship in a local funeral of their choosing. While asynchronous courses are typical, students must meet deadlines for assignments, postings, and tests. 

Students must attend an on-campus orientation before classes begin and fulfill a two-week residential period at the end of the program. The program also allows students to choose which courses they want to take online. The prerequisite coursework differs depending on whether you have a prior bachelor’s degree or not. The common courses for all students include Embalming, Restorative Art, Anatomy for Mortuary Science, and Psychology of Death and Dying. 

The retention requirements include at least a 2.5 GPA. Every course must have at least a “C” grade, or it must be retaken. Professional courses, however, have a “one retake” restriction.  

Programs Offered: 

  • Communication Sciences and Disorders 
  • Electrical Engineering 

Don’t wait for the limited slots to fill up! Check out Wayne’s BS in Mortuary Science program now. 


California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania

(Hybrid) BS in Biology with a Mortuary Science Concentration 

Cal U’s BS in Biology with a Mortuary Science Concentration program partnership with the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science (PIMS). Students earn 120 credit hours during the four-year curriculum, with the courses distributed in eight semesters. 

Learners spend three years at Cal U for their biology courses, including human physiology and anatomy, molecular and cell biology, and microbiology. In their fourth year, students complete their training at PIMS, where courses on embalming and other topics related to becoming a funeral home director are discussed. Students earn PIMS’ Associate in Specialized Technology degree after completion. 

The PIMS credits are transferred back to Cal U, where, upon graduation, these become part of the overall credit requirements for the bachelor’s degree. In effect, you earn both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree! 

Graduates must complete a one-year apprenticeship under the supervision of a licensed home funeral director before taking the Pennsylvania state licensing exam. Cal U has an exceptional track record for its pass rate in the licensing exam for funeral service professionals. 

As a licensed funeral home director or embalmer, you have an edge in looking for entry-level positions. A bachelor’s degree and license are also excellent credentials for becoming a coroner. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Computer Engineering Technology 
  • Fisheries and Wildlife Biology 

Come check out Cal U and PIMS’s cooperative BS in Biology with a Mortuary Science Concentration program! You will find that it’s a great way to earn two academic credentials. 


Southern Illinois University 

Southern Illinois University 

(Online Degree Completion) BS in Mortuary Science and Funeral Service

Offered at SIU’s School of Health Sciences, the BS in Mortuary Science and Funeral Service degree completion program welcomes working funeral directors and embalmers with a prior associate degree. Known as Track II, its online coursework can be completed in two years or less, depending on your transfer credits and course load. The associate in mortuary science and funeral service degree must be from an ABFSE-accredited program. 

Interested individuals can start on their classes at any time of the year due to the program’s continuous enrollment format. Once accepted, students must comply with the deadlines on assignments and tests, although the classes are asynchronous. Students can rely on the instructors and teaching assistants for academic support, particularly the learning platform. 

A capstone project, too, demonstrates each student’s knowledge and skills learned in the program. Students can also get credit for their associate degree courses and, as a result, skip four UCC courses. These are English, Human Health, Humanity, and Interdisciplinary courses. 

Graduates can sit for Illinois’ licensing exams after meeting its requirements, including the academic credentials. Other state boards also accept SIU’s degrees for their licensing requirements. 

SIU’s TracK I is for students without an associate degree and, thus, it’s a four-year program with an internship period, usually during the senior year’s spring semester. Students attend on-campus classes on this track.  

Programs Offered: 

  • Nursing 
  • Dental Hygiene 

Choose between Track I and Track II of SIU’s BS in Mortuary Science and Funeral Service program. Whichever one you choose, your education will be among the best in the country! 


State University of New York at Canton 

State University of New York at Canton

(Hybrid) B.Tech in Funeral Services Administration 

SUNY-Canton’s program is characterized by its top-notch academic curriculum and hands-on training based on contemporary demands for funeral service workers. In recognition of the different needs among individuals interested in the field, the university offers two tracks, namely: 

  • The four-year traditional student track welcomes students without prior funeral services experience. Earning the degree requires completing 16 FSAD courses aside from the general education, major and elective courses. Internships, mock funerals, and other hands-on training provide students with the technical and transferable skills for their profession. 
  • The degree completion track is for working funeral directors and embalmers with an associate degree and relevant working experience. The courses are delivered online so students can continue working while earning their degrees. Every candidate’s transcripts will be evaluated so that a personalized program of study can be made. Completion time will vary depending on transfer credits and per semester course load, but two years is average. 

The degree completion track grants academic credits for life experiences and from challenge exams. For life experience credits, the student must have at least three years of professional experience in funeral services and a portfolio. The challenge exams involve taking exams to determine basic competencies in specific courses. 

For students in the traditional track, their last semester involves online classes. Their internship is a licensed funeral home of their choosing can then be completed with less pressure, schedule-wise. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Engineering Technology 
  • Web Development 

SUNY-Canton’s B.Tech in Funeral Services Administration program appeals to every preference, and it may well appeal to yours! Check it out now. 


Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science

Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science

(On-campus Degree Completion) Bachelor of Mortuary Science

CCMS is known for its exclusive commitment to advancing mortuary science and funeral service, and it’s evident in its Bachelor of Mortuary Science (BMS) program! This is a 62-credit hours program with courses divided into four semesters and an average completion time of 16 months. 

Students attend in-person classes and participate in clinical laboratory sessions the entire academic year. The intensive curriculum ensures that students retain their knowledge and skills and, thus, become workplace-ready upon graduation. But passing the state licensure exam is recommended for job competitiveness. 

The coursework covers technical skills vital for success in mortuary science, including Embalming Microbiology and Pathology and Embalming Theory. Since compassion, professionalism, and diplomacy are also a must, students develop their soft skills through courses. These include Professional Relationships in Funeral Service and Psychology of Grief. 

Students may also receive these certifications with their BMS degree: 

  • Crematory Operations with extensive knowledge in the principles and practices, including legal liabilities of cremation 
  • Funeral Celebrants as part of the training with InSight trainers 
  • Mass Fatality Response through a FEMA-approved course where students learn effective strategies for assisting responders in mass fatalities and incident management 

Transfer credits are accepted, but these must be from ABFSE-accredited colleges or ACE-accredited coursework. 

Programs Offered: 

  • AAS in Mortuary Science 

Earn your BMS degree from CCMS and watch your career go through the roof! 


Worsham College of Mortuary Science 

Worsham College of Mortuary Science 

(On-campus) Associate in Mortuary Science

Mortuary science and funeral service may not seem like a passion or a calling, but it is according to Worsham’s faculty and students! The Associate in Mortuary Science program’s curriculum reflects Worsham’s commitment to promoting mortuary science as a profession. Students learn vital technical skills through intensive academics and hands-on training under the supervision of experienced faculty and funeral service professionals. 

Worsham has an extensive alumni network across Illinois, too. Students can tap into the alumni network to find internship and employment opportunities even before their graduation. 

Candidates for admission must possess minimum college credits to be considered into the one-year associate program. New student cohorts are accepted starting in March and September every year.  

Once admitted, students must complete the academic requirements for 80 credit hours or 55 courses within a year. There are 20 weeks dedicated to embalming techniques conducted at the lab facilities of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. Graduates earn a Cremation Operator Certificate, too. 

Students also receive comprehensive instruction in funeral services, including relevant practices and laws. The funeral practices of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism – are also discussed. Students gain business management and finance skills as well as participate in the US military funeral services 

Programs Offered: 

  • Mortuary Science 

With excellent instruction, short-term duration, and affordable tuition, Worsham’s Associate in Mortuary Science degree program is among the best! Check it out now. 


Tidewater Community College 

Tidewater Community College

(On-campus) AAS in Funeral Service 

Courses for the AAS in Funeral Service program are conducted on TCC’s Virginia Beach campus. This is a 4-semester (two years) program where students earn 67 credits for a bachelor’s degree. 

Students benefit from a flexible and convenient schedule that allows for a good balance between work, studies, and personal responsibilities. Being detail-oriented, possessing excellent interpersonal skills, and not being squeamish are encouraged in the program. Students must gain hands-on experience in an embalming lab, thus, these personal traits. 

Graduates possess these professional competencies: 

  • Demonstrate effective technical skills in the handling of bodies of the deceased, from embalming and restorative art to funeral aftercare 
  • Conduct a wide range of funeral services from arrangement meetings to visitations, vigils, and ceremonies 
  • Handle the required documentation and procedures for the embalming and burial or cremation of human remains, and describe them to the bereaved family  
  • Ensure that public health and safety laws are applied in all matters related to funeral service 
  • Apply effective management skills in funeral home operations 
  • Act with compassion and professionalism toward the family and friends of the deceased 

Graduates are also eligible to take the NBE certification exam, leading to a funeral service provider license. 

TCC also offers an AAS in Funeral Directing program, a four-semester program with 61 credits at its Virginia Beach campus. Students gain skills in the management of funeral homes and related establishments. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Accounting 
  • Culinary Arts 

Jumpstart your career within a year with TCC’s AAS in Funeral Service degree


Cape Cod Community College 

Cape Cod Community College

(On-campus) AS in Funeral Service 

Students in the two-year AS in Funeral Service program prepare for the licensure exams for embalmers and funeral directors in almost 50 states. The ABFSE-accredited program consists of professional courses that develop both technical and transferable skills for the job. 

The 63-credit program features an extensive curriculum with academic courses and hands-on training in laboratories and funeral homes. The Bridgewater State University campus hosts the classes and the laboratory sessions. 

The coursework includes milestone courses that must be completed within the indicated semester for on-track studies and graduation. These include Embalming Chemistry, Embalming, and Survey of Human Anatomy and Physiology. A minimum “C” grade is also required for retention. 

Liberal Arts courses are included in the curriculum. English Composition, Human Communication, Elementary Statistics, and Social Foundations of Funeral Service are examples. 

Graduates possess technical and conceptual knowledge about a diverse range of topics, including: 

  • Funeral directing includes death notifications, transfer or shipment of remains, and practices in burials and cremations 
  • Funeral service marketing from sourcing supplies and marketing products related to funerals 
  • Management of funeral homes and related establishments, including business plan preparation, financing, and human resources 
  • Counseling services for the bereaved and the community through courses in counseling, psychology, and crisis intervention 
  • Social and historical understanding of funeral services 
  • Compliance with rules and regulations, including public health and safety 

Programs Offered: 

  • Performing Arts 
  • Human Services 

4Cs’ AS in Funeral Service program is a shortcut way, so to speak, of getting your feet wet in the field, so you must check it out! 


Arapahoe Community College

Arapahoe Community College

(On-campus and Online Options) AAS in Mortuary Science 

With its small class sizes, credentialed faculty, and high academic standards, Arapahoe’s AAS in Mortuary Science program has produced the best funeral service professionals in the country! Students learn the technical skills in mortuary science and the soft skills necessary for success in a demanding profession. 

Two tracks appeal to different student cohorts. First, Track I is for full-time students with prior college credits, particularly in general education and prerequisite courses. Students can earn the degree in three semesters and undertake funeral service-relevant courses. These include embalming theory and laboratory, restorative arts and laboratory, and funeral directing and counseling. 

The summer semester is spent on a funeral service internship and a review course for the NBE licensure exam. Students become well-prepared not only for the licensure exam but also for the realities of the job. 

Second, Track II is for part-time students who have completed or are nearing completion of prerequisite courses, including general education courses. This two-year program has five semesters of diverse courses, including embalming theory and practices, funeral service marketing and merchandising, and restorative art. The summer semester during the second year is dedicated exclusively to an internship and review for the NBE licensure exam. 

Students can also choose between on-campus and online delivery, depending on their location. Admission into the program means choosing one of these two options, but some students may qualify for the hybrid format. Online students must participate in on-campus embalming courses. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Art History 
  • Physics 

Whether you like online or on-campus studies, you will find them at ACC’s AAS in Mortuary Science program. Come and check it out now!


Northampton Community College 

Northampton Community College

(On-campus) AAS in Funeral Service Education

Offered at NCC’s Bethlehem campus, the 94-credit AAS in Funeral Service Education program can be completed in six semesters or three years. Students prepare for a year-long internship through courses in embalming theory, funeral directing, and funeral laws during their last two semesters. The latter covers relevant laws, rules, and regulations in Pennsylvania and the US. 

The comprehensive coursework results in students gaining a wide range of skills including but not limited to: 

  • Handling of human remains according to the wishes of the deceased and their family, from the embalming process to the burial ceremony 
  • Preparing the documents required by the law, including death certificates and burial permits, as well as describing their importance and procedures to the bereaved family 
  • Guiding grief-related services by offering support groups and counseling to the family and friends of the deceased 
  • Demonstrating compassion and sensitivity toward the family and friends in all interactions 
  • Managing the funeral home, including its marketing and merchandising, human resources, and finances 

Candidates are evaluated based on their academic track record, so it’s among the most selective programs. The admission requirements are at least 2.5 overall GPA and at least “C” grades in high school chemistry and biology. Students must also be physically and mentally fit due to the rigorous program of study. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Communication Design 
  • Applied Psychology 

Do you want an associate degree that you can be proud of and will be your ticket toward a successful career? If yes, enroll in NCC’s AAS in Funeral Service Education program now! 

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor