Funeral Service Workers

What Funeral Service Workers Do

Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a ceremony honoring a deceased person.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-IcbRa6Bqc

Work Environment

Funeral service workers are employed in funeral homes and crematories. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are common. Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Funeral Service Worker

An associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science is the education typically required to become a funeral service worker. Most employers and state licensing laws require applicants to be 21 years old, have at least 2 years of formal postsecondary education, have supervised training, and pass a state licensing exam.

Pay

The median annual wage for funeral home managers was $76,350 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers was $54,150 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029. Those who are licensed as funeral directors and embalmers and who are willing to relocate should have the best job opportunities.

Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a ceremony honoring a deceased person.

Duties

Funeral service workers typically do the following:

  • Offer counsel and comfort to families and friends of the deceased
  • Provide information on funeral service options
  • Arrange for removal of the deceased’s body
  • Prepare the remains (the deceased’s body) for the funeral
  • File death certificates and other legal documents with appropriate authorities

Funeral service workers help to determine the locations, dates, and times of visitations (wakes), funerals or memorial services, burials, and cremations. They handle other details as well, such as helping the family decide whether the body should be buried, entombed, or cremated. This decision is critical because funeral practices vary among cultures and religions.

Most funeral service workers attend to the administrative aspects of a person’s death, including submitting papers to state officials to receive a death certificate. They also may help resolve insurance claims, apply for funeral benefits, or notify the Social Security Administration or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of the death.

Many funeral service workers help clients who wish to plan their own funerals in advance, to ensure that their needs are met and to ease the planning burden on surviving family members.

Funeral service workers also may provide information and resources, such as support groups, to help grieving friends and family.

The following are examples of types of funeral service workers:

Funeral home managers oversee the general operations of a funeral home business. They perform a variety of duties, such as planning and allocating the resources of the funeral home, managing staff, and handling marketing and public relations.

Morticians and funeral arrangers (also known as funeral directors or, historically, undertakers) plan the details of a funeral. They often prepare obituaries and arrange for pallbearers and clergy services. If a burial is chosen, they schedule the opening and closing of a grave with a representative of the cemetery. If cremation is chosen, they coordinate the process with the crematory. They also prepare the sites of all services and provide transportation for the deceased and mourners. In addition, they arrange the shipment of bodies out of state or out of country for final disposition. (Data covering workers who may assist with these tasks are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: funeral attendant.)

Finally, these workers handle administrative duties. For example, they often apply for the transfer of any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.

Many morticians and funeral arrangers embalm bodies. Embalming is a cosmetic and temporary preservative process through which the body is prepared for a viewing by family and friends of the deceased. (Data covering those who specialize in this work are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: embalmers.)

Funeral home managers held about 28,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of funeral home managers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 67%
Death care services 33

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers held about 26,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers were as follows:

Death care services 94%
Self-employed workers 5

Funeral services traditionally take place in a house of worship, in a funeral home, or at a gravesite or crematory. However, some families prefer to hold the service in their home or in a social center.

Funeral service workers typically perform their duties in a funeral home. Workers also may operate a merchandise display room, crematory, or cemetery, which may be on the funeral home premises. The work is often stressful, because workers must arrange the various details of a funeral within 24 to 72 hours of a death. In addition, they may be responsible for managing multiple funerals on the same day.

Although workers may come into contact with bodies that have contagious diseases, the work is not dangerous if proper safety and health regulations are followed. Those working in crematories are exposed to high temperatures and must wear appropriate protective clothing.

Work Schedules

Most funeral service workers are employed full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of funeral service workers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Administrative Services Managers

Administrative services managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities that help an organization run efficiently.

Bachelor’s degree $96,940

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers plan programs to generate interest in products or services.

Bachelor’s degree $135,900

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers plan, coordinate, and direct the administrative functions of an organization.

Bachelor’s degree $116,720

Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year.

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments.

See How to Become One $80,370

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.

See How to Become One $50,470

For more information about funeral service workers, including accredited mortuary science programs, visit

National Funeral Directors Association

For scholarships and educational programs in funeral service and mortuary science, visit

American Board of Funeral Service Education

National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association, Inc.

For information about crematories, visit

Cremation Association of North America

International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association

Candidates should contact their state board for specific licensing requirements.

O*NET

Funeral Service Managers

Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Funeral Service Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/funeral-service-occupations.htm (visited ).