Cultures and religions of every kind may vary greatly in beliefs and faith, but what makes them comparable is the element they share in common - all of them pay respect and honor their deceased. Funeral practices may vary from one culture to another, but most of the rituals include preparing the remains of the deceased, performing a ceremony and finally, carrying out the deceased final wishes.
Because of this importance, seeking professional memorial assistance for their departed loved ones becomes common for most people throughout the world. This results in individuals making a decision to enter the world of interment by becoming a funeral director. You may also get interested in becoming a funeral director; here are some things you’ll need to consider in order to start a career.
How to become a funeral director
1 Consider having an early start
To be a funeral director, one must have the skills required to be one. While in high school, you can start learning necessary skills useful for a mortician career.
- In order to prepare you for a funeral director career take courses in biology and chemistry, including activities involving public speaking.
- Work part-time or pick up a summer job in a funeral home so you can assess whether you have the courage and interest in working in the mortuary service industry. You may work as a limousine washer and polisher, and other clean-up tasks needed in a funeral home.
- Assess your skills. In order to stand the job, you must be mentally strong, in order to plan an organized and accurate service for the deceased. Physically fit, to be able to cope with handling bodies and dealing with unpleasant smells and sights, and be emotionally strong so that you can deal with people’s grief without getting affected yourself. .
- You must have the virtue of sympathy and empathy, caring, dignified and polite in understanding the bereaved people’s needs.
- Most funeral directors work as embalmers as well. In this sense, you must also be comfortable working with dead bodies.
2 Obtain a degree in Mortuary Science
Most states require funeral directors to be licensed, and one of the prerequisite to be eligible for a license exam is a formal education. The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) is an organization that accredits almost 60 programs intended for funeral directors.
- Pursue a college program in mortuary science. You must be able to complete approximately 60 hours of academic coursework. Part of the programs includes the following courses:
- Sciences that include anatomy, pathology, physiology, psychology, chemistry, embalming techniques and restorative art.
- Business courses like business management, funeral home management and computer literacy skills.
- Social studies including grief counseling, and sociology of funeral service.
- Business laws, funeral laws and ethics.
- Typically, a college mortuary science program will last from 2 to 4 years. But most states require a bachelor’s degree in mortuary science, while others still accept a two-year course for the licensing. It is best to check for your state's eligibility requirement for the license exam.
- Most programs will also require you to complete a practicum within a funeral home as part of the curriculum.
3 Verify for your State’s Licensing requirements
Licensing requirements will vary from state to state, but typically requires potential funeral directors to have a minimum education, experience and pass a licensure exam.
- Almost all states require funeral directors to be licensed. You must be at least 21 years old in order to qualify for a license.
- Most states will also require at least 2 years of formal education in mortuary science, but there are other states that will require directors to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
- Another requirement would be at least 1 year of apprenticeship under the supervision of a state licensed funeral director.
- You also need to pass a licensure examination. Your state board will administer an exam which usually consists of a written, oral exam, and also a practical skills test.
- There are some states which require funeral directors to be licensed as embalmers as well.
- It is best that you get a license from the state where you would want to practice your profession. In case you wanted to practice in other states, you have to pass the examination and be licensed in that state. But there are some states that have reciprocity arrangements which enable funeral directors to work in another state without taking further examinations.
4 Start gaining experience through apprenticeship
To be eligible for the licensure exam, you must obtain necessary apprenticeships under a supervision of an experienced and licensed funeral director.
- Most state will require apprenticeship for a minimum of 1 year, others may require more up to 3 years. These apprenticeships, depending on the state regulation, may be fulfilled before, during or after your mortuary science education.
- Apprenticeships typically provide practical experience from embalming techniques to transporting the deceased.
5 Find a job
Initially, you cannot expect to immediately land a job as a funeral director. Similar to other professions, you may have to start from scratch and eventually find your way to the position you always wanted.
- You may be offered with entry-level positions like an assistant for the funeral director or even an embalmer. Accept this position as it will help you to gain experience and eventually be eligible for a full-time funeral director position.
6 Continue your education, even after landing a job
- The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offers continuing education programs for funeral directors, which includes distance learning opportunities and online conferences.
- You may be required to complete an advanced continuing education in order for you to maintain your license.
- Other advancement opportunities will also be helpful, mostly applicable for those who have landed a job in big companies with multiple funeral homes. You may take advanced education to obtain a Diploma for Funeral Service Management, which will allow you to be promoted in positions like branch manager or general manager.
- Given an ample amount of money and experience you may also start running your own funeral service business.
Becoming a funeral director can also be a rewarding job-of-choice, especially for those who have the passion to help people through the difficult time of their lives losing someone they love. This experience will allow you to discover several aspects that will make you love this job. For some, this can be a scary or awkward job to be into, but paying respect to the dead and helping the family to recover from their grief might be the most fulfilling job one can have.
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