Choosing Funeral Service as a Career

To learn more about the occupations of funeral directing and embalming, visit your local funeral home and a college career center (community colleges, universities, and some high schools, have career centers).

Job Requirements and Expectations for Funeral Directors

Funeral Directing and funeral service involve frequent contact with the public. Funeral directors interview the family to ascertain their wishes concerning the funeral arrangements and desires as to the final disposition of their loved one. Details concerning the public announcement of death, funeral arrangements, and communications among intraprofessionals are often implemented by the funeral director. Funeral services may be conducted at a church, residence, or funeral home, or may not be desired by the family. Funeral directors must be able to accommodate the wishes of the family and the officiating clergy. Funeral directors may also assist the family in their selection of funeral merchandise (if desired by the family). Although funeral directing does not encompass embalming, care of the deceased must be prudent and compassionate. It is a regular requirement of some funeral directors to move and transport the deceased from the place of death to a stretcher, then to a transport vehicle. At the funeral home, funeral directors may have to move the remains from the stretcher to the preparation table. Following the preparation of the deceased by the embalmer, funeral directors may assist in dressing and casketing the deceased.

After casketing, the body and casket may need to be further positioned on the church truck or bier and then moved to the visitation or viewing area for the family's first viewing. Funeral directors greet the family for the first viewing and accompany them to the viewing area. For many of the family members, this will be a very emotional time because this might be the first   time they have seen the deceased since the death occurred. During the time of visitation, wake, or calling hours, the funeral director greets family and friends that have come to offer their condolences to the family.

The funeral service or memorial service may offer many challenges to the practicing funeral director. Logistically, the funeral director must move the casketed body into the place of the funeral service, which might be a church, funeral home chapel, or in
some cases, a graveside service may be held at the cemetery. He or she must be familiar with the denomination or faith of the deceased and/or family. Services may only contain a small degree of religious beliefs, or the services may be completely devoid of religious content. It is necessary for the funeral director to move the casketed body out of the place of funeral and assist and instruct the pallbearers in conveying the casket to the funeral coach. Likewise, the committal service requires the body to be moved from the funeral coach to the grave area. The active pallbearers must be properly instructed and assisted in the proper movement of the casket. Following the committal service or a graveside service, some funeral directors assist in the placement of the casket in the outer enclosure and may assist in the physical closure of the grave.

Funeral directors may transport and arrange the floral tributes at the grave, while others may assist and transport the family to the place of funeral service and return them safely to their home. Some services will not have a "body" present, (Memorial Services) still others won't have an urn or cremated remains present.

Funeral directors must do more than "have an open mind" about services and practices that he or she doesn't like or isn't accustomed to. The services that families select are important to that family. Families should not be shunned or told-directly or indirectly- that their selections are "not the norm" for the area, or not the "traditional" funeral service. (Note: A very successful funeral director once told me that whatever his family wants to do IS the traditional or customary for that service!) Effective, productive, and caring funeral directors make families feel as though their funeralization or memorialization choices are the norm. Funeral directors define "traditional" according to the needs of each client family. Always remember to be versatile, offering options and choices. This will make your families pleased with your services and will help them in their own grief resolution.

Funeral directors complete much of the paperwork associated with a death and the disposition of human remains. This paperwork includes a notification of death, death certificate, statement of funeral goods and service selected. Other paperwork may involve filing for social security benefits, veterans benefits, and insurance claim information. In addition to the care, compassion and empathy involved in this profession, a funeral director must also exercise superior business skills to ensure that his or her business operates cleanly, without excessive debt, and collects debts of its own.

Working conditions for funeral directing often include irregular and long hours. In some funeral homes, funeral directors are required to work on a "shift" along with other members of a team. Funeral directors deal with death on a daily and continuing
basis. Emotions are high among at-need client families and there are situations in dealing with families that are very trying- emotionally and mentally. Funeral Service or the Death Care Industry is an image-conscious profession. Practitioners or care providers are often judged on their appearances, actions, and speech. Funeral directors must dress conservatively and appropriately. Extremely "trendy" hair styles, clothing, jewelry, piercings, and body markings may be objectionable to many  client families; therefore, many funeral home employers mandate certain specific dress codes as a condition of employment.    The profession usually requires conservative suits or clothing and short, neat hair cuts and trimmed facial hair for men and conservative jewelry, cosmetics, nail colors, and attire for women. Lifting and movement of human remains and caskets is required at most funeral homes. It is also often necessary for a funeral director to carry portable register stands, lecterns, folding chairs, and the like, as these items are oftentimes transported and set-up at the homes of many client families, so it is common for funeral homes to require that an applicant be able to assist in moving, lifting, and positioning decedents, caskets, and funeral articles/equipment.

Employment- Funeral directors held about 26,000 jobs nation-wide in 1994. About 1 in 8 were self-employed. Nearly all worked in the funeral service and cremation industry, but a few worked for the federal government.

Licensure- In North Carolina, one may be licensed as a funeral director, embalmer, or funeral service licensee (Funeral service combines funeral directing AND embalming).  

To gain a funeral directing license, one must be at least 18 years of age, of good moral character, complete a period of  employment in a North Carolina funeral home (apprenticeship), successfully complete and graduate from a Funeral service or a funeral directing program from an accredited mortuary school, then successfully take and pass the state board examination.
To gain an embalming license, one must be at least 18 years of age, of good moral character, complete a 12-month period of full-time employment in a North Carolina funeral home (apprenticeship), successfully complete a funeral service program at an accredited mortuary school, then successfully take and pass the state board examination.

To gain a funeral service license, (includes funeral directing and embalming) one must be at least 18 years of age, of good moral character, complete a period of employment in a North Carolina funeral home (apprenticeship), successfully complete a funeral service program at a accredited mortuary school, then successfully take and pass the state board examination. Fayetteville Technical Community College does not take any responsibility for placing a student or graduate into a funeral home.The State Board MAY refuse to renew or issue a license if one has been convicted of a felony. For more information about matters of licensure or apprenticeships, contact the North Carolina State Board of Funeral Service at (800)862-0636 or (919)733-9380. The funeral director's program is accepted by the State Board of Funeral Service in NC. For other states, you should contact that state's funeral service board to ascertain IF they will accept our funeral directing certificate towards licensure as a funeral director (some states do not license individuals only as "funeral directors").