How To Become a Mortician

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: December 1, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Health
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The career of a mortician is a rather unique one. It’s fitting for the right type of person with compassion. Learning how to become a mortician can help you help others as they go through a very difficult time.

Morticians are often referred to as funeral directors. When someone loses a loved one, they may not be able to handle all the preparations for the funeral. As a mortician, you can handle the necessary tasks for families as they grieve.

This can be a very rewarding career, but it’s not for everybody. Before you decide you want to become a mortician, it’s best to understand the job duties. Let’s look at the duties of a mortician, along with how to become a mortician.

How To Become a Mortician

Job Duties of a Mortician

As a mortician, you will oversee the entire process of preparing for the funeral. Morticians will help with getting the deceased person prepared for burial. You will also do even more for the grieving families.

Some of the common job duties of morticians include:

Your main job will be to take care of whatever is necessary to allow the family to grieve. Most people cannot handle planning a funeral during this difficult time. They will need your help.

How To Become a Mortician in 4 Steps

Step #1 – Meet the Basic Requirements

Morticians must start by meeting the basic requirements. You will need to be at least 21 years of age. Depending on our state, you may also need a certification. Most morticians will also need to complete high school or hold a GED.

Step #2 – Get your Degree

If you want to become a mortician, you will likely need to get an associate’s degree in mortuary science or funeral service. Taking courses in chemistry and biology in high school can help prepare you for this type of degree.

You will likely need to spend two years in school to earn your degree. This type of degree will teach you embalming techniques, anatomy, ethics surrounding grief, how to run a funeral service, grief counseling, and business law.

It’s possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in mortuary science and funeral service, as well. However, a bachelor’s degree isn’t required. Some funeral homes may prefer you have a four-year degree, however.

Step #3 – Get Some Experience

It’s common for students looking to become morticians to work a part-time or summer job at a funeral home. You can learn about how the bodies are prepared and how the funeral is run. It’s helpful to practice your public speaking skills, too.

You will want to complete an apprenticeship or internship to gain the necessary experience. This is an important step in your journey to becoming a mortician. Usually, an apprenticeship or internship will last one to three years.

Step #4 – Become Certified

Unless you plan to work in Colorado, you will need to become certified. All other states and districts require verification. Even in Colorado, it’s voluntary but preferred by most employers.

You will need to pass the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards test to become certified. This test may include one or two parts, depending on your state. It may also be necessary to get a state and national license.

The two-part state test will include 300 multiple-choice questions. You will be tested on your knowledge of funeral sciences and arts. Questions will be split into different sections including counseling, funeral arranging, marketing, directing, regulatory and legal compliance, crematory operations, and cemetery operations. The sciences section will include questions about preparing for burial, restorative art, embalming, cremation, and funeral service sciences.

If a national license is necessary, you will need to graduate from an ABFSE. This test will include 340 multiple-choice questions about funeral arts and sciences. Similar topics will be covered on the national exam compared to the state exam.

Common Skills Needed to Become a Mortician

Since your job will include very sensitive and emotional things, it’s necessary to have the right skills. Not everybody is suited to being a mortician. Some of the skills you should have include:

Some skills can be taught, while others you likely either have or you don’t. If you’re a compassionate person, this is a good start towards a career as a mortician.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Mortician

How much can I make as a mortician?

The salary range for morticians can go from about $30K to $90K per year. It depends on where you work, how busy you are, and how much experience you have as a mortician. The average yearly salary will fall around $62K.

Richmond, Virginia is the highest paying location for morticians with an average salary of about $82K. Denver, Dallas, and Louisville are next on the list.

Can I earn commissions as a mortician?

No, as a mortician, you cannot earn commissions. Actually, it’s illegal under the funeral rule for you to collect commissions in this position. The Federal Trade Commission enforces this rule, which requires morticians and funeral homes to provide an itemized list of all the prices they charge for their services and products.

How long will it take for me to become a mortician?

The amount of time it takes depends on your level of experience and education. For most morticians, it takes about three to four years to become completely trained.

Are morticians and funeral directors the same thing?

These used to be known as separate careers and may still be, in some circumstances. However, funeral homes are smaller operations today and these job titles have become interchangeable.

It used to be that a mortician would prepare the body and a funeral director would handle the service. Today, a mortician is likely to be a funeral director and vice versa. While these are not always the same career, often, these two terms are interchangeable.

What is the work environment of a mortician like?

Morticians work for funeral homes. They will spend their time conducting funeral services and preparing bodies. It’s also common for morticians to travel to private homes, places of worship, cemeteries, and other sites for funeral services.

What type of hours do morticians work?

It’s not uncommon for a mortician to work on the weekends. Long shifts are common, as you will need to provide services for multiple clients in the same week. It’s also common to be on call since death isn’t something that can be scheduled.

What is the job outlook like for morticians?

While this isn’t a fast-growing career, it is a growing career. The career of a mortician is expected to grow by about 5% over the next ten years. This is very close to the average of all occupations.

What is the cost to become a mortician?

You will need to pay for time in school, so the cost will likely depend on where you get your degree. Most morticians will spend between $38K and $150K to get their degree and work in this field.

Can I complete my degree in mortuary science online?

You can take some of the necessary courses towards your degree online. However, many of the courses providing hands-on training may need to be taken in person. It’s common for morticians to complete a hybrid program with some courses online and some in person.

Is there room for advancement as a mortician?

There is some room for advancement if you enter into this career. Some morticians go on to become funeral service managers. This career pays more and puts you in charge of funeral home operations. It’s also possible to open your own funeral home.

Finding the right career isn’t always easy. If you’re interested in becoming a mortician, you may want to shadow a local mortician before making your final decision. This is a career not everybody can do or can handle. You will spend quite a bit of time around grieving families, which can be hard to handle.

If you believe this is the career for you, learning how to become a mortician is an important step. Make sure you understand your state’s requirements. Get your degree, and prepare for your exams. Once you have your license, you’ll be ready to work for a funeral home.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.