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Careers in Funeral Service

There is much to be said about pursuing a career in funeral service.

Before entering mortuary school
For those students who would be interested in learning more about a career in funeral service before committing to mortuary school, Stratford Career Institute offers distance learning courses in funeral service topics.

Please visit their website at for more information or you can call them at 800-556-4559.

Licensing Boards and Mortuary Schools** by State (PDF 85K)

**Not every state has a mortuary school.

It is a great profession that serves people during one of the most difficult times of there life.  Embalming is one aspect of funeral service.  Embalming education is not separate from mortuary science curriculums whether at a private mortuary school or public college or university. Attending mortuary school will give you education in all aspects of the profession including embalming. Some students will work at funeral homes during mortuary school but the best possible situation is for a student to have some exposure to the funeral home before entering school.  This will give the student the best introduction to this demanding profession.

Anyone considering a career in funeral service must understand all the aspects of the profession.  This is a profession that must be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.  We do not control when someone dies.  This means that someone from the funeral home (and in some cases, the embalmer also) is always on call, uses a pager, and is interrupted on holidays and other special events of their personal life. This is the life we choose and sign up for when we go into funeral service.

Embalmers come into direct contact with the body.  They are exposed to blood and body fluids and infectious diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, and Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease.  Some causes of death will be difficult for some people to see.  Trauma, motor vehicle accidents, child deaths, cancers and the list goes on.  For those who feel they want to ultimately be an embalmer, they will need to be able to face the challenges of the types of cases described here. It is not glamorous and requires hard work.  Embalmers do not get to pick and choose what kind of cases they will work on.  You must be willing to put in whatever time is necessary for each case and have a sense of desire to put forth your best effort.

It must be remembered that each deceased individual we prepare is someone's loved one; a father, mother, child, sister, brother, or other dear family member or friend.  We must treat each one of these individuals as though they were a member of our own family and maintain a sense of dignity for them.  We respect the deceased and their family by giving them our best effort every time and seeking help when we need it.  The rewards are when the family comes in to view the deceased for the first time after the death and compliments the work you have done.  The highest compliment you can be paid is when a family that had initially decided to leave the casket closed now chooses to leave it open.  The work of the embalmer will be with the family and friends forever in memories of the last time they saw there loved one during the funeral.

Regulation of Mortuary Science Practice
Each individual state regulates the practice of mortuary science.  They determine the educational requirements prior to entering mortuary school as well as the requirements to become licensed. You will need to check with the individual state that you intend to practice in to determine what the requirements are.

Mortuary schools are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE).  They set the curriculum and approve the type of program the school is allowed to offer to prospective students.  Some schools will only offer a diploma at the conclusion of the program while others will be able to offer some type of degree program.  Courses for embalmers in mortuary schools cover the entire curriculum for both embalming and funeral directing and the disciplines can not be separated.

The International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards (CFSEB) administers a national examination (and in some cases also administers state board examinations) at the conclusion of the mortuary school program.

    American Board of Funeral Service Education
    Michael Smith

    Executive Director
    3414 Ashland Avenue, Suite G
    St. Joseph, MO 64506
    Phone: (816) 233-3747
    Fax: (816) 233-3793

    International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards
    1885 Shelby Lane
    Fayetteville, AR 72704
    Phone: 479-442-7076
    Fax: 479-442-7090

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