Career Choice: Mortician

Career Choice: Mortician
  • Type: Career Type
  • Opening Intro -

    Working with the dead has its advantages.

    They don’t talk back, they care less how they look and you’ll never see them again once you’re done serving them.


Seriously, working with the deceased isn’t for everyone. You need to have certain people skills — compassion, empathy and sympathy — that not everyone has. You’ll also need to be specially trained and equipped to work as a mortician, a professional who is also known as an undertaker or a funeral counselor.


A mortician consults with decedent’s next of kin to make funeral and burial arrangements. This professional will need to fill out legal documents, including a death certificate, and complete a burial permit. The mortician schedules, plans and coordinates the funeral, including discussing with kinfolk casket options, cremations, wake or memorial services and coordinating with the cemetery or crematorium. The mortician may offer counseling, including discussing what survivor benefits may be available and by working with other professionals including clergy as needed.


On the job training is an important aspect for the mortician, but first the apprentice should have completed a two- or four-year mortuary science program. Accredited programs from the American Board of Funeral Service Education covers about 60 mortuary science programs, usually leading to two-year degrees. All states require funeral directors to be licensed and most require these professionals to take continuing education courses. While in college, students will take a variety of courses including anatomy, physiology, pathology, embalming techniques and restorative art. Also business management, accounting and computer, and client services courses are essential for this position.

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The mean annual wage for morticians, funeral counselors and undertakers was $62,490 per year as of May 2010 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With fewer than 30,000 people working as morticians, the industry is small, but fairly lucrative for experienced workers. Starting pay is low, averaging $29,930 for those in the 10th percentile and rising to $40,050 for those in the 25th percentile. Morticians in the 50th percentile earned $54,330 in 2010. Those in the 75th percentile earned $72,920 while those in the 90th percentile averaged $98,820 per year.


The death care services industry, comprised of funeral homes, crematoriums and similar planning businesses employes more than 85 percent of all morticians according to the bureau. This industry paid its workers $62,360 per year in 2010, nearly matching the national mean. The remaining workers were self-employed or employed by the federal government and employment services, averaging $71,150 and $61,080 per year, respectively.


More morticians worked in Texas than in any other state, earning $51,080 per year on average, far below the national mean. New York had the second highest number of morticians, who earned well above the national mean at $81,270 reports the bureau. Morticians in Pennsylvania averaged $63,710, those in California earned $73,210, while morticians in North Carolina made $591,60 per year on average, to round out the five states with the highest employment levels.


The job forecast for funeral service workers is expected to be good, with the bureau anticipating a 12 percent growth rate from 2008 to 2018, corresponding to the rate of growth for all jobs. The bureau notes that many opportunities for employment will come as older workers retire. Moreover, the mortuary science major who is willing to relocate may find more opportunities by casting his or her net further afield.


O-Net Online: Summary Report for: 39-4031.00 – Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; Funeral Directors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics; 39-4831 Funeral Service Managers, Directors, Morticians, and Undertakers

American Board of Funeral Service Education: Programs

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Categories: Career Planning