Morticians, also known as undertakers and funeral directors, assist families with end-of-life planning and services. They coordinate required legal documents, write obituaries, organize floral arrangements and update company websites with information about the deceased. Morticians use special chemicals, reconstructive techniques and cosmetics to prepare bodies for public viewing. Empathy, a customer-service focus, manual dexterity, organizational skills and the ability to work flexible hours are key attributes for successful morticians.
Morticians meet with people to discuss their final wishes and plan funeral arrangements. They also may meet with surviving family members when plans were not made in advance. They transport the deceased from their place of death, embalm the body or perform cremations. Morticians schedule public viewing times, provide grief counseling resources, place death notices in newspapers and obtain death certificates for next-of-kin. Morticians plan religious services, coordinate vehicular processions and assist with interment at a cemetery or mausoleum on the day of the funeral.
Aspiring morticians benefit from high school courses in chemistry, biology and public speaking. Funeral directors must earn at least an associate's degree in mortuary science, and preferably, a bachelor's degree to secure employment. Mortuary students study business law, embalming techniques, grief counseling, professional ethics and funeral service management. Fifty seven associate's and bachelor's degree programs are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. According to the ABFSE, morticians must serve formal apprenticeships lasting one to three years supervised by experienced funeral directors either before or after their formal education. Most U.S. states require a mortician's license for you to work as a funeral director.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups funeral service managers, directors, morticians, and undertakers in its salary estimates. Morticians earned a median hourly salary of $25.38 and a median yearly wage of $52,790, as of May 2011. Entry-level morticians had median annual salaries of $29,490 and the most experienced workers earned a median wage of $97,200 per year, according to the Bureau.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected number of jobs for funeral directors is estimated to increase by 5,300, or 18 percent, through 2020. This figure compares with an average growth rate of 14 percent growth estimated for all other U.S. occupations. Employment growth will be the result of a demographic reality: a rapidly aging U.S. population who increasingly plan and pay for their own funeral arrangements.
The George P. Kalas Funeral Home of Oxon Hill, Maryland, provides its morticians with an innovative tool: live webcasting of funeral proceedings and viewings. Morticians at Kalas can give customers a secure e-mail link to enable remotely located friends and family members with an opportunity to experience life celebrations and interments. According to the Kalas Funeral Home website, "They simply open the e-mail, click on the secured link and view the service on a high speed connection using Windows Media Player."
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Funeral Directors Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Funeral Director
- American Board of Funeral Service Education: Information About the Funeral Service Profession
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011: Funeral Service Managers, Directors, Morticians, and Undertakers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Funeral Directors-Job Outlook
- The George P. Kalas Funeral Home: Live Funeral Webcasting
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images