How Can I Become a Funeral Director?

A number of the emails we receive are from those seeking advice about how to forge a career in funeral service. “How can I become a funeral director?’ and “Do you recommend it?” many ask.

A career as a funeral director is not for everyone. It takes enormous commitment and dedication. Funeral directors deal with issues of mortality — our own as well as those of our clients — on a daily basis. The hours are long and –contrary to public perception — the pay is relatively low. What’s more, job opportunities are few and far between, as smaller family owned funeral homes have closed around the country close and the existing ones are often bought up by corporations and then consolidated. Still, the intangible rewards are many in a career we see as a ministry.

Do it for the Right Reasons

If you decide to pursue a career as a funeral director, do it because you genuinely want to make a terrible time a bit easier for others. Do it because you believe in ceremony and ritual – and because you possess an empathetic nature. Don’t do it because you want to be a YouTube star. A good funeral director works quietly and efficiently in the background.

And one more do: do know your business environment. When one woman, newly graduated from mortuary school and looking for an internship, went on interviews, she enthusiastically expressed an interest in doing green burials. As green burials are not a happening thing in New York City (there’s little to no interest), her interests did not square with those of the funeral home owners. After investing time and money in school, she never worked in funeral service.

On that note….

Funeral Service is a Traditonal Industry and that Tradition Continues

Despite the media’s focus on alternative, and often outlandish, funeral “alternatives,” not much has changed. Sure, a growing percentage of funerals end in cremation, but cremation is nothing more than a final disposition choice, like burial or entombment. In no way does cremation preclude a traditional funeral with open-casket visitation. So, you will be spending a lot of time embalming and making removals.

A Word About Mortuary Schools 

Mortuary schools need to turn a profit in order to stay in business. For that reason, they may paint a rosier picture of potential job opportunities than what actually exists. And while licensing requirements vary from state to state, at the least, a year or two in an accredited mortuary school will be required, and that does not come cheap.

Speak to the Established

When we were students at American Academy- McAllister Institute in New York City, we each had several classmates who had never even seen a dead body or, for that matter, been inside a funeral home. Needless to say, they did not make it through the program. Before you invest your time and money, if possible, shadow a funeral director.

Also, talk to established (emphasis on “established”) funeral directors in your area about the job market, and what to expect.  Those with a modicum of experience, claiming to be “experts” and hawking merchandise on YouTube and Instagram, often paint a false picture. Better yet, get a part time job in a funeral home if you can.