How to Become a Funeral Director

By Ann Heinz, JD, CDEI
May 25, 2021
How To Become A Funeral Director

Funeral directors or morticians provide a variety of services to the deceased and their family members. Funeral directors work with clients to determine the best possible service for their loved ones. If you are interested in becoming a funeral director, it may be helpful to gain insight into what they do and how to become one before you start your career path.

This article discusses and breaks down what a funeral director does and how you can become one with answers to frequently asked questions.

What Do Funeral Directors Do?

Funeral directors (or morticians) are professionals who assist family members of the deceased with funeral services, as well as preparing, burying, and/or cremating the body. This includes a lot of logistics, like arranging burials in different cemeteries, preparing or hosting wakes, viewings, and funerals, and all of the planning that goes along with these. Some of the responsibilities of a funeral director include:

  • Preparing (and sometimes writing) obituaries in local newspapers and online
  • Collaborating deceased’s family to arrange the logistics and details of the funeral according to their wishes
  • Deciding the location, dates, and times of viewings, wakes, funerals, and burials
  • Establishing location, dates, and times for schedules of burials, wakes, and memorial services
  • Providing the deceased’s family and flowers with transportation
  • Preparing and arranging the location for the service
  • Occasionally preparing and shipping bodies for out-of-state burials
  • Also running a business!

Funeral directors also usually have to handle all of the records and paperwork that’s involved when someone dies, including obtaining a formal death certificate. Many funeral directors are also able to work with the government to resolve veterans’ funeral benefits issues, and sometimes they can help with insurance problems. Some funeral directors also help with aftercare and compassionate care services to help grieving families cope with their loss.

Steps to Becoming a Funeral Director

There are a few requirements you must complete before you can become a funeral director. Here are the most common steps to follow to become an established funeral director:

  1. Complete an accredited mortuary program and associate’s degree or equivalent.
  2. Complete an apprenticeship.
  3. Obtain your funeral license.
  4. Maintain your funeral license!

Complete Accredited Mortuary Program and Obtain College Degree

The education requirements in each state are different, so you should always consult your specific state’s licensing board to determine exactly what your state’s requirements are. However, you will need to complete a mortuary program accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), which should comprise about 45 credits of an associate’s degree or the equivalent.

While completing your funeral director program, you will take courses on topics like pathology, embalming chemistry, and restorative art. Your program will also teach you how to work with embalming chemicals and other hazardous chemicals; how to dissect cadavers; and how to embalm, restore, and present a cadaver. You will also need to learn how to follow important safety procedures, especially when working with chemicals or a corpse with infected tissue.

It may also be smart to take business classes as well, especially if you intend to run your own funeral home.

Complete a Funeral Apprenticeship

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) also requires you to complete an apprenticeship, which is typically done once you’ve completed your accredited funeral program and received your associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Some states also allow you to complete your apprenticeship at the same time as your degree.

Mortuary apprentices are only allowed to work under the supervision of a licensed funeral professional. Funeral director apprenticeships usually last between one and three years and are designed to give up-and-coming morticians the real-world experience they will need to find a job and work as a funeral director successfully.

Obtain Your State Funeral License

Once you complete your accredited mortuary program, received your college degree, and completed your apprenticeship with an experienced mortician, you can take your state exam to receive your funeral license. Funeral license exams include expected topics like embalming, pathology, business merchandising, and more.

Depending on your state, there may be separate funeral director, embalmer, and/or cremationist licenses.

How to Maintain a Funeral Director License

Most states require license-holders to complete regular continuing education (CE) courses to maintain their funeral licenses. WebCE offers the easiest way to complete your CE online, and all of WebCE’s courses are approved by the state boards and the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practitioners (APFSP) for Certified Funeral Service Practitioners (CFSP).

WebCE offers a comprehensive catalog of state-specific funeral CE courses for funeral directors, cremationists, embalmers, and direct disposers. To order Funeral CE courses, visit our Funeral CE Course Catalog or call our customer service representatives at 877-488-9308.

Funeral CE Catalog