What do Embalmers do?

By WebCE
Dec 28, 2023
What do Embalmers do? A Look Inside a Unique Career

Embalmers play an important role in providing dignified funeral services to help families deal with difficult situations. By preparing the body chemically and cosmetically, the embalmer plays an essential role in providing respect to the deceased.

While it can be stressful and demanding dealing with human remains, a career in embalming is uniquely rewarding.

What is Embalming?

Embalming is a process that cleans and treats human remains with embalming fluid to delay decomposition. Embalming fluid is available in a variety of formulas. An embalmer uses different formulas for different reasons, such as improving the condition of the body or getting a desired cosmetic appearance.

Embalmers may also use restorative art techniques to reconstruct or enhance the appearance of the deceased, which may include:

  • Making sure the body looks as natural as possible
  • Reconstructive technique to hide injuries
  • Applying makeup, hairstyling, and clothing to human remains
  • Ensuring compliance with state and industry rules and regulations
  • Preventing the spread of any infectious diseases

Because it involves preparing bodies for viewing and interment, embalming is often considered both an art and a science.

The Role of Embalmers in the Funeral Industry

Funeral service professionals offer loved ones of the deceased help in navigating the complex and challenging emotions loss can bring. At the heart of a respectful open casket funeral service is the embalmer’s skill in presenting the deceased as respectfully as possible.

Presenting the body as naturally as possible is vital to honoring and remembering the deceased while also facilitating mourning. An open casket allows for a more personal farewell and can even offer a sense of closure for some.

Some cultures and religions have specific traditions tied to funeral services whereby an open casket can offer a sense of continuity and cultural connection.

In short, embalmers are vital to the funeral industry. Every funeral service with an open casket begins with an embalmer’s skill at providing a natural, dignified appearance of the deceased. This provides both a final farewell and time for loved one’s to begin processing their loss.

Job Prospects for Embalmers

A career in embalming is not only meaningful, but job prospects are high as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for embalmers are expected to grow at about 4% a year.  The entire funeral service industry is expected to grow at a rate of 8% annually between now and 2031.

Requirements and Qualifications for Embalmers

While requirements for embalmers may vary depending on the state, embalmers will need an associate’s degree. This typically lasts two years as part of a mortuary science degree. Coursework can include:

  • Pathology
  • Anatomy
  • Embalming
  • Restorative techniques
  • Physiology
  • Knowledge of applicable laws

Students need hands-on experience with these techniques. So, while there are online courses, they may also have lab practice requirements.

Licensing laws vary by state, but all embalmers generally must be at least 21 years old, complete an ABFSE (American Board of Funeral Service Education) accredited funeral service or mortuary science education program, and have an apprenticeship. Embalmers must serve their apprenticeship under the direction of another licensed embalmer or funeral director.

In most states, embalmers also need to earn funeral continuing education credits to keep their licenses current. Many of these courses can be completed online to fulfill funeral CE credits.

Embalming as a Career

A career as an embalmer can be immensely rewarding. Few careers allow you to apply your expertise to help ease the pain of others during a time of distress. This sort of meaning and purpose in a career is unique to the funeral industry.

Interested in becoming an embalmer? The first step is arranging your educational requirements to get licensed.

Unsure? One approach could be looking through WebCE’s funeral CE course catalog to get a sense of the topics embalmers must know. After all, once you become an embalmer, you may need to complete funeral CE credits to maintain your qualifications. You could even think of it as a sneak peek into the future.