I don’t know about you fine people but I don’t think I could handle being a funeral director. I mean, how would you qualify your day? I think, more or less, it would be depressing to see dead bodies and grieving families and friends on a day-to-day basis. But, for those looking forward to an exciting career in the Funeral Services industry, here’s some information that just might come in handy…
How do I get started?
First of all, I guess you gotta have the mentality to deal with the couple of things that I’ve already mentioned and probably much, much more. To do that, a little soul searching is probably in order and after your arrive at your decision it would behoove you to enroll in college. Little did I know that some colleges actually offer courses in the field and the degree you seek is something called an Associates Degree in Funeral Service.
Here in the “land of the free”, each of the fifty states has their own licensing requirements and in order to make the grade, you also have to pass a National Board of Examination. After you pass that, you’ll probably have to serve an apprenticeship for one or two years before you become a full blown funeral director.
How’s the job market?
(Insert your own joke here)
Well, with the miracles of modern medicine, it’s a well established fact that a persons life expectancy is increasing more and more. Since nature seems to like balance, the wonders of modern technology have also provided us with more and more creative ways to kill each other. I guess you can call it a toss up but your clients will always be there in one way or another.
Seriously though, on a national basis, there are more openings for funeral directors than there are licensed ones on hand
Is it for me?
Again, that depends on your motivation. Some people who become funeral directors feel a sense that they are providing a humanitarian service to those who need comforting. Others are probably in it for the paycheck.
Speaking of paychecks?
You can expect your salary to vary depending on where you decide to take up practice. Throughout the 90’s, starting salary for a newbie funeral director averaged anywhere between the mid to upper 20K neighborhood. A general rule of thumb is that you can expect to earn about the same amount of money as that of a starting teachers salary in your general locale.
Note: To me that seems kinda low because funeral costs seems to have skyrocketed over the past decade and I would have thought that the corresponding salary would be in line with that. Who knows, maybe the costs incurred by the funeral home have also skyrocketed.
What about the working conditions?
Have you ever been to a funeral home? I imagine it would take a special kind of person to actually want to spend their time there but at least it ain’t digging ditches in the hot sun.
Generally, you’ll be assigned to a regular shift but you can expect to put in evenings and weekends. Should your area experience a “busy season”, you’ll be asked to be on call either at your place of residence or in the funeral home itself.
So, what do I do?
Contrary to popular belief, a very small percentage your time is actually spent preparing the deceased. Most of it is spent dealing with the families and making the passage of their loved as least traumatic as can be.
What do I have to learn?
I’m sure tact and a patient, sympathetic demeanor should come as a no-brainer but there are certain more technical skills that will come in handy.
In the field of science, you’d be looking at micro-biology, pathology, chemistry, embalming and the art of restoration.
In a more practical business sense, you should probably have a course or two in small business management, computer skills and funeral home management under your belt.
From a human perspective, I’m sure each nationality has some of its own traditions when it comes to funerals. Along those lines, you’d be looking at some courses in the history of funeral services and the impact that it can have on the deceased loved ones. Getting familiar with concepts and practices of grief counseling also sounds like a pretty good idea.
From a legal perspective, most funeral homes are classified as small business and you should make yourself familiar with the best practices of your chosen professions.
All in all, I don’t see becoming a funeral director as an exciting career choice but it is certainly a necessity. I tip my hat to those who do it on a daily basis.