How to Become a Mortician (Definition and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you like helping people through challenging times, you can consider building a career as a mortician. Offering mortuary services involves various activities, making it an ideal career path for multi-talented individuals. Understanding the requirements and necessary skills to work in this role can help you decide if you want to build a career in this field. In this article, we discuss what a mortician is, explore how to become a mortician, review their duties, explain some essential skills for morticians, and answer some frequently asked questions about the role.

What is a mortician?

Morticians, also called funeral directors, are professionals who perform funerary services for deceased people based on the requirements of their surviving family members and loved ones. These professionals work with clients to provide secular or religious services. In addition, morticians perform various functions during the funeral service, such as handling legal documents to help ensure the bereaved can focus on grieving and being with family.

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How to become a mortician

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to become a mortician:

1. Get a degree in mortuary science

Some employers may require you to have a diploma or bachelor's degree in mortuary science. Depending on the program, it may take you two and four years to complete. If you already have a degree, you may only require a few supplementary courses which allow you to complete the program within a shorter time. Some provinces may allow you to become a mortician, but in a limited capacity, without a degree. For instance, a GED makes you eligible for on-the-job training, but you may not be able to become a certified embalmer without a degree.

Typically, related programs include anatomy, professional ethics, chemistry, microbiology, embalming, counselling, psychology, and mortuary law. Some programs may also include courses in finance and information technology to help you prepare for the regulatory and business aspect of the profession. In addition, the program may include a compulsory internship or a specific number of experience hours in a funeral home.

Related: Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Diploma (With Salaries)

2. Complete an apprenticeship

An essential requirement for being a certified mortician is completing between one to three years of practical experience. A common way of gaining the required years of experience is through apprenticeship programs. Some mortuary science programs may connect interested students with funeral homes offering available apprenticeship positions. It's important to note that you may complete the apprenticeship program during your undergraduate program or after graduation.

The apprenticeship programs give you the opportunity to work with mentors to learn how to perform mortuary tasks. It also allows you to practise your skills in a supervised environment while developing other skills. Some provinces may have specific requirements regarding time spent performing certain duties, such as cremation and embalming.

3. Earn your mortuary licences and certifications

After gaining the relevant experience, the next step is obtaining the relevant certification by completing the provincial licensing exam. As various provinces have different licensing bodies and requirements, it's essential for you to earn certification in all the provinces where you intend to work. Some provinces may also require you to have a separate embalming certificate in addition to your mortician licence.

You can also decide to earn additional certification to improve your credibility further. Besides your educational qualification, apprenticeship, licences, and certifications, some provinces and employers may request you to meet some additional requirements. For instance, they may require you to complete a background check, provide an updated immunization record, have a valid driver's licence, and gain first aid certification.

4. Write a resume and cover letter

The next step is organizing your application materials for a mortician role. It's essential that your resume emphasizes the skills and professional experience you earned during your apprenticeships and internships. You can also consider listing your qualifications, business, and administrative skills you can apply in the funeral home. As the role requires you to have the right mindset to interact with grieving clients, it's essential for your cover letter to emphasize your compassion, your passion for the job, and your plan to advance your career.

5. Apply for positions in funeral homes

You can start looking for openings at funeral homes you're familiar with, such as where you completed your internship and apprenticeship. You may also consider writing a letter of interest to funeral homes around you or searching for available opportunities online. Alternatively, you can apply to support and administrative positions at a funeral home and work toward promotion opportunities to advance your career.

Related: How to Become Funeral Director (With Key Skills and Salary)

Duties of a mortician

Some responsibilities of a mortician include:

  • Educating clients: Morticians may educate clients about burial options and other alternatives, such as cremation.

  • Making recommendations: Morticians also recommend urns, caskets, floral arrangements, and other decors for the funeral.

  • Preparing the body: These professionals apply funeral makeup and carry out embalming.

  • Writing programs: They may also write the deceased's obituary and program for the funeral.

  • Counselling clients: Morticians may also host counselling sessions for bereaved clients or recommend external resources for support.

  • Logistics: They also schedule services with churches and cemeteries and organize transportation from the burial site to the reception location.

  • Completing paperwork: Morticians also help transfer the deceased's assets to their next of kin, fill out death certificates, and submit them to the government.

Necessary skills for morticians

Here are some of the essential skills to help you build a successful career as a mortician:

  • Attention to detail: Organizing wakes, burials, and funerals can be complex and require attention to detail and focus. As a result, it's essential that you know how to identify important details and ensure the service runs according to the demands of the clients.

  • Time management: As a mortician, you may plan multiple funeral services simultaneously. As a result, it's essential to know how to multitask and manage time to ensure you keep up with the demand.

  • Interpersonal skills: Being a mortician requires you to be in close contact with your clients during the planning process. It's important for you to know how to work with them and have excellent customer service skills to help them have a positive experience.

  • Communication: Planning funeral services requires you to work and communicate with third-party employees, such as event planners and cemetery employees. As a result, it's essential for you to have excellent verbal and written communication skills to manage these events successfully.

  • Financial literacy: Your duties may require organizing and planning events with different budgets. It's vital to know how to manage funds and balance funeral costs with profits.

  • Legal knowledge: Your duties may require you to help clients with post-mortem legal issues and sort some documents. It's essential to have and apply your knowledge of laws and government institutions to ensure you complete the process smoothly.

  • Composure: Working as a mortician requires you to remain calm under pressure, be professional when working with upset clients, and maintain composure. Knowing how to remain professional when handling challenging experiences or subjects is essential for a successful career as a mortician.

  • Empathy: Morticians usually work with clients dealing with the loss of a loved one or family member. To be successful in this role, it's important for you to know how to handle these emotions and guide your clients through hard conversations about death.

  • Logical thinking: Being logical can help you handle complex situations and make good decisions for your clients. Applying logic in emotional situations can help your clients feel comfortable working with you.

  • Scientific knowledge: Some duties of a mortician are highly scientific, so it's essential to have an interest in science. Understanding how decomposition works and the necessary chemicals for embalming can help you handle the technical aspects of the job.

  • Business orientation: An important aspect of a mortician's job is handling the business aspect of a funeral home. Being successful in this field requires understanding marketing, finance, and scheduling issues.

Frequently asked questions about morticians

Here are some common questions to help you learn more about how to become a mortician:

How long does it take to become a mortician?

The timeline for becoming a mortician varies and depends on many factors. For example, if you earn a diploma and practice in a province that requires only one year of apprenticeship, you can complete your training within three years. Conversely, if you complete a bachelor's degree and practice in a province that requires a longer apprenticeship period, it may take up to seven years.

How much does a mortician earn?

The national average salary of a mortician is $53,572 per year. Morticians who run their own funeral homes may earn more than those who work as employees in a funeral home. In addition, a mortician's salary varies based on certain factors, such as market demand, location, the range of services they offer, and experience level.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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