What You Need to Work as a Mortician

Morticians are professionals who deal in funeral care.
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Morticians, also known as funeral directors, are professionals who work in the funeral service industry. They perform a variety of tasks, including preparing the deceased's remains, performing funeral rites, counseling families and taking care of aesthetic details such as floral arrangements and memorial table setups. Morticians must undergo specialized training in mortuary science and are usually required to be licensed with their state.

Associate Degree

    Morticians are required to possess an associate degree, usually in mortuary or funeral science. Mortuary science programs are typically available through community colleges or trade schools. These programs will provide aspiring morticians with a strong foundation in funeral practices and laws regarding funeral care. Courses may include grief counseling, embalming theory, thanatochemistry, restorative art and funeral business management. To meet licensure requirements, aspiring morticians must attend a program that has been approved by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). It is best to verify a program's ABFSE standing prior to enrolling.


    Internships are often included as part of an associate program in mortuary or funeral science. Internships place students in funeral homes to learn from licensed morticians and to gain experience working with grieving families. The length of an internship varies by school, with some lasting as short as one month.


    Apprenticeships are separate from an internship and are required by the ABFSE. Apprenticeships vary in length from one to three years and involve aspiring morticians working long-term under the supervision of a licensed mortician. Apprenticeships may be paid or unpaid depending on the establishment. Apprenticeships enable morticians to expand upon the skills they learned in school and to learn more advanced skills through first-hand experience, such as embalming and restorative art techniques. Depending on the state, a special license may be required to work as an apprentice. Contact your state's funeral licensing agency for further information.


    As of 2012, every state except Colorado requires morticians to be licensed. In order to obtain licensure, morticians must be at least 21 years old, have an associate degree, show completion of an apprenticeship and pass a national board exam offered by the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards. Additional state-issued exams may also be required. Licensure must be renewed regularly, though requirements vary by state.


    While certification is not always required, some employers may prefer it and morticians who hold certification may find more job opportunities. The Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice offers the Certified Funeral Service Practioner (CFSP) credential to qualifying candidates. State-specific credentials are also available. For example, the Colorado Funeral Directors Association offers the Certified Embalming Technician (CET) and the Certified Funeral Director (CFD) designations.

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