A mortician is sometimes referred to as an undertaker, funeral director or embalmer, but the title can't convey all the skills needed to help people during time of loss. A mortician requires the combined skills of a technician, salesman, project manager and counselor. These days, more women are taking on this somber and yet vital position.
Not all morticians are trained as embalmers, but that ability can increase earnings from the median earnings of $54,330 in 2010 as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor. Embalming also increases employment potential. Embalmers prepare the loved one's remains for burial. This includes sanitizing the body, preserving it against decomposition and doing cosmetic or restorative procedures to make the remains look more natural during viewing. An embalmer must have basic anatomy knowledge, an understanding of certain chemicals and a general comfort level with working with the dead.
While morticians fulfill a necessary service, a funeral home is a business. Morticians sell pre-need funeral plans, caskets, floral arrangements, space for wakes and visitation, transportation services, burial plots, cremation services and other funeral-related services. While selling products and services, the mortician must stay cognizant of the family's grief and make the process as painless as possible. They must judge the budget and needs of the family and work to fit in all the necessary components to a respectable service into the budget.
From removal of the body to the burial or cremation, a funeral is a project. The mortician acts as a project manager handling all the details with the least headaches for the family. She deals with the insurance company, makes sure the obituary is placed in the newspaper and schedules each step of the process so nothing is left to chance. She must have excellent people skills as well as a thorough knowledge of the funeral process, often learned through obtaining an Associate of Arts degree.
Most of the people a mortician meets are preparing for death or grieving the loss of a loved one. She may be the first one outside of the family with whom these people have had a chance to discuss their grief and concerns. She must show compassion and understanding as she provides the services they need. The families depend on her advice and experience to see them through a trying time.