Death is an integral part of life; while it's hard to make a case for mortuary work on the list of a little girl's dream jobs, it's equally difficult to deny the importance of those who work in the morgue, not to mention the stability of the jobs. The reality is that people will always need these services. Just as jobs at the morgue vary greatly, so do the salaries.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics includes morgue workers under the general blanket of “death care services.” In its 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the BLS pins the mean annual wage of these professionals at $52,690, with the bottom 10 percent earning $26,580 and the top 10 percent clocking in at $80,900 per year.
Morgue attendants basically serve a managerial position at the mortuary, and their average salaries fall pretty well in line with the general figures from the BLS. In 2013, the Economic Research Institute pegged the average yearly salary of a morgue attendant at about $44,713, based on a survey of professionals across 10 cities, from Atlanta to Phoenix. The biggest earners worked in New York City, with average annual pay of $52,231.
Pathologists and Technicians
In the morgue, the position of pathologist -- the diagnostician who examines and prepares bodies -- requires the most education and special training. The work pays off with a higher wage; the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago says that the starting salary for pathologists is no less than $125,000. Technicians often assist pathologists in the morgue, but they make far less. For instance, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences estimates the starting salary of a forensic autopsy tech at about $28,000 per year, as of 2013.
Despite their specialized skill set, embalmers made a mean annual wage of $43,680 in 2012, the BLS reports -- not quite up to par with pathologists. While morticians -- commonly dubbed funeral directors or undertakers -- may deal with the morgue, they spend most of their time arranging the details of the service at the funeral home. These death care workers made a median annual salary of $54,140, according to BLS figures from 2010.
- United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: 39-4031 Morticians, Undertakers and Funeral Directors
- Economic Research Institute: Morgue Attendant Salary Survey Data
- United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: 39-4011 Embalmers
- United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Funeral Directors: Pay
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.