Mortuary Science Programs

Mortuary Science careers involve much more than just preparing dead bodies for burial and wakes.

Also known as morticians, undertakers, or funeral directors, people working in the field plan services and help loved ones go through the first steps of the grief process.

Plus, workers must understand the various religious funerary traditions followed by clients.

Education & Training

Trade Schools with Mortuary Science Programs

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Educational Requirements

Along with an apprenticeship, potentials must attend a mortuary science school. Learners should gain at least an associate’s degree and obtain either a federal or state license to practice.

After accomplishing this, trained students work at funeral homes to get more experience.


Undertakers need a two or four-year mortuary science degree.

Specialized programs cover everything from the chemistry of embalming to all local laws related to the burial or cremation of human bodies. Other topics, like sociology, psychology, and business, all involve other aspects of the job.


In addition to a degree, students must complete an apprenticeship. Potentials need to be at least 21 years old, and able to spend several years working at a funeral home to gain experience. Each state has a different length requirement for this step of the process.


After completing the apprenticeship, workers take a licensing exam. Depending on the location, potentials must pass either a state or federal test, or in some cases, both, to officially work as a mortician.


Funeral director salaries range from $39K to $76K based on experience. People new to the career, especially apprentices, are on the lower end.

Morticians who run funerary businesses and those at the management level receive more money.

Below are average salaries and wages for each state.

State Hourly wage Annual wage
Alabama $22.61 $47,030.00
Arizona $20.52 $42,690.00
Arkansas $20.58 $42,800.00
California $25.59 $53,220.00
Colorado $24.98 $51,950.00
Connecticut $35.45 $73,740.00
Delaware $34.68 $72,130.00
Florida $26.69 $55,510.00
Georgia $28.17 $58,590.00
Hawaii $27.17 $56,520.00
Idaho $24.52 $51,000.00
Illinois $30.83 $64,120.00
Indiana $29.70 $61,780.00
Iowa $30.23 $62,890.00
Kansas $28.56 $59,390.00
Kentucky $19.55 $40,670.00
Louisiana $21.45 $44,610.00
Maine $27.84 $57,910.00
Maryland $25.91 $53,890.00
Massachusetts $37.50 $78,000.00
Michigan $30.42 $63,270.00
Minnesota $39.88 $82,940.00
Mississippi $23.26 $48,380.00
Missouri $25.30 $52,620.00
Montana $30.01 $62,420.00
Nebraska $25.40 $52,820.00
Nevada $19.22 $39,980.00
New Hampshire $33.13 $68,900.00
New Jersey $39.73 $82,630.00
New Mexico $20.85 $43,370.00
New York $32.27 $67,130.00
North Carolina $24.10 $50,130.00
North Dakota $38.17 $79,390.00
Ohio $35.01 $72,820.00
Oklahoma $26.05 $54,170.00
Oregon $24.96 $51,920.00
Pennsylvania $28.83 $59,970.00
Puerto Rico $10.94 $22,760.00
South Carolina $25.67 $53,390.00
South Dakota $29.96 $62,330.00
Tennessee $23.23 $48,310.00
Texas $18.28 $38,020.00
Utah $27.78 $57,790.00
Vermont $24.02 $49,960.00
Virginia $27.70 $57,620.00
Washington $29.94 $62,270.00
West Virginia $25.41 $52,850.00
Wisconsin $27.12 $56,400.00
Wyoming $25.32 $52,660.00


Occupation: Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Arrangers (SOC Code394031)

Although some morticians work for larger companies that provide benefits, like paid time off and health insurance, many undertakers are self-employed. Independent contractors may not receive all of the benefits offered to standard employees.

What Is a Mortician?

A mortician handles every aspect of setting up burial rituals for the dead. Workers meet with the families to choose a casket, schedule viewings and plan a funeral.

Coordinating with churches and cemeteries are another part of the job, as is placing obituaries in local newspapers and putting together the post-funeral lunch.

Plus, undertakers need to follow all state and federal laws regarding burials and cremations. There may be local guidelines for each area as well.

Learning these guidelines is a part of every mortuary science program, although workers need to stay updated as legal codes change.

Mortuary science jobs also entail transporting client’s bodies to a funeral home, as well as preparing that body for the viewing. This can involve applying makeup, styling hair, or more detailed reconstructive techniques.

Also, morticians dress the deceased based on the family’s wishes.

Career Overview

What Are a Funeral Director’s Job Duties?

Funeral directors handle many different tasks. Each worker oversees everything from readying a body to ensuring that the funeral itself goes smoothly. Morticians employ people to assist with arranging the procession and transporting flowers. There are many moving pieces to planning a funeral, and the undertaker is in charge of all of them.

  • Planning funerals
  • Preparing bodies for viewings
  • Supporting grieving families
  • Coordinating with the cemetery
  • Contacting life insurance companies

What Types of Skills Should Morticians Possess?

First and foremost, a mortician should be able to work with deceased humans. Not only must workers treat the dead with respect, but each also gets the body ready for cremation or burial.

Communication & Organization

Employees assist the living as well, so workers need the ability to help people.

Organization is the key to being a good undertaker. There is a lot of planning involved in a funeral, as well as plenty of paperwork.

Morticians must have good communication skills, both written and verbal, to set up everything.


A mortician’s clients are people who are grieving the loss of a friend or family member. While planning a funeral involves going through many steps, workers also need to support clients emotionally.

Potential morticians must have empathy, the act of understanding what a person is feeling, to do the job right.

Other Useful Skills

  • Providing customer service
  • Having empathy
  • Embalming the dead
  • Selling caskets and services
  • Planning events
  • Understanding current burial laws
  • Running a crematorium
  • Speaking in public
  • Managing employees
  • Preparing legal documents

Work Environment

A mortician has several different workspaces.

The first is in the morgue, where workers prepare the deceased for public viewing. Workers embalm bodies, using special tools and chemicals, to keep the dead in good condition.

Then, employees use makeup, hair products, and other things to make the person look nice.

The other parts of the workplace are public spaces. There are coffin showrooms, rooms for wakes, and offices where funeral directors conduct meetings.

Keeping these workspaces neat, clean, and peaceful help create safe places for grieving family members and morticians to come together.


Undertakers work long hours, including weekends, holding viewings and funerals. Also, the job is very tough emotionally, as workers regularly help the family of the dead.

Potentials looking to get into the mortuary services field need to be prepared both psychologically and physically for every task.

Where Do They Work?

Qualified undertakers work at funeral home chains or partnerships, as well as individual locations or private practices. In general, potentials find jobs at:

  • Funeral Homes
  • Morgues
  • Crematories
  • Mortuaries

Can You Operate Your Own Funeral Home?

Most funeral managers are independent employees. After gaining experience working for other companies, many go on to open a funeral home sometimes as part of a franchise.

Areas that lack funerary spaces are good places to begin this phase of an undertaker career.

Do Morticians Other Career Options?

The planning and management skills required to put together a funeral come in handy in other lines of work. Administrative services managers, marketing managers, and party planners are all jobs that use these abilities.

Some possible undertaker career alternatives, like doctors or surgeons, need extra schooling and training.

Others, like those of social workers or sociologists, use the empathic skills or knowledge gained through funeral director training, just in a different format.

Career Outlook

Since there is a steady flow of funeral home clients, there is a need for morticians. Experts predict 12% growth in the field over the next ten years. This is due to the retirement of older morticians, as well as the potential deaths of a large amount of elderly people in the United States, requiring the use of more undertakers.