Every state has different requirements to become fully licensed. Generally, all states require a one or two year apprentice or intern period, before or after graduating from an accredited funeral service program. To become fully licensed, most states require an associate degree in Funeral Service in addition to the apprenticeship and successful passing of the National Board and state law examinations.
Funeral personnel are members of a human services profession, members of the communities in which they serve, and they must be sensitive to their responsibilities to bereaved families, to human remains, and to public safety, health and welfare. Funeral personnel are expected to know and to comply with federal, state and local guidelines regarding the scope of their practice.
The entry level funeral service professionals earn wages roughly equivalent to a first year public school teacher in that locale. This amount will vary depending on the volume of business, the qualities and skills of the individual, and the local economy. Benefits usually include some paid vacation and health care.
Duties of the funeral service professional include being on a night call rotation and responding to the place of death to take the deceased to the funeral home or pathology laboratory. Then the deceased is prepared according to the wishes of the family. Preparation may include embalming, disinfecting, cleaning and restoring, cosmetology, burial, entombment or cremation.
The funeral director assists families in choosing post-death activities that are meaningful and appropriate for their needs. Planning, organizing, and facilitating a wide variety of ceremonies and celebrations makes every day of a funeral service career interesting and satisfying.
The well educated funeral service professional is the expert in matters related to death in any community. As such, there is a responsibility to be involved in civic and educational endeavors - helping their town deal with matters of mortality.
What qualities are employers looking for? Intelligent, strong communicators who are self motivated, personable, caring, ethical people who will give an extra effort to assist clients during difficult times. The work can be difficult and demanding with the potential for personal and professional growth and satisfaction.
Any additional expertise increases the value of an employee. For example, bilingualism, advanced counseling training, computer and management experience, cosmetology or hair dressing, among others, are desirable skills.
Getting started may be the most difficult part. We strongly recommend a person spend a year as an apprentice before going to the expense of going to college at Mt. Hood C.C. Finding the apprentice position often requires one to move from their home town, and it is a matter of luck and persistence. Our suggestion is that a person make a good resume, and drive around introducing oneself. Then it is a matter of keeping in touch until a position becomes open.
Good luck on your efforts to join the Funeral Service Profession. We look forward to seeing you at Mt. Hood Community College, the only funeral service program of the Northwest.