Morticians are often known as funeral directors or undertakers. Their wide-ranging duties include planning funerals, completing legal paperwork and preparing the body of the deceased. Although the requirements for a career as a mortician vary by state, all morticians must have a high school diploma. Most states also require postsecondary education, an apprenticeship and licensing. The preparation time varies, but it typically takes three to four years to become a mortician.
Types of Educational Programs
Some states require only a high school diploma or one year of mortuary school, but most states require an associate degree in mortuary science. Ohio and Minnesota require a bachelor's degree. The American Board of Funeral Service Education accredits mortuary programs and provides a list on its website.
Community colleges offer the most mortuary programs, but some four-year colleges and many mortuary schools also offer the major. The cost of mortician education depends largely on the length of the program and the type of school, such as public or private.
An associate degree in mortuary science usually takes two years, and includes approximately 70 semester credits, including business, mortuary management, funeral counseling and embalming theory. Some programs include a practicum in the required curriculum.
A typical bachelor's program takes four years and requires approximately 120 credits. In addition to the classes in a two-year program, bachelor's degree requirements may include biology, psychology, anatomy and embalming chemistry.
Internship or Practicum
Most states require one to two years of apprenticeship under a licensed funeral director before granting a license. In states where the internship follows an associate degree, the total training time is typically three to four years. Kentucky, which doesn't require mortuary college, requires three years of apprenticeship.
In some states, prospective morticians can complete the apprenticeship during the educational program, allowing completion of an associate degree and internship in as little as two years. Four-year bachelor's degree programs typically include a practicum or internship.
In all states except Colorado, morticians must obtain a license, typically as a funeral director. In general, applicants for licensing must be age 21 or older and graduates of state-approved training and apprenticeships, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In most states, applicants must pass a state or national board exam and an exam on funeral service law. In some states, the funeral director license also includes embalming, while other states license embalmers separately.
Most states require continuing education to maintain a mortician's license, but the requirements vary by state. For example, Minnesota requires 12 hours of continuing education every two years, while Iowa requires 24 hours every two years, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Arizona requires 12 hours each year, including three hours of ethics and compliance, three hours of mortuary science and six hours of professional development.
Colleges with mortuary science degrees typically offer continuing education.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Funeral Directors
- National Funeral Directors Association: Licensing Boards and Requirements
- Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice: The CFSP Designation
- The International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards: State Board Exam
- American Board of Funeral Service Education: Directory of Programs
- Kansas City Kansas Community College: Mortuary Science - Associate in Applied Science in Funeral Service
- University of Minnesota: Mortuary Science B.S.
- National Funeral Directors Association: Exploring a Career in Funeral Service
- Colorado Funeral Directors Association: State Laws & Regulations
- Arizona Board of Funeral Directors & Embalmers: Required Continuing Education Categories and Hours
- Photo Credit Lisa F. Young/iStock/Getty Images
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