Cosmetology refers to the processes by which an individual seeks to improve her appearance. It covers areas such as hairstyling, skin treatments and makeup application. Such procedures are not just for the living; a funeral home cosmetologist – also known as a mortuary cosmetologist or mortuary beautician – applies them to the bodies of the deceased. The salary for funeral home cosmetologists reflects the particular skills required.
In May 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average annual salary across the cosmetology and hairstyling profession was $26,510, equivalent to $12.74 an hour. The average pay rate for a cosmetologist working in death care services was $32,360, or $15.56 an hour. This wage level compares favorably with those in other sectors of the industry; personal care services paid an average of $26,760, technical and trade schools were listed at an average of $27,390, while cosmetologists employed by department stores earned just $21,040.
Salary by Geography
A May 2011 survey by SalaryExpert.com compared salary levels for mortuary cosmetologists working in some large U.S. cities. Pay rates were highest in New York City, which averaged $45,052. Rounding out the top three were Phoenix and Chicago at $38,897 and $37,205, respectively. Charlotte, North Carolina, had the lowest average salary among the cities analyzed, at $31,485.
The personal appearance industry as a whole is, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, expected to grow about 20 percent from 2008 to 2018. This is a faster growth rate than for the nation as a whole (expected to be between 7 and 13 percent). This should mean that funeral home cosmetologist salaries remain competitive.
A funeral home cosmetologist works on the body of the deceased after it has been embalmed. This is the process by which the blood is replaced by a preservative fluid that prevents the body from decaying -- which the cosmetologist may perform if she has attended mortuary college, or is conducted by an embalmer. The cosmetologist will usually wash the body, style the hair and, when necessary, apply makeup. Often they attempt to make the deceased's appearance match a photograph given to them by relatives. For female cadavers, the cosmetologist may pluck the eyebrows and paint the fingernails. If the body has been disfigured somehow, perhaps as the result of an accident or illness, the cosmetologist uses foam, cotton and other materials to reconstruct the features. The cosmetologist also dresses the body in clothes of the relatives' choosing and arranges the deceased in the casket.