Choosing a career as a funeral director requires specific training, but also provides good job security, since employment opportunities are projected to expand by about 18 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Furthermore, the median salary for a mortician is around $54,000, BLS says. Most states currently require morticians to have a two-year degree from a program that is accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. The majority of classes focus on social science, law and ethics, science and business.
One of the funeral director's main jobs is to prepare a body for viewing and burial. Therefore, ABSFE-accredited programs require human anatomy to help morticians understand the form and function of muscles and organs. In addition, biology, chemistry and pathology courses help a mortician understand how the physical body breaks down after death. The focus then shifts to embalming courses that explain how to slow these processes down and preserve the appearance of the tissue. Finally, restorative arts classes teach morticians about correcting damage and decay before public viewing.
Psychology courses are also part of the ABFSE standards. This is because, contrary to popular belief, morticians spend the majority of their time with the living -- the deceased person’s family and loved ones. Basic psychology gives a funeral director essential knowledge about human emotions and the stages of grief. Additional coursework in bereavement and grief counseling help morticians treat clients with compassion and professionalism, while guiding them through the planning process.
Law and Ethics
The National Funeral Directors Association requires morticians to adhere to a strict code of ethics. In addition, each state has its own set of laws governing the funeral industry. Therefore, the ABFSE requires morticians to be educated in the basics of law. Business law helps funeral directors understand contracts and employee relations. Courses that are more focused on funeral service law cover everything from the proper disposal of human remains to casket sales to wills.
Behind the scenes, a mortuary is a business with the same financial concerns as any other business. In order to pay employees, manage expenses, and oversee cash flow, a good mortician will also need good business skills. ABSFE-accredited mortuary programs require a variety of accounting and management courses.
In addition to funeral specific courses, most programs require general education classes that will gear students for success. For example, when running a funeral service or delivering a eulogy, it will be necessary to speak in front of large groups of people. Therefore, most mortuary science programs require at least one course in public speaking to help take away nerves and make a mortician’s delivery more professional.