How to Become an Embalmer
Job Duties of an Embalmer
Skills and Qualities of an Embalmer
Embalmer Salaries
Influential Professionals in this field
Leading Embalmer Organizations
Top Cities for Embalmer Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Embalmer

The title usually used for this profession is "funeral director" (no longer "mortician" or "undertaker" due to negative connotations); embalming is just one part of the job. Licenses are required to be a funeral director, and requirements vary from state to state. Most states require the license holder to be at least 21 years of age, have taken some years of formal post-high school education, completed an apprenticeship, and passed a qualifying exam. Some states distinguish between funeral director and embalming licenses.

Degree programs in mortuary science last from 2 to 4 degrees and cover a wide range of topics, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, embalming techniques, restorative art, business management, accounting, technology in funeral home management, client services, psychology, grief counseling, oral and written communication, funeral service law, business law, and ethics.

Apprenticeships typically last one year but can be longer and offer practical experience to complement formal education. The apprenticeship can be conducted before, during or after the formal education.

License exams often have written and oral parts and also often include a demonstration of practical skills. Due to the differences between states, one must be properly licensed in the particular state where the work is performed. Some states have license reciprocity agreements.

After licensing, continuing education is required to maintain a license, and there are various state and even national professional organizations that offer and facilitate opportunities to gain this continuing education.

What does an Embalmer do?

Embalming itself is the preparation of a body for both viewing during funerary services and for eventual interment. It involves washing the body, replacing the blood with embalming fluid, reshaping the body (sometimes with the use of clay, fabrics, waxes, etc.), applying cosmetics and dressing the body.

There are two general methods of embalming a body. One method (visceral) places embalming fluids into body cavities. The second method (arterial) pumps fluid through the body's arteries. Usually only one method is used, with the condition/age of the body determining which method is best.

Funeral directors sometimes do the embalming, but they also have other duties, such as handling logistics of services and burials, providing comfort to the bereaved, preparing obituary notices and placing them in newspapers, decorating the funeral service site/grave, making any shipment arrangements if the body is to be buried out of state/country and other related activities.

What skills or qualities do I need to become an Embalmer?

Technical skills for embalming can be found in the "How to Become an Embalmer" section above. In addition, if one wishes to become a funeral director also, certain people skills and a knowledge of some psychology/sociology is important. Soft skills such as poise and composure, tact, compassion and good communication skills are highly important. With regard to qualities, they physical appearance of a funeral director/embalmer is important - normally a conservative haircut, suits and the like are expected. The ability to generally know what is "appropriate" - and find out what is if it is unknown (e.g. working with family whose religion with which you are unfamiliar) - is key.

How much do Embalmers make?

It may be difficult to find out exactly what an embalmer makes, because most information available has to do with the title of "funeral director". Salaries depend not only on years of experience but also the general activity of a particular funeral business.

As of spring 2007, the range of salaries for funeral directors was anywhere between $28,000 - $92,000. The average was about $50,000.
Embalmer Salary | More details for Embalmer Jobs | Salary

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Dr. Thomas H. Holmes is widely considered to be the "the father of modern embalming". He served in this profession during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and is credited with personally embalming over 4,000 men. He pioneered and promoted more efficient methods and safer embalming fluids.

Dr. C.M. Lukins was an embalmer who founded the first school of embalming in the United States, the Cincinnati School of Embalming, in 1882. During 1882 as well, the Funeral Directors National Association of the United States voted to use the name "funeral director" rather than "undertaker," since it was seen as more acceptable to the general public.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) is the leading US professional organization in the field of funeral service, providing continuing education.

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) is an accreditation agency for post-secondary programs in Mortuary Science Education and Funeral Service, recognized by the United States Department of Education.

International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards (ICFSEB) is a US-Canada organization that organizes a large annual conference, among other activities.

To view a list of state licensing boards, visit the National Funeral Directors Association's website.

What are the top cities for Embalmer jobs?

Every town has a funeral home or two, and there are not generally any "best cities" to work for as an embalmer/funeral director. This is mostly a profession practiced as a small business, often family-owned. On the whole it is easier to find job descriptions under "funeral director" vs. "embalmer."

Other Careers of Interest

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Funeral Director
Funeral directors embalm bodies, handle logistics of services and burials, provide comfort to the bereaved, prepare obituary notices and placing...

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