Funeral service workers organize and manage the details of a ceremony honoring a deceased person.


Funeral service workers typically do the following:

  • Offer counsel and comfort to families and friends of the deceased
  • Provide information on funeral service options
  • Arrange for removal of the deceased’s body
  • Prepare the remains (the deceased’s body) for the funeral
  • File death certificates and other legal documents with appropriate authorities

Funeral service workers help to determine the locations, dates, and times of visitations (wakes), funerals or memorial services, burials, and cremations. They handle other details as well, such as helping the family decide whether the body should be buried, entombed, or cremated. This decision is critical because funeral practices vary among cultures and religions.

Most funeral service workers attend to the administrative aspects of a person’s death, including submitting papers to state officials to receive a death certificate. They also may help resolve insurance claims, apply for funeral benefits, or notify the Social Security Administration or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of the death.

Many funeral service workers help clients who wish to plan their own funerals in advance, to ensure that their needs are met and to ease the planning burden on surviving family members.

Funeral service workers also may provide information and resources, such as support groups, to help grieving friends and family.

The following are examples of types of funeral service workers:

Funeral home managers oversee the general operations of a funeral home business. They perform a variety of duties, such as planning and allocating the resources of the funeral home, managing staff, and handling marketing and public relations.

Morticians and funeral arrangers (also known as funeral directors or, historically, undertakers) plan the details of a funeral. They often prepare obituaries and arrange for pallbearers and clergy services. If a burial is chosen, they schedule the opening and closing of a grave with a representative of the cemetery. If cremation is chosen, they coordinate the process with the crematory. (Data covering workers who perform cremations are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: crematory operators.)

Morticians and funeral arrangers also prepare the sites of all services and provide transportation for the deceased and mourners. In addition, they arrange the shipment of bodies out of state or out of country for final disposition. (Data covering workers who may assist with these tasks are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: funeral attendant.)

Finally, these workers handle administrative duties. For example, they often apply for the transfer of any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.

Many morticians and funeral arrangers embalm bodies. Embalming is a cosmetic and temporary preservative process through which the body is prepared for a viewing by family and friends of the deceased. (Data covering those who specialize in this work are provided in a separate occupation not covered in detail: embalmers.)

Work Environment

Funeral home managers held about 40,700 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of funeral home managers were as follows:

Self-employed workers           67%
Death care services 31

Morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers held about 27,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers were as follows:

Death care services 90%
Self-employed workers             8

Funeral services traditionally take place in a house of worship, in a funeral home, or at a gravesite or crematory. However, some families prefer to hold the service in their home or in a social center.

Funeral service workers typically perform their duties in a funeral home. Workers also may operate a merchandise display room, crematory, or cemetery, which may be on the funeral home premises. The work is often stressful, because workers must arrange the various details of a funeral within 24 to 72 hours of a death. In addition, they may be responsible for managing multiple funerals on the same day.

Although workers may come into contact with bodies that have contagious diseases, the work is not dangerous if proper safety and health regulations are followed. Those working in crematories are exposed to high temperatures and must wear appropriate protective clothing.

Work Schedules

Most funeral service workers are employed full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.

Education and Training

An associate’s degree in a funeral service or mortuary science education program is the education typically required to become a funeral service worker. Most employers require applicants to be 21 years old, have at least 2 years of formal postsecondary education, have supervised training, and pass a state licensing exam.


An associate’s degree in a funeral service or mortuary science education program is typically required for all funeral service workers to enter the occupation. Courses usually cover topics such as ethics, grief counseling, funeral service, and business law. Accredited programs also include courses in embalming and restorative techniques.

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits funeral service and mortuary science programs, most of which offer a 2-year associate’s degree at community colleges. Some programs offer a bachelor’s degree.

Although an associate’s degree is typically required, some employers prefer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. Common fields of degree include mortuary science, psychology, and business.

High school students can prepare to become a funeral service worker by taking classes in biology, chemistry, business, and public speaking.

Students may gain relevant experience working part-time or summer jobs in a funeral home.


Those studying to be morticians and funeral arrangers must complete training, usually lasting 1 to 3 years, under the direction of a licensed funeral director or manager. The training, sometimes called an internship or an apprenticeship, may be completed before, during, or after graduating from a funeral service or mortuary science program and passing a national board exam.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states and Washington, DC, require workers to be licensed. An exception is Colorado, which offers a voluntary certification program. Although licensing laws and examinations vary by state, most applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be 21 years old
  • Complete an ABFSE accredited funeral service or mortuary science education program
  • Pass a state and/or national board exam
  • Serve an internship lasting 1 to 3 years

Working in multiple states requires multiple licenses. For specific requirements, contact each applicable state licensing board.

Most states require funeral directors to earn continuing education credits to keep their licenses.

The Cremation Association of North America (CANA), International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA), and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offer crematory certification designations. Many states require certification for those who will perform cremations. For specific requirements, contact your state board or the relevant professional organizations.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Funeral home managers typically have multiple years of experience working as a funeral director or mortician before becoming managers.

Personality and Interests

Funeral service workers typically have an interest in the Helping, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a funeral service worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Funeral service workers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Business skills. Knowledge of financial statements and the ability to run a funeral home efficiently and profitably are important for funeral directors and managers.

Compassion. Death is a delicate and emotional matter. Funeral service workers must be able to treat clients with care and sympathy in their time of loss.

Interpersonal skills. Funeral service workers should have good interpersonal skills. When speaking with families, for instance, they must be tactful and able to explain and discuss all matters about services provided.

Time-management skills. Funeral service workers must be able to handle numerous tasks for multiple customers, often in a short time frame.


The median annual wage for funeral home managers was $74,000 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $135,660.

The median annual wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers was $48,950 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,550.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for funeral home managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Death care services         $73,930

In May 2021, the median annual wages for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Death care services            $48,830

Most funeral service workers are employed full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. They are often on call; irregular hours, including evenings and weekends are common.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of funeral service workers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 7,900 openings for funeral service workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


Funeral service workers will be needed to assist the growing number of people prearranging end-of-life services. This demand will be constrained by consumers increasingly preferring cremation, which costs less and requires fewer workers than do traditional funeral arrangements. However, since most cremations still involve a memorial service or funeral, funeral home managers are expected to be needed to guide families and loved ones through the death care process and to plan end-of-life events.

For More Information

For more information about funeral service workers, including accredited mortuary science programs, visit

National Funeral Directors Association

For scholarships and educational programs in funeral service and mortuary science, visit

American Board of Funeral Service Education

National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association, Inc.

For information about crematories, visit

Cremation Association of North America

International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association

Candidates should contact their state board for specific licensing requirements.


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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