Morticians provide essential services for families in mourning. While extending emotional support to the grieving, they must accomplish myriad tasks associated with the burial or cremation. They may arrange for transportation of the body, and embalm it prior to the services. Frequently, they assist families to plan funeral services and to decide whether the body will be buried or cremated.
They may coordinate with an outside chapel, cemetery or crematorium. In many cases, they prepare the ceremony site, file pertinent legal documents and handle other administrative tasks like transferring insurance and annuities to surviving family. These tasks must usually be accomplished in the space of a few days.
The work of the mortician can be stressful and emotionally difficult. Accordingly, it’s important for individuals to be fully prepared before becoming a mortician. An associate’s degree is the minimum qualification for entrance into the field. Typically, new morticians must also serve an apprenticeship before becoming a fully licensed mortician.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Mortician?
Becoming a mortician may require several years of preparation. After earning a high school diploma, the goal of the prospective mortician should be an associate degree in mortuary science. This is a two year degree, but a one to three year apprenticeship is usually also required. This apprenticeship may happen concurrently with the earning of the associate degree or it may occur before or after the degree is earned.
Most mortuary science degree programs are two year associate degree programs. Accordingly, they are most often found at community colleges and technical schools. There are a limited number of bachelor’s degree programs, and this can be a useful credential for ambitious individuals. Each state sets regulations for mortician education and licensing, so it’s important to be familiar with these before choosing a program to make certain that the program appropriately meets state requirements.
In most degree programs, becoming a mortician begins with classes that introduce the concepts and history behind funeral services. Related issues like microbiology, chemistry and pathology are also explored. Students will also learn the embalming process and the art of restoring the body. The work of the mortician inherently includes legal, ethical and moral concerns, and these are typically addressed in one or more courses. Moreover, counseling classes help mortuary science students learn how to be more compassionate and thoughtful toward their clients.
Becoming a mortician also means developing business acumen. To that end, mortuary science students may also take business courses like accounting, business law and entrepreneurship. These courses help prepare individuals for the administrative component of their chosen profession.
Becoming a mortician involves more than earning a degree and completing an apprenticeship. Every state, except Colorado, and Washington, D.C. requires that morticians be licensed. The qualifications required by each state vary. In general, most applicants for a mortician’s license must be 21 years of age, hold a mortuary science degree and have already completed an apprenticeship term. The length of apprenticeship varies between states, with the minimum being one year and the maximum being three years.
Applicants must also pass an appropriate examination. In most states, the accepted examination is the National Board Exam, which is administrated by the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards. Other states utilize this examination in combination with a state mandated test. It’s necessary for students to check with the state board to determine which test or tests will be required. Some states hold separate examinations for morticians who intend to perform embalming services. Morticians who may be practicing in more than one state will likely be required to become licensed in each state in which they hope to work.
The National Board Exam is made up of two main sections: arts and science. The arts portion of the test evaluates student knowledge of funeral services, marketing and counseling and also looks at their operational expertise. In the science portion, students are tested on their embalming and restorative arts knowledge.
Students must register in advance to sit for the National Board Exam. An application and fee are required, and testing centers are found across the United States. The tests are usually given by computer, with the results typically being disclosed within one month.
States require that morticians renew their licenses on a periodic basis. These requirements are different in each state. Usually, a mortician is required to complete continuing education credits annually. States may also require morticians to pass examinations before their license is renewed.