Although it is not easy, death is a part of life. Working with people who experience loss, and helping them at a very difficult time in their lives, is often rewarding for funeral directors. If you have ever been in a funeral home, you can understand how important this is for families and friends. Having the opportunity to express sadness and “say goodbye” to someone who has died is an important part of living. A funeral says that a life has been lived, that we cherished that life, and that we choose to commemorate it by having a funeral. The funeral director is specially trained to help people design funerals that are meaningful, and representative of the life that was lived.
Yes, and no. In funeral service, taking care of someone who has died may mean preparing the deceased for viewing by utilizing a process called “embalming.” This process, which takes about three hours to complete, requires knowledge of anatomy, chemistry and other sciences. Since embalming is not required by law, it is a decision made by the family based on their personal needs and wishes. After embalming, the funeral director applies special cosmetics, and carefully dresses the deceased in preparation for the family’s viewing of the body. A funeral director attends to the needs of the family throughout the funeral process, and even after the funeral is over.
That was typical in the past, but this trend has changed. Today many opportunities exist in funeral service, and in order to meet the demand, funeral homes are going outside the family to hire prospective employees. Nearly 80% of the students enrolled in funeral service education are not from a family business. We believe this is also because more people are being educated about death and dying, and hence choosing funeral service as a career.
Nationwide, there is a demand for funeral service professionals. Just as with any career, the ideal career opportunity may not be in your neighborhood, and may require relocation. According to statistics, the supply of funeral directors will not meet the demand for many years. Funeral home chains are now developing as well, providing career opportunities that did not exist just a few, short years ago.
Although this varies from state to state, the national median income of someone working as a funeral director in their internship is ~$30,000+ depending on the location, according to a recent study from the National Funeral Directors Association. However, some internships are paying $40,000+ in some markets. As with most careers, your value will increase with your experience, and your salary will increase accordingly.
Since we cannot predict when someone will die, your “days” may not always start and end at the same time. For example, if there has been a death in a family at five o’clock in the morning, the funeral director will be notified shortly after the death occurs. Traditionally, someone from the funeral home will then go to the place of death and take the person who died back to the funeral home. This is called a removal. Let’s say this person died in the home with family members at their side. After the removal has been completed, another funeral director will often remain at the home and become acquainted with the family, and talk about the person who has died. Remember, the funeral is for the living. Finding comfort and a sense of meaning in the funeral is very important, and the funeral director has been specially trained to help the family in this way.
Let’s suppose that the family wants to have a traditional type of service with a viewing and funeral service, and then go to the cemetery for burial. The funeral director must then prepare the body for viewing. After the embalming, the deceased is dressed, often in clothing provided by the family, cosmetized (this is where makeup is carefully applied to the face and hands, so as to restore a natural looking color), and placed in the casket selected by the family. The director assumes responsibility for other details as well, such as: connecting with the clergy, organizing musical selections, contacting the cemetery, arranging the flowers, and working with the newspaper to write the obituary. As you can see, there are many details that are “behind the scenes.” It is work that requires focus and attention to detail. The funeral director attends to these details so that the family is free to tend to emotional and personal needs.
The funeral service professional will be present for the viewing, and available to the family as well as those attending the visitation. After the viewing, the director then helps orchestrate the service. Sometimes this means organizing a procession to a church, where the funeral director then guides the family, and takes care of the casket as well. After this service the procession then goes to the cemetery, and by law the director must be present at the cemetery.
That’s very true. In the various scenarios presented, the funeral director may be in someone’s home, the funeral home, the church, the cemetery, the crematory, and possibly the florist. As you can see, someone in funeral service is often in contact with many different people in a variety of environments.
As with any health related industry, great care is taken to prevent this from occurring. Embalmers use what is called “universal precautions”, and they are required to wear appropriate protective clothing including: a protective gown, gloves, shoe coverings, hair covering, mask, goggles and a face shield. These precautions are taken whenever an embalming takes place. A combination of care and caution are always recommended to prevent accidents from happening.
Serving people at a difficult time is what funeral service is all about. It means helping the family in any way that you can, in order to make the funeral ritual meaningful for them. Since each family is different, this meaning varies for everyone. The funeral service is often the first step in the grieving process. It can facilitate or hinder the process. Funeral directors want to facilitate the grieving process.
That has been the case in the past, but this trend is changing. More women are selecting funeral service as a career each year. It is a caregiving profession where women are just as vital as men. Currently, on a national basis, women comprise nearly 60% of the students entering funeral service education. No matter what gender someone is, they must be compassionate, competent and helpful.
There are no uniform licensure requirements in the United States. Instead, each state determines through it’s own laws what is required. The licensure requirements range from a high school diploma (or GED certificate), to a bachelor’s degree. The Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science has 3 programs in-residence, including the Associate in Specialized Business Degree program in Funeral Service Management, the Associate in Specialized Technology Degree program in Funeral Service Arts and Sciences, and the Diploma program in Embalming and Funeral Directing. In addition, the Institute has developed bachelor degree programs with colleges and universities, one of which may take as few as 28 months to complete, which includes funeral service education. PIMS has a program that will help meet the requirements of every state, but this can be somewhat confusing. If you have questions, please feel free to call the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science and ask to speak to an advisor.
January 2001 marked the birthdate of PIMS Distance Education. Now Associate in Specialized Technology Degree programs are available via the Internet. The programs were designed primarily for full-time employees, who are either currently working at a funeral home, or who are considering a career change. Details of PIMS Distance Education studies are available at the Institute or by visiting Online Programs.
Choosing a career is not an easy task, and we hope that we have answered some of the questions you may have had about funeral service. If we can be of further assistance, please call us at (412) 362-8500, or outside of area codes 412, 724 or 878 you may reach us at (800) 933-5808.
It is the policy of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, Inc. not to discriminate in its program of education, employment, and all other activities on the race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, natural origin, age or disability, marital status or veteran’s status.
It is the policy of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, Inc., not to discriminate in its program of education, employment and all other activities on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, or disability, marital status or veteran’s status.
The Embalming and Funeral Directing Program, the Specialized Technology Program, the Specialized Business Program and Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), Web: www.abfse.org