How to Work in a Morgue

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Working in a morgue is an unusual occupation with unique challenges and rewards. If you are both mentally and physically strong, you may have what it takes to be successful in a morgue job. A high school diploma or GED qualifies you for entry-level positions. Additional schooling will expand your options.

Tip

Some types of morgue jobs require completion of a funeral services training program approved by the American Board of Funeral Service Education_,_ but jobs can also be found that only require a high school degree or GED.

Pursue a Diener Morgue Attendant Job

Commonly advertised types of morgue jobs include diener morgue attendant, autopsy attendant, morgue technician and morgue intake assistant. These jobs tend to be entry-level positions that don’t require prior extensive training.

Examples of duties include receiving and preparing bodies for autopsy, moving refrigerated bodies to the table, laying out instruments, locating supplies, making histology slides, preparing specimens, suturing incisions after postmortem examinations, taking photos, keeping records, decontaminating equipment and thoroughly cleaning and maintaining the morgue facility.

Postsecondary education is advantageous but is not required. An associate degree in a health field or an associate degree in mortuary science can make you more competitive. Morgue attendants like dieners need physical strength to perform essential functions of the job that involve positioning bodies and lifting human remains that weigh more than 50 pounds. When applying for various types of morgue jobs, mention any training you’ve had related to maintaining sanitary conditions in accordance with industry standards.

Become a Licensed Embalmer

Embalming preserves the body by replacing natural bodily fluids with chemicals like formaldehyde. The duties of a hospital morgue embalmer include washing a body for autopsy or preparing the body for transportation to another facility, such as delivery to a medical school cadaver lab. Many embalmers work in the mortuaries of funeral homes, where the body is embalmed and made to look presentable when an open casket viewing is requested by loved ones.

To work as an embalmer, you will need to complete a one-year to two-year training program that teaches embalming principles, methods and biohazard control in a medical facility. For example, the accredited associate degree of mortuary science curriculum offered at Worsham College offers 12 months of training in funeral services, including over 20 weeks of hands-on observation for learning embalming techniques. Many states require additional academic coursework and an apprenticeship to test for an embalming license.

Study to Be a Forensic Morgue Technician

Forensic autopsies are conducted to investigate a suspicious death. Forensic morgue technicians help gather autopsy evidence under supervision of a forensic scientist or pathologist as part of a criminal investigation. Duties include removing organs and fluids, drawing blood samples, preserving forensic evidence and collecting fingerprints.

An associate degree in biology, chemistry or biochemistry can lead to an entry-level job as a forensic morgue technician. Employers may also consider a two-year degree in nursing or funeral services. A bachelor’s degree in the sciences with laboratory experience is advantageous in landing a job. Courses in law enforcement would help you understand the critical importance of evidence gathering, testing and proper handling through the chain of custody.

Aim for a Morgue Manager Position

Morgue assistants prepare bodies for autopsy, and mortuary assistants help prepare bodies for burial. Some job responsibilities of these positions overlap. After honing your skills in a morgue job, you may want to consider moving into a supervisory role in a morgue or branching out as a mortuary manager or funeral director.

Mortuary managers direct the operation of funeral homes, including the mortuary. As part of their training, they learn how to embalm and prepare the body for viewing. However, more time is spent comforting grieving families and arranging memorial services.

Your state licensing board can explain how to obtain a license if you are inspired by the idea of planning funeral services and managing mortuaries or funeral homes. Launch your career by enrolling in an accredited funeral service program, complete an apprenticeship and earn an associate degree. You will then need to test for a national funeral director license and possibly a state license.

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About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd brings vast hands-on experience to her writing endeavors. Along with general knowledge of human resources, she has specialized training in affirmative action, investigations and equal opportunity. While working as a dean of students, she advised college students on emerging career trends and job seeking strategies. As director of equal opportunity, she led efforts to diversify the workforce and the student body.