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How to Become a Grave Digger
Professional grave diggers possess valuable skills that are in demand at public, private, national and veterans cemeteries. Duties include precisely excavating and backfilling graves using hand tools or a backhoe. You can become a cemetery grave digger by meeting education and training requirements for the type of position you seek. Depending on the job and the state where you reside, you may be required to hold a backhoe license, or your job application will not be considered.
Learn About Types of Cemetery Jobs
Most cemetery grave diggers use machines to ready a site for conventional burial. Machines are used to remove topsoil, excavate the soil and insert a grave liner or burial vault. Pulleys and hoists are installed for lowering the casket. Burial ground custodians also operate small tractors, tree trimmers and lawn mowers to keep the cemetery looking nice for services and visitors.
By contrast, all graves are dug by hand at cemeteries that offer conservation and green burials. No heavy equipment is allowed in eco-friendly burial sanctuaries. These cemetery jobs involve using shovels, rakes, chainsaws for cutting roots, a pick to break frozen ground and a rock bar to remove rocks. Reverence for life and commitment to ecological sustainability are expected qualities for a green burial job.
Meet Education and Training Requirements
A high school diploma or equivalency is the minimum requirement for most grave digger jobs. Conventional cemeteries may prefer or require prior training in the use of light construction equipment, such as backhoes.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, backhoe operators, including grave diggers, learn their trade by enrolling in a short vocational course, completing an apprenticeship or learning the ropes from an experienced backhoe operator. Cemetery grave diggers must also know how to properly maintain their equipment and operate tools safely to comply with Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules.
Get in Shape
Cemetery jobs require physical strength to handle the controls on construction equipment, remove dirt and rocks, lay new sod and install monuments of all sizes. Government jobs may require you to pass a test of physical strength as part of the pre-employment screening and hiring process. Look the part of a buff construction laborer when applying for cemetery jobs that demand physicality. Proper diet, adequate rest and exercise can help you look and feel your best when interviewing.
Find Good Cemetery Jobs
Like most jobs, you will need a resume that lists your contact information, education, training, license or certifications and work history. Next, you will want to strategically search for positions. Don’t rely on the internet alone.
- Scour online job sites like Indeed and USAJobs.gov., searching for titles like grave digger, cemetery operative and burial ground custodian. Apply online to cemetery jobs by creating an account, answering questions on a job application and uploading your resume.
- Apply online for a position with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which manages 136 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ plots across the country.
- Ask friends, neighbors, family and colleagues for help finding a cemetery job. Your contacts may know a cemetery caretaker or a backhoe operator who could offer insider information on current or anticipated job openings in your area.
- Personally contact funeral service directors and funeral service corporations to express interest in a job and inquire about the application process. Stop by with resume in hand. Dress in business casual and convey sensitivity for the type of work you would be doing.
- Get your foot in the door by applying to generalist cemetery laborer jobs that involve mowing the grass, watering flowers, pruning trees and brushing off headstones.
Dr. Mary Dowd brings decades of 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.