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How to Become a Funeral Director

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Since dying is a fact of life, no matter where you choose to live, you will have job security as a funeral director. There will always be funerals and positions for funeral directors. But you might consider moving to Kentucky where there is the highest concentration of funeral director jobs. However, you'd earn more as a funeral director in Iowa. But the state with the most funeral directors is Texas, which is likely because it's a pretty big state. Florida, New York, Ohio and California are the other states with the highest number of funeral directors.

What is a Funeral Director?

If you're interested in helping families through the process of grieving, you might make a good funeral director. Also referred to as a mortician or undertaker, a funeral director's obligations usually include embalming, burial or cremation of the deceased as well as the organizing and conducting of funerals.

The typical duties of a funeral director include:

  • Offering comfort to bereaved families who are seeking funereal services
  • Arranging funeral ceremonies
  • Arranging for removal of the body from the place of death
  • Preparing the body based on the family's wishes and current laws
  • Gathering information for legal documents
  • Filing legal papers, including death certificates 
  • Helping family members file claims for death benefits
  • Connecting family and friends of the deceased with post-death counseling and support groups

How to Become a Funeral Director

Most states require an associate degree at the minimum, typically in funeral service education, in order to become a funeral director. To achieve a license, a state and/or a National Board licensing exam must be passed that tests potential directors on their skills. These exams cover a range of topics and areas of expertise.

The funeral service arts section of the national exam covers topics such as marketing, funeral arranging and directing, legal and regulatory compliance and cemetery and cremation options. The scientific portion of the exam covers topics such as embalming, the art of restoration and preparation for disposition. The disposition or demeanor of a funeral director is also very important. A talented one must provide a warm and soothing presence to grieving families, but maintain enough distance that he or she isn't emotionally taxed by their duties over time.

After passing the necessary state exams, potential funeral directors must complete an internship lasting between one and three years. After that, continuing education is required in many states in order to maintain your license. Continuing education is necessary for funeral directors to keep up with the latest practices.

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How Much Do You Make as a Funeral Director?

Typical funeral director salaries vary from state to state, but the mean annual salary of funeral directors in 2016 was $54,700. At the upper end, national earnings hit $83,980 and at the lower end funeral directors earned $27,950.

In the state of Texas, most funeral directors earn an average salary of $56,230. In Kentucky, the state with the most jobs for funeral directors, the earnings were an average of $42,360 in 2016. That same year in Iowa, funeral directors earned an average of $61,660.

Those aiming for the highest salaries may benefit from a move to Massachusetts, the top-paying state for funeral directors in 2016. With an average annual salary of $73,390, this New England state is a good choice to set up a private practice. But overall, you can earn a decent living as a funeral director while helping to ease people's pain as they say their final goodbyes to a cherished loved one.

About the Author

Heather Skyler is a journalist and novelist who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek, The New York Times and SKY magazine.

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