Pre-need funeral counselors are individuals who help clients plan funerals ahead of time. Some mortuaries and funeral homes help individuals preplan funerals with the assistance of a funeral counselor. Preparation can include writing an obituary ahead of time; choosing a burial plot and burial method; selecting flower arrangements, music and attendants; and choosing a tombstone. Pre-need counselors can help clients create funeral trust accounts or purchase insurance policies that cover funeral expenses. Although there are few formal requirements for gaining employment as a pre-need funeral counselor, some employers may require specialized education, experience and training in the field.
Attain a high school diploma or GED. Although a college degree is not required for working in the pre-need funeral industry, a degree can make a candidate more attractive to employers during the hiring process. Some pre-need counselors work as funeral directors or funeral director apprentices first, gaining insight into the industry before helping clients determine their future needs. Other individuals obtain bachelor's degrees in business with courses in sales and marketing. Individuals with established successes in selling other goods and services may also gain employment in the field of funeral services.
Attain necessary licensure from the state in which you are seeking employment. Offices issuing pre-need licenses can vary from state to state. State insurance offices, state boards of funeral services or offices of public health may issue licenses to pre-need counselors. In some states, only licensed funeral home directors and their employees are eligible to sell pre-need services. In other states, third-party sellers such as insurance companies and funeral trust companies are able to offer pre-need counseling services.
Attain a position as a pre-need funeral counselor. Potential job openings can be found on industry websites and publications. Prepare for interviews that may involve role-playing or monitored sales calls. If you are not already familiar with the funeral industry, read manuals to learn more about the nuances of selling in the pre-need industry.
Keep up with new trends in the field of pre-need planning by attending conferences and workshops on pre-planning topics. The National Funeral Directors Association offers a nationally certified pre-planning consultant program (CPC) to individuals seeking further education, training and credentials. CPC candidates must be at least 18 years of age. Independent study or formal seminars are required; program choices are determined by years of experience. However, all individuals seeking CPC certification must pay a fee and take and pass a two-hour exam to attain the certificate.
Pre-need funeral planning is difficult to regulate and has received some negative press over the years. Some unscrupulous salespeople have engaged in unethical business practices. Because there is often a significant length of time between the contract and the funeral -- and because clients are no longer able to review the services provided -- it can be difficult to determine whether or not a funeral contact was properly fulfilled. Therefore, getting a formal education, completing workshops and seminars, and obtaining certification from national or state associations can provide a sense of security to potential clients.
- "International Cemetery and Funeral Management"; Personality and the Pre-Need Counselor; Michael Gravelle; 2004
- American Association of Retired Persons: Preneed Funeral and Burial Arrangements
- AARP Public Policy Institute: Preneed Funeral and Burial Arrangements; Sharon Hermanson; 1999
- Oregon Insurance Division: Preneed Funeral Plans and So-called "Funeral Insurance"
- National Funeral Directors Association: Certified Preplanning Consultant Program
Kendall Olsen has been writing for more than 20 years She is a University of Missouri-St. Louis Gateway Writing Project Fellow and has published instructional materials with the McDonald Publishing Company. Olsen holds an Ed.S. in educational technology, an M.Ed. in secondary English curriculum and instruction, a B.S. in elementary education and a B.A. in art history.