A mortuary technician helps prepare bodies for burial or cremation. This may include restoration and embalming. The mortuary technician may repair some of the damage done to the body in death, and tries to make the body more presentable for the grieving family. Technicians may also assist with funeral preparations and interact with the family of the deceased. An interest in people and attention to detail will help you in your work as a mortuary technician. Mortuary technicians may advance to the position of funeral director.
Requirements for mortuary technicians vary by state. Some states require licensing for anyone who embalms a body, while others have no licensing requirements. According to the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), states usually require either a four-year or a two-year degree in funeral service education and that the applicant pass a national board education. To advance to a funeral director you need at least a year of apprenticeship and may have to pass a state licensing exam. The ABFSE maintains a searchable database of accredited college programs in funeral service education.
The ABFSE reports there are generally more jobs for certified mortuary technicians than there are people to fill the jobs, so the outlook is good for trained personnel. In 2010, funeral service education programs graduated 51 percent women and 49 percent men, making this an equal opportunity profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps mortuary technicians with funeral directors and reports average growth in the job market.
The ABFSE suggests that a starting funeral director will make approximately the same starting salary as a starting teacher. Salaries vary depending on the area of the country. Many funeral homes are smaller, family-owned businesses, though larger chains exist in some parts of the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists salaries for funeral directors, which it also calls morticians, as ranging between $29,910 and $92,940, with most earning between $38,980 and $69,680 in 2008. The average salary was $52,210, as of May 2008.
Working as a mortuary technician may require long hours, since you may have to be on call to receive bodies in the middle of the night or on weekends. Visitation to the funeral home often takes place during evening hours or on weekends, as well. You must be unruffled by dealing with dead bodies, some of which may have suffered serious injury or disfigurement. You'll be working with a public who may not be at their best; patience and compassion and the ability to comfort grieving people are important qualities for anyone in the funeral industry.