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As the population continues to age, the demand for qualified embalmers continues to increase. The job of an embalmer is a challenging one that often requires maintaining irregular hours and long work weeks, so it first requires a strong commitment to the field. A candidate doesn’t need a college degree to become an embalmer, but a prospective embalmer will need to complete a series of professional training in order to acquire a license and be able to practice. Most states also require that embalmers be at least 21 years old.
To become an embalmer, students must complete training through mortuary science programs that can take up to three years to complete. These programs are typically offered at technical schools or mortuaries where students learn about state laws regulating the handling of dead bodies, how to identify cause of death, and accepted embalming practices. Some universities do offer four-year degrees in mortuary sciences, but most states do not require completion of such a program to become an embalmer; experience is considered more important. Following completion of their chosen program, most students will need to apprentice at a funeral home before they can become fully licensed. Apprentices serve from one to three years, depending on the laws of the state in which they work.
After completing their apprenticeship, students must prepare for and pass a state board examination in order to become an embalmer. There are both national and state board examinations in the US, and many other nations have similar setups. Test centers are located around the nation, and test preparation materials are available online through The International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards.
Once the prospective embalmer has completed training and received his license, he may find jobs through placement programs from his mortuary school. In addition to working in a funeral home, embalmers can find positions at hospitals, medical schools, and morgues as they can prepare bodies for autopsies, study, and dissection. As they become more experienced in their field, many embalmers move on to become funeral home directors, chief embalmers of their hospital or morgue, board members of various professional organizations, or they might choose to teach new students.
Embalmers who want to become directors of funeral homes might also want to take some classes in business and accounting in order to better manage and market their services. These classes can be found at community colleges and local universities. Becoming an embalmer can lead to myriad career and learning opportunities for the dedicated professional.
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