How do I Become a Mortician?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Becoming a mortician usually requires a combination of education, work experience, and personality. You will almost always need a high school diploma or equivalent to get started, and a bachelor’s degree is also required in some places. On top of this, morticians usually need specific training related to body embalming, funeral directorship, and jurisdiction-specific protocol related to death certificates and necessary filings. Sometimes this training comes from a formal educational program, but it can also be learned on the job through an internship or apprenticeship. Once you have received all of your necessary training, you will need to decide whether you want to work as a part of a larger mortician’s team, or whether you want to open up a funeral parlor of your own.

Morticians should have excellent communication skills and a high level of compassion.
Morticians should have excellent communication skills and a high level of compassion.

Required Education

How much education morticians need to have is largely a matter of local rules, but a high school diploma is almost always a bare minimum. Most morticians also complete a specific training program that prepares them for working with the dead. Schools that offer degrees in mortuary science usually cover these basics automatically; students that pursue more mainstream degrees like business administration must usually attend these sorts of courses independently.

Personality is an important asset for a mortician.
Personality is an important asset for a mortician.

Dedicated mortuary school programs usually last for two years, and include training in such things as embalming, making up bodies for open casket funerals, running a funeral home, managing the paperwork associated with death, and so forth. Schools also provide practice and learning opportunities for students, and may also offer placements and career counseling services for people who want mid-year internships and work experience.

Training for a mortician includes preparing bodies for caskets.
Training for a mortician includes preparing bodies for caskets.

Training Opportunities

Formal training is an important part of the journey to become a mortician, but it by no means the end of the road. You will also usually have to have some hands-on experience in the field before you will be competitive on the job market. Aspiring morticians frequently become apprentices or interns after they finish their schooling as a way to build tangible skills, as well as network with those who may be hiring. Real-life experience is also a great way to prepare for licensing or certification exams.

Some morticians sell caskets from their funeral parlors.
Some morticians sell caskets from their funeral parlors.

Certificates and Licensures

Most jurisdictions regulate who may become a mortician through a series of exams or certification requirements. These make sure that anyone entering the profession has the right skills and training — dealing with the dead is often a very sensitive issue, and controlling workers’ credentials is one way in which local governments look out for their citizens.

Though much depends on location, the required exams are rarely very strenuous. Most of the time, they just test the basics; anyone with the right training and experience should have no trouble passing. Licensure boards may also want to see transcripts from mortuary school, and sometimes even recommendations from professors or supervisors. Licenses and certificates must often be renewed on a periodic basis, usually every couple of years.

Work Environments

Once you have become a mortician, you will need to choose where you want to work and what sort of arrangement you want to have. Many people start by joining the staff of existing funeral homes, often as assistant directors or “junior” staff. You may also choose to open your own business. A lot depends on your personal interests, as well as the needs of your community.

Work in either setting tends to be both varied and challenging. The hours tend to be highly irregular, as funeral home staff must be on call day and night to collect the bodies of deceased individuals. Morticians also need to work with bodies in a wide variety of conditions, including people who have been autopsied, organ and tissue donors, and victims of serious accidents or assaults. A skilled mortician can make a body presentable for family viewing and burial no matter what condition it is in.

Personal Skills and Communication

You will usually need to cultivate excellent communication skills in order to succeed, and a compassion for those in grief and distress is often also helpful. Though the bulk of your work will probably be behind the scenes, you will also have to interact with family members of the deceased. Morticians must have respect for a wide variety of cultural, religious, and personal beliefs. Listening to client wishes and calming funeral-related anxieties is all part of the job.

Some degree of business savvy is also important, especially if you hope to become a mortician in your own funeral home. Administrative tasks and things like budgeting, managing tax filings, and hiring and firing staff are not usually associated with morticians specifically, but are nevertheless important parts of running a successful business.

A mortician might help arrange funeral transportation.
A mortician might help arrange funeral transportation.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I wanted to be a mortician to work with dead people because I feel that people should recognize their loved ones once the body is prepared for funeral with the makeup and everything. I think it brings more comfort at that point. It will bring back good memories.


I am a student of NASMS as a mortician. Can I get a job in Canada in less than eight months?


@Astrid: Since you are getting technical training in the Netherlands now, it might be enough to get you admitted to a mortuary science program in the U.S. What you would need to do is to look for colleges and universities that offer this program and send the dean of the school a letter or e-mail detailing your education and ask if you can pick up the courses in preparing bodies for burial. The worst they can say is no.

There is a school of mortuary science at Jefferson State College in Alabama. It might be worth a try.


I'm attending post mortem technical studies in the Netherlands (preparing bodies for burial/cremation, dressing, make-up, camouflage techniques etc.) to become a professional in the last care for deceased.

My question would be, could I attend class in the USA and if so, what parts of the studies, because I can't spend two years in the States to study (and do not wish to start my own funeral home). I will not be dealing with the further burial/cremation arrangements, so there is no need for management training etc., but I would be very interested in enhancing my knowledge and skills, because last care for the deceased is much more advanced in the States than in the Netherlands.

Could anyone advise? --Astrid


When I was little I always wanted to work with bodies for some crazy reason. But I love what morticians do and how they help people. I want to get into this field.


My name is Nathan. I am 14 fixing to turn 15. I have recently been studying the field. However, I have always wanted to be a mortician ever since I found out who they are and what they do.


I amshontae and I am 15 years old and I've wanted to be a mortician for a couple years. Now it interests me a lot. I really want a job in that field and I think it would be good for my life!


I am 17. And i lost my granddad and dad in two or three months time. And i saw how good they looked and i want to help families the way that Austin and Bell helped me. And i would love to become a mortician someday. But i don't want to open my own funeral home. I want to join one.


I'm going to school in great bend, kansas, so you really don't hear about too many morticians coming from here. I've been wanting to work in this field ever since i was a little girl. The question is, what school teaches this kind of things?


so you mean to tell me that you have to have completed high school and then you have to go to college on top of that just for this field.


i wonder if you can become a mortician if you have a GED? Yes of course I'll be attending college, and how you actually go by it. I mean i know the things that i have to study, but i just don't know do you show up at a funeral home and be like "hi i want to become a mortician. can i see what you do or what?" but maybe that's just me. well, i'll see. hoping to post up what happens when i do so.


I'm only 12 but i think i want to be a mortician. I think it sounds like something i would be good at. I do good in school, I pay attention in school, and I do what I'm told, when I'm told. It sounds like i might be good at it. I know I'm only 12 and I'm not sure if it's what I should do, but for now it sounds good to me.


i look forward to becoming a mortician when i get out of college but I'm starting early in high school so I'll be ready for it.


I recently took a certificate program to get me into this field and 'graduated with highest honors' only to find out I still basically had to go to college. Also, they taught us that, yes, you can get internships, *most* funeral homes and mortuaries are started up by a single person. You usually own your own rather than join one.

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