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The Changing Face of the Funeral Industry

You might think of a career in funeral service as gory, gruesome or creepy. But those in the industry say that "gratifying" is a better word.

Funeral directors guide families through the grief process and set them on a path toward healing.

The death rate is expected to increase over the next few decades. That could mean more opportunities for funeral directors.

David Walkinshaw is a member of the spokesperson team for the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). He says how many will be needed is still unclear.

"It appears that those with the greatest population increases will be hardest hit," he says.

Melissa Troutner Metcalf of Florida says she had always been interested in the medical field, but decided to enter the funeral industry as a result of her mother's death.

"The funeral home that took care of my mother went above and beyond their call of duty and the funeral director made an impression on me for his commitment to my family," she says.

Funeral directors need to be prepared to offer a variety of services. Cremation, for instance, is expected to account for 50 percent of all deaths by 2025. That's according to the Cremation Association of North America.

In years past, corporations began buying up family-owned funeral homes at a rapid pace. Funeral director John Lewis of Texas feels this hurts the industry and the families.

"Corporations usually have someone pick up the body, another to help make the arrangements and yet one more person to direct the funeral," says Lewis. "To me, that's less personal."

But the chances for advancement may be better in a larger organization. "Employees will be given the chance to manage and direct other employees much sooner than in a family home setting," says funeral director Patrick Connell.

Wherever you want to work, the first thing you'll need to consider is your region's licensing requirements.

Some states require a two or four-year degree, two years of mortuary school and an apprenticeship. Colorado, however, does not have licensing requirements for funeral directors.

Jeff Caldwell coordinates the funeral services program at a college. His college now requires an applicant to complete a task-oriented observation experience in a funeral home of their choice.

"In the years prior to the current observational experience being implemented, it was not uncommon to have students faint or throw up during the school's first embalming observation," says Caldwell.

"With this 30- to 40-hour voluntary experience, we trust the applicant will be fully aware of the realities of funeral service."

The funeral industry is about more than just working with dead bodies. Industry sources say that if you add up all the hours spent in a typical day, funeral directors spend more time with the living than with the dead.

If you have a willingness to help people in time of need, a strong stomach, a good sense of humor and the ability to leave the emotional stresses of the day behind, you might want to consider this career.


Cremation Association of North America
Read the publications

National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA)
The About Funeral Services section has some good info

International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association
Get the latest news

American Board of Funeral Service Education
Accredits funeral service programs

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