Is Mortuary School Right for You?

Times are tough and money is hard to come by. But that hasn’t fettered your passion to either step up to the next level of mortuary professionalism, or maybe to simply pursue an entry level job in the industry. But still, you kind of broke, so what do you do? In general the easy answer is school right? I mean that is what you do anytime you want to be trained in a specific profession. But, in a world where trade schools-and really any school-can cost you thousands and thousands of dollars that you don’t have, how do you know if it’s right for you? Better yet, how do you know if it’s even necessary? Let’s talk it out shall we?

“I want to go to mortuary school because that is what I have to do. Right?”

Nope that is totally not true. Well for the most part it’s not true. So, let’s just start with, is mortuary school a need or a want? Do you really need to go? Be real, did you do the research? What do you want to do in the industry? You would be surprised by how many jobs do not require a license or mortuary school for you to be qualified. Don’t believe me? That’s ok because I want you to read all the way through this, so let’s get on to the next question.

“I think I want to be a Funeral Director. Or like, I think I want to embalm? I’m not sure. I just know I really want to work in a funeral home”

That’s a great place to start. But let’s break it down. What do you specifically want to do? What do you think the responsibilities of that job actually are? What do you want to get out of your career in the funeral industry?

Feeling overwhelmed because you think you only have two options; Funeral Director or Embalmer? That’s ok because I did a quick internet search for you to see what jobs are available, and to spice things up I looked outside of my home town. Take a look below and then tell me if you notice anything.

Los Angeles, CA

  • Funeral Home Coordinator:
    • High School or GED equivalent.
    • Associates degree or bachelor’s degree preferred.
  • Funeral Home Operations Manager:
    • California Funeral Directors License (mortuary school is not required to obtain this license)
    • California Insurance License (can be secured upon hire)
  • Funeral Service Assistant:
    • must have a flexible schedule, professional appearance, good attitude, and be a team player. The candidate must share in the idea of growing market and maintaining a premier level of customer satisfaction.

Boston, MA

  • Assistant Cemetery Superintendent:
    • Associate (Preferred)
  • Office Manager:
    • High school diploma, GED or completion of a diploma training program at a college or technical school.
  • Funeral Director/Embalmer:
    • Valid Drivers License (Required)
    • Funeral Director/Embalmer (Preferred)

Chicago, Illinois

  • Apprentice/Funeral Director:
    • Funeral Director: 1 year (Preferred)
  • Funeral Pre-Planning Advisor:
    • Life Insurance (Preferred)
  • Field Operations Support Assistant:
    • High School or GED equivalent

Ok. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll clue you in. None of the above jobs specifically require you to go to mortuary school. They may require regular schooling, but that can be achieved at any local community or State college. You’ll see why that is an important difference between commuting to a mortuary school as we carry on.

“Amber, enough with the showboating. You know why I’m reading this stupid post! I want to work with dead bodies! Where are those job listings?!”

Alright ! Alright! Look, wanting to work with the dead is a totally healthy and normal desire. For real! It means you are curious about the world around you and never let anyone take that wonder from you. Hoooooowever, I want to impart a special reminder here. Working in the funeral industry is not about working with the dead. It is about working with the living. So please have a special heart to heart with yourself and ask if you want to do good in the world, or if you are just morbidly curious about what it is like to work in a mortuary. And, again, it is not wrong to be curious. Heck, that is what got me into this field; curiosity and a desire to do good in the world. And it is that desire for good that makes me want to protect this industry, and in a way, to protect you too. I think that if you entered this field with a more accurate mindset you could really thrive and thereby create a healthier atmosphere not just for the grieving, but for your coworkers as well.

“Yup. Yup I got it! Dead bodies. Tell me about the dead bodies!”

Ok sheesh you’re pushy. Well look man there is no way around it, if you want to get your embalmers license you are going to have to go to school. There is the opportunity to serve an apprenticeship before you get your license but those jobs can be pretty tough to get. I am by no way saying they are impossible to find, I just can’t sell you on the promise it will happen. And look, mortuary school is a great place to find out whether working with the dead is right for you. While my personal ethos is that working with the dead is right for everyone you still may find it’s not what you want to spend every waking moment doing, and mortuary school is a great litmus test for it. However, I caution you again, this job is about working with the living. And while working with the dead may be great, you may find that the grieving may not be. It is a million times harder to sit with someone who lost their child than it is to sit with the dead child. Holding a space where someone else can grieve and cry while you hold back a flood of your own tears… That is difficult. So so so difficult. But look, if you just want to be an embalmer the question of if you should go to mortuary school is kind of solidified. So what are you waiting for?

“Well. I mean, how do I find a mortuary school?”

You’re killin me Smalls! I’m just kidding I’m glad you asked because it is so much simpler than it seems. Ready? Internet it! That’s right. Type “mortuary school + (your state)” and see what pops up. I can’t for the life of me-no pun intended-figure out why people struggle with this. The only thing I can think is that because there are not many schools, that people think they overlooked something. You didn’t.

To make things even easier, let’s take a little visit to the American Board of Funeral Service Education.  This site is a great resource because they list all accredited colleges in the United States and even do you a solid by giving you a link to not just the Accredited Programs of Funeral Service, but also to online schools. If you have the means or desire to move you can also click on their Directory page and scroll slightly down to see a downloadable PDF of all the schools and their success rates at passing the National Board Exams. My alma mater-Cypress College-rates pretty well and I can say with all sincerity that I nailed my exam and felt beyond prepared to take it so I really recommend going there if possible. (So many links here guys please use them!)

“I see that there is one mortuary school in my State and it may as well be a billion miles away. What the heck?!”

Sorry guys. I can’t help you there. That is why I so avidly try to give you ways to not go to school. It’s not that I don’t want you to go. It’s just that I know there can be a whole mess of obstacles in the way and I am here to encourage, not discourage. Because look, here’s the truth, school can be a great way to connect with other people entering into the funeral industry. I made some really great friends during my time at Cypress and I hope that I keep them for years to come. Mortuary school also gave me the tools that I needed to take my licensing exams with ease, and the confidence I needed to get my foot in the door. So to reiterate. I am not telling you that you shouldn’t go. I just want you to know that if going to school is not an immediate possibility, that it  should not be the deciding factor for entering this industry. I don’t want it to keep you from helping make a difference on this big blue marble we all call home. So I guess. Well, I guess you could say I’m just trying to encourage you to think outside the coffin.

Forever your Ginger Mortician,  Amber Carvaly