I Can’t Encourage You To Become a Mortician

Death Dreams

Well, gosh darn if this isn’t a brutal thing to write.  Who wants to be a crusher of dreams?  Creating dreams is obviously way more fun.

I get a lot of messages from people who say the Order of the Good Death inspired them to explore their interest in death, go back to mortuary school, and start a career in the funeral industry.  The fact that I could have that kind of effect on someone is incredibly flattering.  But as a wise man (ok fine, it was Spiderman) once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”  It is my responsibility to be transparent and honest.  It’s disingenuous for me to say, “woo!  Alright sweet angels, go out there and follow your deathy dreams!” without making sure you know the realities.

Reality One: Embalming is on its way out

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe embalming is not on its way out.  As an advocate of natural burial (i.e. burial with no chemical treatment of the body of any kind) I’m about the farthest thing there is from an unbiased voice in this matter.  But the data backs me up. Recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics list embalming as one of the 15 disappearing middle class jobs.  Our national cremation rate rises every day, and shows no signs of stopping.

em

Here’s the issue: embalming is what mortuary science schools teach. They have pretenses towards other subjects (we got about two hours over the course two years on cremation) but really it’s embalming.  The first mortuary schools were founded by embalming chemical companies. The North American death industry has a whole system in place to support embalming. Except the public no longer wants the service.  Embalming followed by burial still has a stronghold in certain geographic areas, but culturally we’re turning to cremation, and fingers crossed, natural burials.

ku-xlarge

The embalming we’ve seen lately, like the guy who was hyper-preserved and buried in a glass case propped up on his Harley, has a sort of crumbling-of-the-Roman-Empire feel to it.  The bizarre decadence that shows up historically at the end of eras or civilizations.

If I were to encourage you to go to mortuary school, you’d be paying quite a bit of money (and giving several years of your life) to something that may very well not be a long term, stable career for you.  Even if you do make it through mortuary school and get a job, there is a massive turnover rate in this industry. Massive. Long gone are the days when you got the “funeral director”-result on your career aptitude test and could safely say, “weird, ok, cool. I’ll just do that.”

Reality Two: I did not attend mortuary school in order to enter the funeral industry.

Did I graduate from mortuary school?  Yes. Have I worked for years in the funeral industry? Yes. I did these things because I was fascinated by cultural death practices and studying behind the scenes. Almost from the beginning I knew I wanted to devote myself to what I am doing now: empowering families to take care of their own dead, taking charge of their corpses and their rituals in a way that is meaningful.  If you want to be a “mortician like me” (which, again, welp, is so nice of you to say) you should be fully aware that my work is part of a movement attempting to reduce our culture’s dependence on morticians and the death industry. Essentially, I AM TRYING TO GET RID OF MYSELF. Bye, me!

Order

I also needed the stupid titles to be the type of advocate that I am.  Mortuary school graduate.  Licensed mortician.  I knew people in the death industry would say “who is this girl, I bet she didn’t even go to mortuary school!”  Surprise, surprise, they do say that, all the time.  Sadly, it’s important (especially as a woman) that I be able to respond, “I did go to mortuary school and I do have a license” before I can go on to say, “and I still think we can take care of our dead radically different than how we do now.”

Reality Three:  You can’t just “take a job” in the alternative death industry instead.

order good death
“Jobs” in the alt death industry is kind of a misnomer. The people in the Order who work in alt death (Jeff owns his own carbon neutral cremation and green burial funeral home, Sarah is a caretaker at a natural burial cemetery, Cassandra is a home funeral midwife) all had to create this reality for themselves.  We came from jobs in the traditional death industry and have found a way to make it work somehow.  You can’t Craiglist job search positions like these.  I’ve been working to start my own business, Undertaking LA, and I still have no idea if it’s going to work.  It’s scary.

The fact is, as much as we believe in natural burial, home funerals, etc, they are NOT part of a booming industry.  There can be trend pieces about them in the New York Times, but that doesn’t mean the culture at large has changed (yet).  In economic terms: the market for alt death hasn’t caught up yet to the people who want to serve the market.

Reality Four: A young, single person has the specific privilege of revolution

Starting Undertaking LA and the Order of the Good Death has been brutal. I make myself sick working long hours and go through periods of being real broke. But it’s 100% a choice I make to follow this passion, this compulsion. I did this to myself.

More importantly, I only have myself to think about. Many of the messages I get regarding getting into the death industry or attending mortuary school are from young mothers, looking for a stable career that they love and that will also support their children. I would never recommend what I do (working outside the traditional industry) to people with young children.  Is it because I think women with young children couldn’t handle it?  That’s not at all what I’m suggesting. I know that having children is an exercise in stress and logistics beyond what I could ever understand.  All I know is I would crumble like a sad, wet cookie if I lived the life I do now with kids or elderly parents that depended on me financially, emotionally, or otherwise.  Hell, before her sweet fluffy butt went to the great kitty beyond, I found caring for a cat stressful.

FrustratedWoman

Even if you are one of the people who snags a job in the traditional funeral industry, the work involves long hours, and completely erratic hours. It involves taking in the deep sorrow of others.

Where Does That Leave Us?

Maybe you’re the type of person who reads everything I just wrote and says, “suck it Caitlin, I don’t care what you say, a life in death is for me.”  Well, then you’re probably just the type of person who will make it, who will carve out a place for themselves in the world of death.  Jerry Seinfeld was talking to Louis CK, about the people who ask him “how do you make it in stand up comedy?”  His answer: “if you have to ask, you’ll probably never make it.”

The people who will have careers are the people who will do whatever it takes: knocking on funeral home doors, apprenticing, figuring out how to innovate and learn and discover where the industry is going. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to pursue this if you are smart, innovative, and ambitious. Lord knows we desperately need you. It’s the Wild West out here, we don’t know where death will go in the next 10, 20, 30 years and we have the unique opportunity to shape it.  Go to mortuary school (especially if that is required to become licensed in your state) but research exactly what being in the industry means.  In my dreams the mortuary schools are flooded with revolutionaries. But we’re at the beginning of a movement here, and the path is not yet clear and easy and free of brambles and knocked down trees.

And if you have to do this, it’s a calling, you can’t not do this?  Then welcome to death, we’ve been waiting for you.

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  • des

    I was just having this exact watch-out-the-industry-is-changing discussion re: law school with a friend. But I think the most important part of this article isn’t the difficulty with the changing nature of death rituals it’s the part where you said: “It involves taking in the deep sorrow of others.” I don’t know how many people, even well meaning people who can technically do a job well, are prepared for what grief does to people and more importantly how difficult it is to help someone going through a crisis.

  • Shandra

    I’m lucky enough to have been taught by an instructor in Mort. Sci. school that shares these views. He told us realistically how it would be from the beginning, what we’re facing, and left out none of the horrors. I’m so glad that he did, because unlike my disillusioned previous classmates, nothing in the funeral industry surprises or disappoints me. I’m trying to find an apprenticeship or internship with someone in the alternate funeral arts because I’d like to learn more about what other options there are.

  • KatrlAltDel

    You know, so many people I have come in contact with think that my career choice is so badass, so metal, so hard core. But that really kind of upsets me because it’s not something you can dabble in. It’s not a career you choose because you think it will make you more goth or whatever. I chose this because nothing else I’ve ever done has felt right to me. It really is a calling. I’m doing it because it’s important to me. The *most* important. So when I see other people enroll in M.S. school and realize one semester in, that “wait, this is really hard, I give up” I almost don’t have sympathy for them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m just a funeral assistant attending college because it’s required in my state. There is still a lot of time for me to fuck this up. But I bust my butt for the families that I get to work with. I do everything in my power to see to it that their loved ones service is as special as they were even if that means letting the deceased’s dog attend the viewing.

    I don’t know. I’ve never been very eloquent with words. But this is what defines me and it will always call to me.

    • bleh

      As someone who has had to use the services of a funeral director on several occasions, thank you. It is good to know that this is as important to you as it is to me.

    • Jes Castor

      Thank you! I lost my younger brother when he was only 26. I paid a small fortune for his funeral, and the funeral directors RUSHED my eulogy at his service because they had another funeral scheduled! They actually interrupted my brother’s service to hurry me along! I was in such grief, I let them do it. Thank you for being so kind to the families you work with. It means more than you’ll ever know. During the worst time of their lives, you help them, even if they don’t realize it. God bless you.

      • Micah 李 文 Jung

        I hope home funerals grow!

        • stormyweather79

          Actually in the past the person’s home is where the funeral used to be and sometimes a service in their church.

    • Sheyenne

      I feel the same tbh

    • Ariel Zeppelin

      You just need any Associates degree and experience to be a funeral director in California. Lol So at least the degree would not be a waste of time….but job availability is definitely super few and far between. 🙁

      • Lee Mun Lim

        isnt that always the case with good jobs?

  • groundgivesway

    Thank you for this! I have felt the calling to work in the death industry for years, and I have taken the prerequisites to get into the mortuary school where I live. I am now hesitant to apply to the program because of all of the reasons you so eloquently stated. I am about to finish up the Honoring Life’s Final Passages, Conscious Dying, Death Midwifery and Home Funeral Guidance program (finalpassages.org), and I hope that upon completion of it I have more of a sense of what the right path for me will be.

  • Cat Fraleigh

    For the past 2 semesters I’ve been attending Lincoln College of New England in Southington, Connecticut. Ever since I was young I’ve been interested in directly with the study of thanatology and mortuary science in general. The past few weeks have been really rather stressful due to downward spiraling my grades in chemistry and mortuary law. I have many friends in my school who got close to 4.0s in high school and are struggling with the mortuary curriculum. Being the student who borderline failed high school, this is very stressful to me to have picked such a difficult field. After reading this, and feeling just as dedicated as I did before I read it, I feel a little more confident. I’ll still continue to work and study hard if not harder. Thank you.

  • Joanna Suckling

    I have had very similar feelings about anthropology, especially having taught in colleges. Being one of the few in forensic anthropology, I tend to get questions from the occasional student who declares their dream to be an anthropologist. It’s tricky to walk the fine line between wanting to demonstrate my love for anthropology and inspire students to participate in it, and yet give them some harsh reality checks so that they know what they’re getting into (and that it’s not for most). I think some of my past students would be interested to know about my periods of un/underemployment and struggles to just stay in the game. To pursue these fields, you need to do it for love.

  • Virginia

    I am a funeral directress in the state of Virginia, although I am European born and raised. I am doing more and more home burials and seeing more people here staying home to take care of their old people . A return to the earlier ways of doing things and better for everyone concerned in my opinion. However, there will ALWAYS be a need for some funeral directors because many ( not all) people in this country don’t like to get involved with anything remotely unpleasant. It surprises me still how so many people are in such a rush for the removal of their family members body after death. Of course they are sometimes just very tired after a long period of intensive care taking, but mostly I think there is still such a fear of handling a person after death. And as you state, there is this unrealistic desire to pretend that death doesn’t really exists.

    I ALWAYS inform families that embalming is a choice and not a necessity and this makes the management very upset. These same managers bemoan the fact that cremation has become so popular instead of finding new ways to serve the families that WANT service and assistant. I do not agree that funeral directors will become obsolete but I do agree that those of us truly compelled to care for the dead will always do so. You are correct- it is definitely a calling. Those of us who do this work, like the individuals who have created a niche for themselves, will always have a place. Ways change!

    • Micah 李 文 Jung

      I hope so but cremation is more of a easier way to dispose of the body and not really give it a good send off you know. why do funeral directors say you can have the body only for 48 hrs to view and to say your good byes and you need to embalm the body so it doesnt become toxic to the family

    • Lady Libitina

      Where in VA are you? Are you in the DMV?. I am a licensed director in the DMV. Would like to know more here who feel the same way.

    • Person

      I’m in Virginia too! I wish there was some way I could make sure I can handle this sort of job before I start my classes… I’m sort of just going on a whim here. I’m afraid that I’ll end up with a license, and a job, only to find out that it wasn’t right for me, and I wasted my time and money… I still have time to make up my mind, I have to transfer out of my CC first anyway.

  • As a full-time embalmer, I will say that yes, you are definitely biased! I embalm plenty of bodies that will eventually get cremated. Cremation is simply the final method of disposition…there is plenty that can take place (visitations, funerals) before that! So the rise in cremation rates doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether or not embalming is on its way out or not (heck, we bury people without embalming them too! See…it’s just the disposition!).

    I also work 8-5, five days a week. And I get holidays off. Yes, it’s rare to find a great organization in this industry where you can do that, but it does exist.

    And you know that embalming is not all we are taught in mortuary school. We didn’t even get to that until second semester. Did you forget about our counseling classes, management, ceremonies, etc? Could we have learned more? Yes. But embalming lab was two classes out of over 15 total.

    But yes, it’s a lot of work. For a little pay. And there is a high burnout rate. Proceed with caution.

    • Micah 李 文 Jung

      How? its more expensive for now to have a full funeral then a direct cremation

    • Alex Walker

      How can you work 8 days a week?

      • Micah 李 文 Jung

        the same way a person works 9 days a week doing retail work

        • Person

          haaaaa yes

      • Anna

        They said 8 to 5, 5 days a week. Idiot

      • Wow really

        Your a dumb ass, they said 8-5, 5 days a week.. Slow down, don’t hurt yourself

      • Shuttin Big Tits Away

        You motherfucking idiot. 8 to 5!!!
        I HATE YOU NOW!!!!!!

      • Micah 李 文 Jung

        thats his career hello!

    • Annabelle

      I am 19 and I want to become an embalmer. I know you probably don’t remember and the prices are bound to be different now but do you remember how much money it costed?

    • Lizzy

      Wow thank you so much for this. I have being doing research for a while now, about to apply to school tomorrow. I almost wanted to back out because everything I read is so negative it made me question myself. I kept thinking “but I really want to do this.” Just seeing one postive comment really helped. I am fine with being on call, working holidays, and long hours. Not that it is even half as challenging, but I have been in retail management for five years so I am never home on Holidays and sometimes get no days off. I am so interested in this and really want to help people like I was helped.

      • Micah 李 文 Jung

        if you love it go for it and plus where is retail work going to go?

  • I’m a rabbi and I am very interested in the concept of death midwifery. Can you provide some links to some accredited programs, or if that’s not in the works yet, some programs that have a proven name for quality? Thanks! Love you blog.

  • Anita

    I have a degree from a mort school and I worked in a traditional family funeral home for about six months. All of my modern ideas were completely and utterly rejected. My Celebrant certification was not valued. I am now looking into a career as a science teacher. In spite of this, I don’t think that my education was a waste. I know exactly how to honor my loved ones and perhaps when I retire from teaching, I’ll give funeral service another look. Perhaps by then, the world will have caught up to my “modern” ideas.

  • Robert L. Muratore

    I am a licensed funeral director who has embalmed thousands of remains since that was my primary job at a large family owned funeral home. But I had left there when the son took over and it seemed that anyone who was hired by his father he did not want them on staff. He wanted to create his own staff. But after inherited a large volume business is now down quite a bit and it’s not just because of cremation but a direct result of the way he is operating the funeral home. I feel bad because his father was first generation that build up such a business. He did 96 calls his first year. Granted he entered at a good time ( 1963 ) and there was really no other funeral home who was not very good at all. But my former boss was associated with almost every organization at there , lions club , optimist, knights of Columbus etc. the son does nothing of that at all.
    But being an independent director who is trying to get embalming accounts is so difficult. I had thought I would have no problems at all since that is all I did and I feel I am very good at it but you have other directors who literally make up things about you to put you down or leave doubt in a owners mind about you. But being in this business for so long and at my age what else could I do. Any suggestions ?

  • Kelly

    Great article Caitlin… Our western society needs a good kick in the ass… we have such deep-seated fears around death in this culture and it’s holding us back in so many ways. I’m a grief specialist… I help people heal their broken hearts so I know first hand how difficult this industry is at the moment but I’m determined to be a big part of the shift that needs to take place. I watched a lovely movie a few years ago called “Departures”, if you haven’t seen it by all means do so! If we could cherish death and experience it from a place of love, respect and honor we could ease a lot of pain… It’s daunting but DOABLE! We’ve got to keep on keepin’ on peeps. All of you who do what you do in the industry of death are MUCH needed and MUCH appreciated.
    xoxo

    • Micah 李 文 Jung

      and to say good bye to the body not to be cremated and then forgotten

  • lala

    http://www.pbs.org/pov/afamilyundertaking/

    Caitlin, I’m sure you’ve seen this. I highly recommend it.

  • Shawna

    If you are a young, attractive woman, never, ever get into this field. You will only be left with a broken heart. You will be thrown out on your ass when you reject perverted men who try to get into your pants. It does NOT matter how hard you work, how good you are at your job or how much you sacrifice…all the men see you as, is a piece of ass and don’t bother telling management or HR because they will just use that opportunity to think up a “reason” to fire you. It has happened to me several times, in every funeral home, mortuary, autopsy facility, coroner’s office ect I have worked in. I have tried for 10 years to succeed but this happens every time and I have seen it happen to other women. The death care business is still very much a man’s business and you will not be welcomed unless you drop your pants. Your selfless efforts will be shunned and your self esteem GONE!!!If you are an old fat woman, they will respect you though. They have their own little click and are very jealous of women who don’t look like them. They will also stab you in the back. Sorry to burst your bubble but this is the cold hard truth! OH…also..don’t have a homosexual professor if you are a woman because he will also mess you over. He will only favor the males. I have had 2 instructors like that.

    • anon

      wow. I’m glad that my 4 years in the industry has been the polar opposite of yours. I’ve worked with (and for) some really bad-ass, inspiring women. And as a woman, that has been amazing.

    • Adriane Kimberly Ebner

      Ok I have to reply to the above. For starters I am a Barber, I am around men ten hrs a day. For twelve years, I hear all of the awful dirt the wives don’t know about. I get sexually harassed, stalked by creepy men, asked out and talked to in pretty disgusting ways. I however, put the men in their place, I have wicked skills, and when someone is biased when they walk through the door and see a woman, I change their mind by the time they leave my shop. I don’t flirt, in fact, I can be pretty raw and blunt. I made a name for myself because of my skills and I’m not a bad looking female. I’m going to Mortuary school now. I worked for an incredibly talented funeral director and embalmer. Her expertise is in facial reconstruction. I can bullshit with the men and I have always worked with men my entire life. I don’t see anything but respect for my boss from all the males that walk through the door. I just think.to say a woman has to behave a certain way, we’ll maybe you haven’t done enough to make yourself desirable. My skills have my clients and new clients weekly coming back.

      • Shawna

        The problem is, most of the time, it IS the BOSS who is the perpetrator so there is no way around it. I was the best embalmer and most ambitious professional they had yet still never good enough if they don’t get their way. It did not matter how many families came in to thank me for such a wonderful job helping them. This would only make them more jealous…it meant they would have to step it up to “one up” me and they weren’t willing to do that. Not like I ever asked them to, I just wanted to do my job to the best of my ability and help families. Hard work, dedication and perseverance got me nowhere because I didn’t want to flirt and play with them. The more I ignored the advances, the more I dug myself deeper. So unfair!

        • Micah 李 文 Jung

          damned if you do and damned if you dont

    • Sar Bear

      sounds like you have a problem. I wouldn’t say ALL people wil have the same issue

    • JC G

      I would like to say that all industries are the same. All industries have sexual harassment. Actually other industries are worse.

    • Rae Morse

      I work in the tech industry now and deal with that crap.

    • Micah 李 文 Jung

      then change it. The more woman are out there doing it and forcing change then it will change. Yeah its frustrating but then how is life not frustrating?

    • 450lb

      This can potentially occur in any business! We are men, we have totally different mindsets then women and sometimes we are pigs. You can be a whiny little princess or you can put us in our place. And more times than not its the woman’s actions that invite those kind of actions by men. Maybe you should take a step back and really evaluate yourself.

      • Ugh

        Wow, that is a disgusting comment. There isn’t any excuse for the harrasment men put women through in the workplace. Is being “pigs” okay because as you claim, you simply just……. are that way? A woman isn’t a “whiny little princess” because she won’t scream and fight whenever men harass/constantly flirt with us, it’s not women’s responsibility to stop them from reducing us to sexual attractive objects. But of course, by simply exsisting we are “asking for it”. When we reject and put our foot down, we are met with hostility and in the history of men being rejected they often turn to violence, use of slurs and discrimination. Maybe you should take a step back and realise how sexist and victim blaming you are.

        • 450lb

          Point proven!

          • Ugh

            Huh? Your arguments are non-existent and nothing I wrote gave proof to any of your ‘points’. My experiences as a woman are you know, real, unlike your views on being female and how we are “whiny little princesses”. I feel sorry for anyone who has to deal with you on a daily basis.

          • 450lb

            LOL..you know what’s funny…I’m a nurse. I promise you, I have spent more time dealing with women in life than you have!

          • Ugh

            And that makes you understand what being a woman is like? Yeah, I bet all those women you’ve delt with just looooves being around a man who thinks men are excused for being pathetic manchildren like yourself with rape rethoric “yeah no way men harrasses women all the time, those bitches just ask for it… Even if they don’t”. There are no female Rodger Elliot, no Marc Lépine. Men hate women who say no. That makes it that much harder to do so.

            Your ‘input’ is irrelevant and you poisoning countless of female lives with your existens doesn’t change that.

          • Micah 李 文 Jung

            Yes there are man who are man childs but there are also woman who are just as evil as man. control freaks and woman who say no but then yes

          • 450lb

            lol…okay

      • Ras

        If you truly believe this I think you should inform your place of work, patients and fellow staff. I would not want to be cared for or work with someone who holds your such damaging views. Especially in such a sensitive line of work where the potential for abuse is high.

        • 450lb

          I don’t have to inform anyone of my beliefs. Its America, I can believe whatever I want to. Its called freedom. I’ve been in the healthcare field long enough to tell you that you really don’t want to know the beliefs of the people taking care of you. It has nothing to do with the care they provide and it will never line up with what you believe (which is obviously important to you). I’m guessing you are a hardcore religious nut-bag who pushes your beliefs on everyone else and don’t even realize it. Have a nice day.

          • Michael Cline

            And I’m guessing you are a bitter nut-bag who failed to get over rejection(s) when you were young and eventually internalized it to the point where it became a pathological distrust of women. Which is ultimately your own problem and your own fault because you’ve never learned how to let go of your hangups and are perhaps even incapable of really processing the idea that other people’s internal thought and emotional processes are not just real but every bit as complex and tumultuous as your own.

          • 450lb

            Stop trying to sound smart Mike…just stop. Let the adults speak here.

          • Michael Cline

            Damn, that must have hit pretty close to home.

            And if those words are so big and challenging that you think I was trying to sound smart, then you must be pretty damn stupid.

      • Person

        I don’t even care this post is 9 months old, what. The hell. Did you say. Women ask for it? You think they ask to be sexually harassed? You cannot justify “piggish” behavior because of a a mindset you own. I certainly don’t have that line of thinking. You are obviously a teenage boy with much growing up to do, and I’m sure your mother is very proud to have raised a child who defines a woman who is upset about harassment as a “whiny little princess.” you give men a bad name.

        • 450lb

          Thank you “person”

      • You are a pigheaded asshole! Shut your fucking mouth. Women don’t invite those actions and I know not all men are like that but some (apparently you) are the kind that can’t think with the the right head!

    • Issac Garrrett

      Is you serious just like

    • Michael Cline

      I don’t want to turn this into another “Not All Men” situation, but if I had a single employee that treated women like you describe they would be gone so quickly their heads would spin.

      But you sound like you have allowed bitterness from those situations to cause you to make similar mistakes in judgement towards unattractive women and gay men. Please let go of that or it really will just hurt you, and lead you to hurt other innocent people in the long run.

    • BigBenny StarCitizen

      what does your job have to do withy our choice of men

  • Death junior

    Yea. just go live your life. No job is perfect. You will die at some point, so go into something you seem to always think about.

  • Hugh Jass

    She looks like Wednesday from the Adams Family all grown up

  • BJS76

    I don’t think embalming is going anywhere. At least not in the near future. And even if it did funeral director’s will still be needed. At least in states where licenses are needed. Who wouldn’t want their funeral director to have a degree? To have passed state and national exams? Without these things anyone could be caring for your family. With these things in place you get only people with at least a certain level of dedication. The work schedules are improving greatly to. Where I’m at ( I am a licensed director in MD, DC, VA for 12 years ) I work 7am to 3:30 pm and everyone else is 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. None of us go out at night either. We just take calls. I find pay to be very good when compared to the educational requirements. Well I guess this greatly depends on where you are employed. Also experience plays a big roll in pay. But after five or more years being licensed there is no reason you should be making under 50 a year. At least in Maryland. If your closer to DC I good bit more than that. Then there is the side work you can get into as well. Let us not forget if you are in it long enough there are management opportunities as well. I know when I decided it was time to leave where I was at I had no problem finding another job. With in one week I had three interviews and three job offers. All three salaries were competitive. I guess long story short, the funeral industry is a great rewarding profession. One where you get the satisfaction of helping people through one of the most difficult times in their life. You also get a career with very reasonable pay and plenty of job opportunities and job security. The only real drawback I see is it is stressful and does have a very high turnover rate. Just my two cents.

  • KazziMae

    I’m 14. I’ve been “grown up past my years”, and “too responsible for my age”. I’ve wanted a career in the death industry, most likely an undertaker, for longer than I can remember. But, I want children when I’m older. I don’t know what to do. I really really want to follow a passion to help grieving families through their loved ones’ passing, but if I want a family too, I can’t have both and maintain a good life, can I?
    Also, I think when “interviewing” the family before preparing a body, I think its best to ask about the person and ask for a picture, because no matter how much it hurts talking about them, they can relive good memories while telling me, so that I could make the best preparations to fit that person’s nature. Don’t you think?

    • I’m sixteen and I’d like to study to become a coroner. I have always been fascinated with death but I don’t have the empathy or “people skills” to deal with the more human aspects of being an undertaker. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really admire your reasons for wanting to enter the death industry and wish you all the best with your career goals.

    • Selena

      I am a 20 year old college student. I am going to school to become a doctor of psychiatry. There are 10 more years until I get my final degree (I am only a Sophomore). There is definitely a way to balance family and work. Right now I am working, going to school full time, spending time with friends, long term boyfriend, and family, and more. And if you are not a single parent it is even easier. Women can have carriers and families.

    • Person

      I am 220 and don’t understand why everyone likes to post their ages.

  • Ashley

    I don’t understand all of the negativity, I’m trying to get into this field in the fall. I’m tired of retail and just want to pursue my passion. I want to help people it may be glum but of course it is it’s the funeral business!! If you have a strong personality you can get through anything. My Boyfriend went to college to learn how to fix computers. He said he couldn’t find a job after cause some places needed experience. I saw this as lazyness, but hes also not very outgoing like me. So to me those types of people are just wasters. I love my Boyfriend but he is indeed a waster. So hopefully I can be the crutch he needs if his boss gives someone else the reigns to run the bowling business instead of him. Yup he’s a bowling mechanic and makes 20 an hr. Hes been there for five years crazy huh? Anyways I might have got sidetracked what I’m trying to say is don’t expect sunshine and lollipops from the people you work with. It’s always a competition and if you can’t hack that I don’t know what to tell you.

    • Guest

      I believe people like you do not belong in this industry. We need compassionate open minded individuals not assholes and someone who does not even have love for their own family and call them a ‘wasters’
      how can you expect to help an strange family with love and compassion if a person like you says those things about their boyfriend?

      I would hate to have one of my family members be near a person like you. Do not be on this industry please! stay on retail

  • Estrus Wanton

    I wanted to do this for a long time,but I feel like I wouldn’t have much to offer now. I have anxiety and its hard for me to fight for anything in person,but online,I can write into oblivion. I could hire people,but I would want to get it across myself. What I wanted to do was offer services for pets and humans. After reading this I don’t know,but I am an artistic person,an artisan I guess,and I would rather open a bakery,or craft shop if I couldn’t care for the deceased. I was excited,but now I am looking into veterinary school,and burial for animals.

    I’m not sure if I explained my feelings in this comment. Ill just say I lijke the idea of people taking care of their own deceased rather than relying on someone. I like to do whatever I can,and when I was younger I thought caring for the deceased was one of those things I couldn’t do on my own. All I am saying is if there is anyone like me,find something else,maybe?

  • Ivy

    Since I was a little girl I have always loved horror movies, cemeteries, death, metal, Halloween, and anything morbid. I always had a reoccurring dream that I was flying over a funeral home. All of that has drawn me to want to be in the field of mortuary. I had the opportunity to assist a guy who has a removal service and is a licensed embalmer and I must say that once I was exposed to it all I loved it just as much. There was no feeling of thinking this will make me more “goth” but rather It fulfilled that side of me instead. For years I never knew what I wanted to do, something that can be very frustrating. Being that everything I loved seemed to be on the morbid side, I felt a sense of peace when I finally got the chance to work in this field. The on call can make you feel as if you have no life on your own and yes it can be a field where you definitely get burnt out. However, after a year of doing so I decided I wanted to go to mortuary school. I will be starting school this January. It has now been about six months since I have had the chance to work in the field and I must say that I miss it already. I had doubts of going to school at first being that cremation is on the rise, and also after some research it seems that cremation techs actually make more than embalmers but I going to go for it anyway.

  • Rae Morse

    It is a calling. It’s been calling for 18 years. I CAN finally answer this calling. I start school in January. It’s a sigh of relief to finally have grown the balls to do this and I will do this, Caitin.. I don’t care what you say. 😉

  • Micah 李 文 Jung

    I know where its going to be cremation who wants the pain of seeing your dead relative and dealing with a dead body? Even if its in a coffin? Out of sight out of mind and so you are less likely to get upset and have a good cry. Plus its for cremation less expensive. Even though home funerals cost nothing compared with a funeral home and cremation

  • Lia

    Boring to death hahaha . Hated reading this but wanted to know facts not a damn story tale . Author might be good at their job but definitely not writing . Stick to ur field .

  • Kayla Dawn

    As someone who lives in the south i have to disagree. Everyone i know aside from like 2 people have been buried. I live in a very conservative old school region of the country. Of course in LA people are doing what is new and hip, it’s California. But here in Virginia, nothing is changing. People are too stubborn.
    Here there are 10-15 funeral homes within an hour of me and they are all doing very well still.

    • Lee Mun Lim

      well its funny the people who have nothing have funerals the people who are rich are cremated and then forgotten. Well in all states cremation is up

  • Jaimie Robertson Tibbets

    I am a newer single mom starting my 3rd semester of college at age 47 to enter into this job field. I’ve wanted to be a mortician from the age of 8 so it’s always been a passion. When I divorced and started college, this was my natural choice but after reading many, many articles like this, I’ll admit. I’m nervous! I no longer have the luxury of time picking out a career. Is this an impossible field to break into? Please be brutally honest

  • Chris Smith

    Good read! I can vouch, even in the Bible belt, that cremation is on the rise. Even here in small town east Texas, embalming is starting to go away. And I totally agree with you. I’ve said this to a TON of people who think it’s a “cool” job and would be “so interesting”. If being broke and working days and nights on end are you’re thing, then you’ll love it! I’ve even gone as far as to scare people who have children away from the business, since I’ve had to sacrifice time with mine. Glad I found this blog. Can’t wait to read more!

    • Lee Mun Lim

      I do agree with the part about embalming since if the person wants they shouldnt have to have all the chemicals in there body to have a viewing! Now if its what they WANT fine but the human body isnt dangerous when its been in the cooler for so long and then rolled to the place of viewing and such

  • Courtney

    I am wanting to become a mortician can anyone give me some advice on this please?

    • Jodi Wright

      You can do it!!

  • Dani

    I’ve always wanted to work with death in some way. Even as a young child, from at least the age of eight, I’ve been fascinated with death and bodies and everything that goes with it. After watching the Ask A Mortician channel, I wondered if becoming a mortician would be right for me. I’m at the beginning of my research, so I’m not entirely certain whether or not I’ll do it, but this helped me understand things a bit more clearly. It’s not for the faint of heart in any way, and this really solidified that. I’m going to have to do a lot, A LOT of research before I take that final step to start mortuary school or get certification.

  • Adri

    If a military company is lucky enough to have you, as their mortician, your job is to take at least SOME of the pressures off of your battle buddies, by providing them the knowledge that the fallen will be cared for with utmost respects.

    That being said… this article is true in that, if you don’t experience the sense that this is the work you were made to do… don’t. It is extremely obvious in the face of death, which person is there to be the rock (even just until that duty has been lifted) and which is only able to grieve from the get go. If you think you can be this rock, even in the dead face of your own best friend, then maybe this job is for you.

    As a military mortician, you are to be not only this rock, but the coordinator. You will have to be able to choose the team that can help you prepare the dead, with the least amount of heartache for all parties. In any case, there will be scars. You have to be willing to shoulder that responsibility too.

    If the deceased has a written statement of their beliefs in lu of death, their remains will (usually) be prepared in that way, by respect… Though many chose to be cremated, it was still more rare than embalming in my day. Though there were (around 25% of remains, though again, in my day) those, that were inflicted with enough physical damage overseas, that they would be recommended for cremation, reguardless (but of course it was the families choice, whether I should try instead, to at least prepare the remains for identification)…

    If you are to work with the dead, be prepared to never see the human body the same ever again. I have seen humans in bits, pieces, ribbons, reduced to ash, and in unidentifiable lumps of dacayed jellied masses, with insects and parasites taking over the flesh that the very person themselves, used to identify as part of who they were.

    Death is not magical. It is NOT dignified. And it smells, like your nightmares feel. No one is above it. Not even the undertaker, but most of the population can only function, if they feel they can at least control it to SOME extent.

    Your job, no matter which path of death you choose to embark upon, is to allow your loved ones, and the loved ones of the deceased you give your respects too, to continue believing in the ability to move forward.

    Whether you’re an atheist, and believe the nutrients and physical energy of the body will fuel a tree or two, or you have developed a love of God, and think there is an individualized after life for each of the deceased you work upon… You become the magician to those around you. You become what that person’s loved ones NEED you to become, to be able to grieve, and (hopefully) move on. You don’t exist just to work with the dead, as a mortician. You exist to give the living, as much peace as there is to offer, in the face of death.

    • Micah 李 文 Jung

      but even if the body was turned to jelly and they wanted to hold a viewing or wake why couldnt they. Coffins/Caskets can be closed thats what happened with my Uncle and Aunt my Uncle remains were too far gone to have open casket so we had a close casket but we still had a funeral. I know if a persons remains are that far gone they are put in a black body bag and if the family chooses can have a funeral service. they can still be cremated. Yeah it takes a strong stomach to see a dead body in all its forms of decomposition. One person had planets growing out of them. My Uncle body was in a very bad state of decay we didnt know he had died until two weeks had gone by. Nothing was wrong with him except the heart was in terriable shape and the state of decay

  • Kelli J. White

    I didn’t really get interested in this subject until the recent and EXTREMELY abrupt death of my husband just over 2 weeks ago. He was just 39; still waiting on the exact C.O.D. (seemingly a freak accident of the most spontaneous variety). I was always a scardey-cat when it came even to horror movies until being around my husband’s body AND being EXTREMELY unsatisfied and shocked at the carelessness with which he was treated after his death.

    If, when I first awoke to his dead body, I had known then what I know now, I would NOT have called 911 immediately. I would have kept him with me as long as I could (and then probably went to jail for “defiling a corpse” or some such nonsense). Multi-cultural death practices is a truly fascinating subject. I didn’t realize until going through the grieving process for the first time in the public/family eye how – erm – REGULATED it is. People expect you to grieve the way you’re “supposed” to grieve, to make flamboyant pageantry out of the death of your loved ones for the sake of appearances, to essentially make a wedding out of a funeral (if that makes sense). IT’S ABSURD, but I think these bizarre practices continue (particularly in rural areas) simply because people are uneducated/unaware/frightened of anything different.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for giving a voice to a rather taboo subject most of us would rather not think about or discuss until it’s too late. Anyone passionate about educating the public and spreading awareness about obscure (but important) topics gets major kudos in my book.

  • BosolaBoots

    “Recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics list embalming as one of the 15 disappearing middle class jobs”

    I’m with you on the arguments against embalming, but the site that link leads to (SFGate.COM) states that those jobs are ‘projected’ to decline over 10 years not that any of them have actually declined or definitely will decline.

    From the SFGATE page –
    “From the BLS data, we identified these 15 middle-class jobs that are expected to shrink by 5% to 25% over the next 10 years”

    Which also suggests that SFGate themselves came up with that list of jobs using data from BLS – ‘we identified’, with no commentary around what data was used to produce the list and more specifically how.
    I stress I’m not disputing the arguments against embalming, but your wording suggests the decline is actively happening and that BLS are saying so. Both of those things MAY be true, in which case perhaps link to where BLS are actually saying it?