Careers in Mortuary Science and Funeral Services

A mortuary is a room or area in hospitals where the bodies of deceased people are stored. They are essentially refrigerated drawers.

Most standalone morgues only focus on preparing the body and aren’t equipped to provide services such as a funeral home or cremation. However, there are some that offer blended facilities.

Working Conditions

While working in a morgue may seem unsettling at first, it can be a rewarding career for those with the emotional strength and technical skills to deal with death. Those interested in the field can choose from many different career paths, from embalming to pathology to afterlife care. Most morgue jobs require an associate’s degree in mortuary science or funeral services.

A recent study interviewed 19 mortuary attendants from nine hospital mortuaries in the Volta, Oti, and Bono East regions of Ghana. The research found that their duties include collecting corpses from health facilities, preparing and embalming them with formalin and keeping them refrigerated for preservation. The findings of the study indicate that mortuary attendants are exposed to biological hazards and face challenges in their work. It is recommended that a formal programme for training, certification and recruitment of mortuary attendants be instituted to improve their working conditions. This will also help to reduce the prevalence of occupational illnesses and injuries among them.

Education Requirements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that high school students interested in mortuary science consider advanced math and science classes. They should also take business management courses to prepare for a career that is part art, part science. A two-year associate degree program at an accredited funeral service educational institution, followed by a one- to two-year apprenticeship is required for licensing as a mortician in most states.

A mortician can work in a funeral home or crematorium and coordinate services, write obituaries, schedule clergy and prepare caskets. This role requires compassion and strong communication skills to console family members at a difficult time. Morticians also help arrange memorials and vigils, provide cremation options and make arrangements for burials.

In addition to coursework that covers anatomy, chemistry and biology, a mortuary science student should also expect to take classes related to social and psychological issues surrounding death. These include the psychology of death, gerontology and grief counseling.

Work Hours

Work hours are irregular and depend on the time of day, as morticians and other funeral service workers often work on call. They must be available to respond when the medical examiner or coroner receives reports of deaths and must transport bodies between hospitals, if necessary. They may also prepare the deceased for viewing and funeral services, pick tissue specimens, clean and set up instruments, and ensure all cadavers are tagged.

It can be emotionally draining for a mortuary attendant to be around death and the grief of families on a daily basis. To cope with this, they can practice self-care and remember that they’re doing an important job to help people at one of the most difficult times in their lives.

An associate degree in funeral service or mortuary science is typically required to become a mortician. This includes courses on anatomy, physiology, ethics, and grief counseling, as well as practical experience in embalming and preparing a body for burial.


Mortuaries and funeral homes are specialized businesses that offer competitive salaries. The average salary for morticians and funeral directors is $51,850 per year, but this figure can vary depending on location and experience level. Those with advanced roles can earn significantly more.

Often, a mortuary’s job duties include arranging and directing funeral services as well as transporting bodies to the cemetery or crematory. They also may be responsible for contacting families or clergy to discuss funeral arrangements. Other responsibilities may involve cleaning the funeral home or embalming the body.

For those looking to become a mortician, the first step is obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in mortuary science. This course of study can take anywhere from 2 to 4 years, and includes courses ranging from business law to grief counseling. After completing this degree, a mortician must pass a licensing exam. An apprenticeship of one to three years is also required to gain on-the-job training.

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