Careers in Mortuary Work

The mortuary is the place where a dead person is kept until it can be properly buried or cremated. It is also the place where an autopsy is performed.

For people who want to work with the deceased, a mortuary science degree is essential. A mortuary science program includes hands-on training and an apprenticeship to prepare you to become an embalmer.

Morgue vs. Mortuary

Mortuaries and morgues are two different types of facilities that work with human remains. The difference is in their core functions: Mortuaries specialize in preparing the bodies for funeral rites and cremation, while morgues concentrate on storage and examination of corpses for forensic or medical purposes.

A morgue is a facility where autopsies are performed, usually as part of a criminal investigation. The term is also used for a room where a body may be stored until it can be identified or an autopsy conducted.

In an emergency, any refrigerated space that can fit a dead body could serve as a temporary morgue. In fact, many governments’ disaster preparedness plans include instructions on how to use ice rinks and other public spaces as morgues if need be.

Morgues and mortuaries do not have to be separate, but they do need to adhere to strict regulations for safety and sanitary conditions. It’s important to know the distinction between these 2 facilities when discussing death and funeral arrangements, as it can prevent misunderstandings and confusion.


There are many careers available for people who have a passion for mortuary work. These include funeral directors, embalmers and allied professionals like family service counselors, monument engravers and pre-need sales specialists. These professionals combine compassion and business skills to serve clients at a critical time in their lives.

Another popular career in death care is a mortuary transport technician. These professionals drive to the site of a person’s death to retrieve the body. They then bring the corpse to a morgue, where medical examiners perform an autopsy. After the exam, they transport the body to the funeral home or cemetery.

Colleges specializing in mortuary science offer bachelor’s degree programs. These programs typically have state-of-the-art embalming labs, merchandise selection, arrangement conference rooms and more to provide hands-on training for students in the field. Some mortuary science graduates also complete apprenticeships in funeral homes under the supervision of licensed funeral directors to gain experience. This helps them become fully prepared for their future careers.


Mortuary technicians need to have a high school diploma or GED certificate, as well as the strength and dexterity to handle large and unidentifiable body parts. Those interested in this profession should attend a mortuary science program and complete an apprenticeship or internship at a funeral home to learn more about the job.

A mortuary science degree teaches students how to prepare bodies for burial or cremation, as well as the legal and business aspects of arranging funerals. Students also take courses in restorative art, anatomy, chemistry and embalming techniques.

Licensed workers in the cemetery, crematory, funeral and memorial industry often say they choose their careers because of a desire to help people cope with loss. They find comfort in consoling grieving families, and they believe it’s their duty to honor the deceased in the way their loved ones would want them remembered. The work can be emotionally challenging, and it demands a great deal of compassion.


Mortuary staffers and visitors should follow proper occupational health an safety procedures. This includes evaluating risks to health and safety, implementing measures to minimise them and providing appropriate training.

Often a funeral home will arrange for a body to be transferred from a hospital or morgue. It will also make arrangements for burial, cremation or a memorial service. It will work with families, religious ministers and cemeteries to set up viewings and receptions.

In a funeral home, workers should use caution around the body and wear recommended personal protective equipment. The deceased person was usually sick before they died and could have infectious diseases. Occasionally medical equipment or materials remain on the body, such as ports used to administer chemotherapy or trace amounts of radiation left over from radiotherapy. The dead person may also have sharps, such as scalpels, scissors or lancets, which could pierce the skin and pose a hazard. The mortuary must have a sharps container for this material and must be in close contact with medical waste contractors to arrange regular collection.

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