What is the difference between a Mortician, Funeral Director, Undertaker, and Embalmer.

These terms are thrown around a lot in the funeral services industry and often they are interchangeable.

Funeral Director: This term generally refers to someone who conducts and arranges the funeral. Funeral directors can either own or operate their own funeral home or they can be employees of the funeral home.  Funeral directors can also prepare the dead for burial through an embalming process. However, they will need a separate embalming license for this. Since most funeral homes are small scale operations, the funeral director can be held responsible for all of following: owning and managing the business, coordinating and directing the funeral service, embalming the body or arranging it to be cremated.  The funeral director is often used a euphemism for anyone who prepares the body for a funeral or arranges the funeral. It is a more pleasant sounding term.

Mortician: This term was coined by Americans and derived from the Latin root “Mort” which means death. It specifically refers to someone who handles the preparation of the body for a funeral. This can either mean embalming the body for preparing it for cremation.

Undertaker: This is an old term for what funeral directors were once called. The word undertaker is not often used today but it literally means someone who undertakers the responsibility for a funeral service or preparing the body.

Embalmer: This term refers to a person who prepares the body for burial service. Embalmers flush out the blood of the deceased and inject it with embalming fluid to preserve the body and to give it a more rosy appearance.  Embalmers often need a separate license from a funeral director, but requirements differ by state. Funeral directors often have both licenses. In a small town funeral home, funeral directors often do the embalming themselves. In a larger funeral home, an embalmer is contracted to prepare the body as the funeral director prepares for the funeral and burial service. Many embalmers also have funeral director licenses, although trade embalmers only prepare the body.

Owner: This term refers to someone who has invested money and owns the equity of the funeral home business. The owner for a small town operation could manage the funeral home as well as be the funeral director or embalmer. The owner could also be a silent partner, which is more likely the case in a large funeral home. Silent partners will only invest money and be hands off in the operations. They will hire a manager, funeral director, and embalmer to help run the operations of a business.

Manager: In most cases, the owner is also the manager. However, the manager should not be confused with the funeral director. The manager overseas the general operations of the funeral home and is more responsible for hiring employees, managing the cash flow of the business, hiring accountants and lawyers, and considering strategic options for growth and to gain market share. The manager is also responsible for overseeing employee activities (funeral director/embalmer) and making sure they are performing efficiently.  However, it is not uncommon for the manager to also be the owner and funeral director.