School Expectations

What to expect in Mortuary Science School and Apprenticeship

High School: Your career as a mortician can start as early as high school.  Students can start preparing for a career by doing paid or unpaid summer interns at funeral homes. This is the best way to understand at a young age whether you think you’d like to work in the industry. You can also prepare for your college coursework by taking chemistry and biology classes and participating in public speaking. As a funeral director, you need to have very good communication skills and need to be able to deal with the demands of the client’s family.

College: Your mortuary science school will typically give you a diploma after 60 credit hours of courses.  Approximately half of your credits will come from general coursework. Some of these courses can be transferred from other colleges if you have already taken them. They can generally be taken online as well. Classes such as algebra, business management, business law, accounting and finance, and computer studies are designed to teach you the fundamentals on how to operate a business. Science classes are also required to give you a background on how the human body works. This is necessary to understand the embalming process, which includes microbiology/pathology, anatomy, and physiology. Finally, courses such as principles of speech, client services, grief counseling, and oral and written communication are designed to help you deal with the clients. The other half of your training will in industry specific techniques. Most of these classes cannot be taken online, since they require labs and hands on training. These classes include but are not limited to embalming, restorative art, funeral services history, funeral psychology and sociology, funeral service history, and anatomy lab. All in all, the coursework in your mortuary science curriculum help you have an understanding of how the death services industry operates and how to become a better mortician.

Apprenticeship: Coursework in mortuary science schools can only teach you so much about the industry. Having an internship and first-hand experience is way more valuable. Apprenticeships are often completed under the supervision of a licensed professional and last one to three years before, during, or after school depending on your state requirements. The apprenticeship is designed to provide practice experience in a real world setting and includes training in embalming, transporting the body, helping out with the business aspects of the funeral home, and assisting in coordinating a funeral. Many states also require a minimum number of embalmings or funerals conducted.  Those who only wish to get a funeral director license and not an embalming license may choose to skip the required hours of relevant training, but be aware just having a funeral director license severely limits your employment opportunities.

License Exam: After your coursework and apprenticeship is completed, you may appliy to take the license exam in your particular state. This license exam can be at both the state and federal level depending on your state requirements. The exam usually consists of a written and/or oral and practical exam that tests your understanding of the industry and the job and to gauge your technical skills. Most states require a minimum threshold score for passing and to be licensed.