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How to Work in Funeral Services
A Grave Career Choice
By Julie DiNisio
_ Not all college degrees are real-world practical. So you’ve graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Crafts. Or you’re one of dozens with a business degree. Or none of the more traditional careers excite you enough to spend thousands of dollars for a piece of paper. There is a way to set yourself apart when entering today’s highly competitive work force, but you have to be willing to deal with bodies…of the dead variety.
If you are still on board, a career in funeral services is actually a very stable one, even in an economic downturn. This is primarily due to the fact that people will continue to die with regularity and sentimental relatives will continue to shell out money for an expensive funeral.
There are mortuary schools spread out across the United States, and in Richmond, Virginia, John Tyler Community College offers a program for prospective students. This college is a typical example of the steps required to gain a degree in the funeral business. In fact, an Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Services is listed under Degrees for Immediate Employment.
It is a four semester long program and requires some basic prerequisites and classes on embalming, anatomy, chemistry, business management, psychology and death, and ethics. Labs are also required (I’ll just leave the rest of that up to your imagination). Graduates will be able to properly embalm or cremate cadavers, work as service directors, deal with contracts and business, and continue research on the scientific and social implications of funerals and death.
There are a variety of jobs in any given funeral home. Employees are hired to work with the deceased’s relatives regarding funeral preparations; others are paid to dress and makeup the body. The previously stated degree would most likely lead to a job in embalming. Oftentimes, those seeking to become Funeral Directors, one of the highest positions at a funeral home, will need a Bachelors in Funeral Home Management. This requires a few more semesters of school, and most Funeral Directors earn around $50-60,000 annually.
Graduates are not out of the woods yet, though. To be fully licensed, the National Board Examination needs to be taken and passed. This is in addition to a residency in a funeral home. John Tyler requires three thousand hours of training, making it clear that a career of this type is treated very gravely…pun absolutely intended.
So if you’re desperately seeking a stable career path and are willing to handle the slight bit of degradation you might get from your friends and relatives, mortuary school is worth considering.
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