How to Become a Mortician and the Embalming Process

How to Become a Mortician. You have probably heard about them, maybe fancied what it means to be one. It is a profession many prefer to talk about in undertones since most people are afraid of the prospect of having to face a mortician some day. Customarily, whenever you go to meet a mortician, it usually means there is a tragedy.
Of course, it is no ordinary tragedy, but one which means that a loved one has left us for good. We now need the mortician to help take care of them before paying our last respects. We will not be seeing them again. They have gone for good to be with our maker. In this piece, we explore what it entails to be a mortician, how the embalming of bodies works and how one can become an embalmer.

What is a mortician?

The answer to the question, “what is a mortician”, utterly refers to someone whose job requires them to ensure the successful laying to rest of the deceased. Contrary to the opinions of many, the work of a mortician is not just to take off the body of the departed in the manner of preserving. When some people think about morticians, they think about the individuals tasked with the duty of protecting dead bodies in a morgue, but the truth is that they do more than that.
Morticians are also known as funeral director, and their sole responsibility is to help families arrange for funerals. They work hand in hand with the bereaved family to come up with the details of the funeral, including the dates, time and location for the funeral. They are also responsible for moving the body of the deceased to the mortuary, preparing and preserving the remains for the ceremony and performing any rite according to the will or religious requirements of the departed and their family members.
Being a mortician is known to be stressful and emotionally draining, as they are expected to be on call on a twenty-four-seven basis, and it is never easy to deal with grieving families. In addition to carrying out their mandates, they also must commiserate with the clients (bereaved families), and this always takes a toll on them. Therefore, the next time you hear someone ask what a mortician is, be well informed and don’t just think of them as embalmers and nothing more.

How to Become a Mortician

How to Become a Mortician
There are some avenues on how to become a mortician. The specific mortician requirements will vary from one state to another, contingent upon each state’s set regulations. For specifics, it is recommended you find the right information from your State on how to become a mortician in that particular State. With that said, the subsequent are some of the ways you can accomplish your dream of becoming a mortician-:

Unofficial Training and Education

If you hail from a state where a college education is not one of the requirements of a mortician, then you may be lucky to find entry-level positions as a funeral director and get on the job training. Though this sounds like the fastest route on how to become a mortician, it requires a lot of persistence, since, not so many funeral homes will be willing to hire an untrained professional. Additionally, you will have to contend with low mortician salary as you take time to horn your skills and build your career.
If you choose to take this path, then the following may be necessary-:

High School Diploma 

Almost every employer in states where a college education is not among mortician requirements will at least expect every applicant to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. If you're yet to have a high school diploma, you may consider completing a GED prep class to afford the chance to sit for the examinations.

Find a funeral home that offers training 

While a majority of the funeral homes will prefer candidates with formal education, you may be lucky to find one that provides on the job training to candidates without formal education. Research the homes around to see if you can find such to apply. You must, however, be prepared to take any open position and perform any task that might be thrown on your way as you get your training under the supervision of a licensed funeral director. You must also expect not to have high expectations with regards to mortician salary and your most significant concern should about getting the training you need for licensing.

Official Training Programs

The other route on how to become a mortician is to get official training through accredited programs. Yes, this usually is the requirement for most states before one can get a license to practice as a mortician. There are currently 57 mortuary science programs accredited by American Board of Funeral Service Education. Most of the programs are associate’s degrees with community colleges and other accredited mortician schools. They require about two years of full-time study for the associate’s degree and four years for a bachelor’s degree. As far as the official training programs are concerned, here are some of the options available to anyone interested in attending a mortician school-:

On-Campus Programs

On-campus mortuary science courses allow prospective morticians to get the academic requirements, clinical and coursework requirements from an accredited mortician school. Typical programs will have class and lab hours, and they may be offered during the day, afternoon or in the evening, depending on the location, as well as the specific preferences of the student. Some of the benefits of on-campus mortuary science programs include learning in a highly structured education setting, personal interaction with the instructors, on-campus assistance and resources, increased opportunities to interact with peers and potential employers.

Online Programs

There is a definite boost in the number of mortician schools offering online programs for students who are unable to make it to the on-campus programs. It is now a trend with most institutions across the learning industry. Most of such programs will allow students to complete all coursework online, but when it comes to restorative arts, clinical, and embalming labs, they will have to go to on campus or meet the requirements at an approved facility off campus. Some of the benefits of the online mortuary science programs include: the ability to complete classes anywhere, flexible learning schedules to the convenience of the student, access to significant learning resources and online libraries and students have the pleasure of attending schools while attending to family and other commitments.

Hybrid Programs

Interestingly, a hybrid program is ideal for students who desire to attain mortician requirements but are pressed for time and are not comfortable with completely taking mortuary science courses online. Hybrid programs make it possible for students to complete part of the required coursework online and the remaining portion of an on-site facility, with labs and clinical. Such programs are more flexible than the traditional programs, and they allow for more interpersonal interactions than the online programs. Students opting for this option will, however, be required to have a great deal of motivation and organization to complete the requirements.

Complete Apprenticeship

It is a requirement by the American Board of Funeral Service Education for every mortician to attend an apprenticeship program of between one and three years before they can set the licensing examination. The apprenticeship is done before, during and after the formal education in most states and some states will need every apprentice to have an apprentice license. As an apprentice, you will be working under the guidance and supervision of experienced morticians.

Licensing and Certification

The final step towards becoming a mortician is to pass state licensing examination. For most states, candidates for the licensing test must be at least 21 years of age and must have completed an accredited two-year degree and an apprenticeship program. Some of the subjects covered in the state exams include psychology, funeral service merchandising, microbiology, pathology, business law, anatomy, embalming, and restorative arts, for more information click here

Maintain Licensure

After getting licensed, many states will require you to participate in continuing education as a way of maintaining the licensure. This will enable the morticians to know about the relevant current laws and regulations regarding funeral services, advancements in technology and trends in the industry and also have professional forums where they can share the various happenings in the industry.

Mortician Salary

Mortician Salary
Just like in every other profession, the mortician salary will vary significantly based on some factors. The level of education and experience are some of the most significant determinants of how much a mortician can expect to carry home. However, the median yearly pay for undertakers, morticians, and funeral directors in the United States was $48,000 in 2017. It is estimated that the lowest ten percent of morticians had a median pay of $26,000, while the top ten percent had a mean annual salary of $80,000 in the same year.

Median Mortician Salaries By Percentile

Percentile 10% 25% 50% 75% 90%
Hourly Wage $12.78 $16.99 $22.52 $30.18 $38.89
Annual Wage $26,580 $35,350 $46,840 $62,760 $80,900

What Does Embalming Mean

The answer to the question, “what does embalming mean”, can be stated only as the process of preserving the human remains by treating them to delay the process of decomposition. It is a practice with its roots in Ancient Egypt and believed to have started as early as 6000BC. The embalming is mostly done due to sanitation concerns or religious reasons, and it is usually a personal preference by the deceased, or a decision arrived at by the deceased family and the funeral director.

The Embalming Process

Embalming Process
After knowing what embalming is, it is now prudent to look at how the entire embalming process works. The process involves two significant steps: four remedial actions which require the removal of body fluids and their replacement with a formaldehyde-based chemical solution, and a cosmetic procedure where the body is prepared through setting the facial features, applying makeup and styling the hair.

The 4 Surgical Steps

The four surgical steps involved in the embalming process are as follows-:

Preparing the body for embalming

Before the process of embalming begins, the body is cleaned using a disinfectant solution. The limbs are also massaged to avoid stiffening of the muscles and the joints. This is also the stage when any necessary shaving is done.

Setting the Facial Features 

At this stage, the eyes of the deceased are closed using plastic eye caps or glue which is placed on the eyes to hold the eyelids in one place. The lower jaw is also secured by sewing or with wires, and once the jaw is secured, any manipulation can be done to mouth to achieve any desired position.

Arterial Embalming 

In arterial embalming, the blood is drained from the body through the veins and replaced with formaldehyde-based chemical solutions via the arteries. The solution may also be laced with glutaraldehyde ethanol, phenol, dyes, methanol and water.

Cavity Embalming 

At this point, a small opening or incision is made in the lower section of the deceased abdomen, and a trocar is inserted into the freshly created incision. The trocar is then used to puncture the organs in the chest cavity to drain any gas and fluids contained therein.
Formaldehyde-based chemicals are then injected into the organs and the incision sutured to complete the embalming process.

The Cosmetic Process in Embalming

The cosmetic process in embalming entails the following-:
  • An appropriate amount of makeup is applied to the deceased. The choice of makeup will be preferred. By the family members if they have any reservations.
  • The hair is washed and set by the preference of the family members.
  • The deceased is dressed in clothing provided or preferred by the family members.
The cosmetic process is usually done when the body is almost leaving the funeral and getting ready for burial. It is the last step in the embalming process and once complete, the deceased will be outfitted, and positioned in a casket en route to their final resting place.

How to Become an Embalmer

Embalming is one of the professions considered as recession-proof. Irrespective of the state of the economy, embalmers will always have work to do. Though the majority does not consider it as an ideal career choice, those who have found themselves in it have enjoyed job stability, sense of pride and accomplishment, and excellent economic benefits. If this is a career you would like to give a shot, below is the process on how to become an embalmer-:

Step One: Get Embalmer Education

Just like with any other career in the world, the first step towards becoming an embalmer is to get embalmer education. The training will need formal education, usually, an associate’s degree program which goes for about two years of full-time study and is normally offered as part of mortuary science degree in the mortician schools.
The embalmer education features courses in pathology, embalming techniques, physiology, anatomy, ethics, restorative arts, and funeral service law amongst others. Due to the hands-on nature of the career, completing the entire training online is not possible. However, there are some schools with hybrid training where students may end part of the coursework online and report to designated facilities for the laboratory practical lessons.

Step Two: The Apprenticeship

It is a requirement by all states that embalmers go for apprenticeship for a specific duration under the direct surveillance of a licensed funeral director or embalmer. The particular needs will vary from one State to another, and most will be flexible enough to allow the students to do the apprenticeship as they continue with the degree program. Before being qualified for licensure, the apprentice will be required to complete the full embalming process on a specific number of bodies.

Step Three: Getting Licensed

Before working independently as an embalmer in any state, you must be properly licensed in that State. State requirements for licensing will vary, but for the majority, the age requirement will be either 18 years or 21 years, and you must have met the specific education requirements and completed the required apprenticeship. After meeting all the qualifications for licensing, you will submit a complete licensing application, licensing fees and any other necessary documentation to the state’s licensing board.

Step Four: Maintain Licensure

Similar to morticians, embalmers will also have to maintain licensure after being qualified. This is achieved through regular renewal and participating in continuous education so that you stay current with the current happenings in the industry. These include learning about new embalming technique and technology, attending industry-specific seminars and workshops, and skill appraisal amongst others.

Embalmer Salary

When you are thinking about how to become an embalmer, you must also be wondering about the embalmer salary. What you need to know is that in addition to being an emotionally fulfilling job, it also comes with excellent financial rewards. The mediocre embalmer salary in the United States is $45, 060 per year. This is according to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. But you have to understand that the salaries will vary significantly based on a myriad of factors such as the location, education, years one has practised as an embalmer, and the job title amongst others.

Final Words

New graduates getting into the job may take home as little as $27,000 in annual income, but as one gains experience, the earnings can be as high as $64, 400 per year. In as much as experience will determine the overall amount of what you take home as an embalmer, factors such as a unique set of technical skills and compassionate client service will always lead to higher salaries in this field.