California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors in San Diego County

May also be called: Funeral Arrangers; Funeral Counselors; Funeral Location Managers; and Funeral Pre-Need Consultants

What Would I Do?

Funeral practices have a long tradition dating to the beginning of human existence. While varied in nature, these practices usually share some features. These include removing the deceased to a mortuary; arranging for preparation of the body; performing a ceremony that honors the deceased and attends to the spiritual preferences of the family; and burial, entombment, or cremation of the deceased. Funeral Directors, sometimes called Morticians or Undertakers outside of California, perform and direct these tasks as services to surviving family members.

Most Funeral Directors arrange the details and handle the logistics of funerals. Together with the family, they establish the location, date, and time of wake, memorial services, and burial. They handle other details as well, such as helping the family determine whether the body should be buried, entombed, or cremated. This decision is critical because funeral practices vary among cultures and religions.

Funeral Directors sometimes help family members prepare obituary notices and arrange for pallbearers and clergy. They may decorate and prepare the sites of services, arrange for flower delivery, and provide transportation for the deceased and mourners.

In addition to funeral, transport, and burial-related tasks, some Funeral Directors are also licensed and practicing embalmers. Embalming is a sanitary and cosmetic process through which the body is prepared for burial, usually in a casket.

A growing number of Funeral Directors work with clients who wish to pre-plan their own funerals to ensure their needs are met. Some help family members create memorial videos that can be shown at the memorial service, or placed online for viewing.

Tools and Technology

Funeral Directors need to know how to use project management software, as well as office and spreadsheet software. They use lift devices to move caskets and decedents, and refrigeration systems to assure the deceased are stored at the legal temperature before burial. Funeral Directors who are also licensed embalmers use instruments such as vacuum aspirators, injecting tubes, autoclaves, chemical pumps, forceps, and transfer devices. Other tools include make-up and restorative materials to make the deceased look lifelike for open-casket viewings.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Obtain information needed to complete legal documents, such as death certificates or burial permits.Critical Thinking
Oversee the preparation and care of the remains of people who have died.Administration and Management
Consult with families or friends of the deceased to arrange funeral details, such as obituary notice wording, casket selection, or plans for services.Active Listening
Plan, schedule, or coordinate funerals, burials, or cremations, arranging details such as floral delivery or the time and place of services.Coordination
Plan placement of caskets at funeral sites or place or adjust lights, fixtures, or floral displays.Information Ordering
Contact cemeteries to schedule the opening and closing of graves.Speech Clarity
Provide information on funeral service options, products, or merchandise and maintain a casket display area.Customer and Personal Service
Inform survivors of benefits for which they may be eligible.Oral Expression
Offer counsel and comfort to bereaved families or friends.Social Perceptiveness
Discuss and negotiate prearranged funerals with clients.Negotiation
Maintain financial records, order merchandise, or prepare accounts.Written Comprehension
Provide or arrange transportation between sites for the remains, mourners, pallbearers, clergy, or flowers.Transportation
Direct preparations and shipment of bodies for out-of-state burial.Clerical
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Funeral Directors mostly work in funeral establishments. The mood can be quiet and somber, and the work is often demanding. Funeral Directors have to arrange many details within 24 to 72 hours of death, which can be stressful. They also may be responsible for multiple funerals on the same day.

The tools and chemicals used in embalming require special handling, and managing Funeral Directors must ensure that safety and health regulations are followed by the funeral home and its licensed embalmers.

Most Funeral Directors work full time. They are often on call and work long hours, including nights and weekends.

Will This Job Fit Me?

People who are interested in helping others and in human biological sciences might like this career. Those who communicate well, have compassion for those in grief, and have good organizational skills might like this type of work. This job may also appeal to those who like carrying out projects, who enjoy leading others, as well as those who like making business decisions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2020 for Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors in California is $51,380 annually, or $24.70 hourly. The median wage for Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors in San Diego County is $46,456 annually, or $22.33 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$40,214$51,380$65,862
San Diego County$38,988$46,456$54,964
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Funeral Directors who own their own business must pay for their own medical and dental insurance. Those who are employed by single funeral establishments or conglomerates generally earn full benefits including medical and dental insurance, as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment growth reflects an increase in the number of expected deaths among the largest segment of the population: aging baby boomers. Also, a growing number of older people are expected to prearrange their end-of-life services, increasing the need for Funeral Directors.

Employment growth reflects an increase in the number of expected deaths among the largest segment of the population: aging baby boomers. Also, a growing number of older people are expected to prearrange their end-of-life services, increasing the need for Funeral Directors.

Job prospects for Funeral Directors are expected to be good overall and more favorable for those who are also licensed to embalm and who are willing to relocate. Additional job openings should result from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation.

According to the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, there were 2,174 actively licensed Funeral Directors in California as of April 2012.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors are expected to increase by 5.9 percent, or 100 jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Job
Openings
California
(2016-2026)
1,7001,8001005.92,200
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Funeral Directors must have at least an associate’s degree in mortuary science, or earn the equivalent of 60 college units recognized by the Western Association of Colleges and Universities, or any nationally recognized accrediting body of colleges and universities. A growing number of employers prefer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accredits mortuary science programs. In California, there are two accredited colleges that offer associate degree programs: American River College in Sacramento and Cypress College in Orange County.

Students in these programs take courses in ethics, grief counseling, funeral service, and business law. All ABFSE-accredited programs also include embalming and restorative techniques courses.

In addition to education requirements, Funeral Directors must be fingerprinted before they can qualify to take the licensing exam.

Work experience is generally not required for this occupation, although more prestigious funeral establishments may require several years’ experience of their candidates.

Early Career Planning

High school students can prepare for a job as a Funeral Director by taking courses in biology and chemistry and by participating in public speaking. Part-time or summer jobs in funeral establishments also are good experience.

Apprenticeship

Prospective Funeral Directors sometimes complete internships under the direction of a licensed Funeral Director.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is not required to maintain a license; however, Funeral Directors can take advantage of continuing education courses available in subjects such as pre-need planning, intercultural burials, and green funerals to add to their skills and knowledge. They must also keep abreast of current regulations related to the funeral industry.

Licensing and Certification

Funeral Directors in California are required by law to obtain and maintain an active license from the California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery and Funeral Bureau. To do this, they must successfully complete an exam given by a state-approved organization. A separate license is required for Funeral Directors who also perform embalming duties. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

In addition to licensing, several certifications are available to Funeral Directors. These include Certified Pre-planning Consultant, and “Thanatology,” which deals with death, dying, and bereavement. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Finding a Job

Direct contact with employers is a good way to find a job in this field. Networking through association memberships can also provide job leads. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors.

  • Funeral Directors
  • Funeral Establishments
  • Funeral Planning
  • Funeral Services
  • Mortuaries

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

After years of experience and with business knowledge, Funeral Directors can open their own funeral establishment or advance to the position of funeral service manager. These executives determine prices for services or merchandise and manage the facilities of funeral establishments.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Eligibility Interviewers, Government ProgramsProfile
EmbalmersProfile
Funeral Service ManagersProfile
Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners*Profile

Other Sources

  • California Department of Consumer Affairs, Cemetery and Funeral Bureau
         www.cfb.ca.gov
  • American Board of Funeral Service Education
         www.abfse.org
  • California Funeral Directors Association
         www.cafda.org
  • National Funeral Directors Association
         www.nfda.org

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification39-4031
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors39-4031.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ESC