Finding the “Goldilocks” licensure solution



2023 and 2024 have brought up lots of discussion about licensure for morticians, funeral directors, embalmers, transport operators, cremation operators, and removal technicians in the Death Care profession.  Much of the discussion was started because of the low numbers of funeral professionals seeking job openings and the many openings left vacant.


However, the discussion was hyper-injected with current issues from the State of Colorado and their legislature’s desire to once again demand some type of licensing for death care professionals after having the licensing sunset from existence in 1983.   So, after having no requirements for funeral directors since 1983 Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis signed a recently passed bill last Friday to once again institute funeral director licensing and other rules pertaining to the death care profession in Colorado.  You can read a news article on that here.


The signing into law of the Colorado bill once again brings America to the point of having some type of requirement for certain parts of death care work in all 50 states.  Interestingly enough, it also comes at a time when Americans are discussing the value of some educational requirements, such as degrees versus trades, and concepts on how each of the 50 states accept licensees from other states who may want to move to a new state.


From my point of view, funeral service seems to be meeting what was once a crisis of employment by seeing record rates for mortuary school enrollments according to this article from CNN which states that those schools have enrollment increases as high as 24% in the past four years.  Another factor helping the death care profession close this gap has been the ability of the funeral profession and its schools to convince 2nd career people to look at funeral service as a rewarding option.


Again from my point of view, and with some input from leaders around the country, one of the issues that funeral service has is the differing licensure requirements of each state.  While America is becoming a very mobile society it is not always easy to move from one state to another and be given a license to practice in your new state what you practiced as an occupation in your former state.  Executives tell me that a type of exchange that would allow a reciprocity of this could really help the labor issues.  According to at least one highly-placed death care CEO, his company’s employment issues generally run dependent on a state’s licensing requirements.  i.e. higher educational requirement states generally have more funeral director employment issues.


The State of Arizona passed, in 2019, passed HB2569 that recognizes “out of state occupational licenses” for most professions, including funeral services.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Funeral Director Daily take:  I’m happy for Colorado and some sense of credibility returning to that state and I’m excited to see Arizona find ways to fill their employment situation for not only funeral directors but plumbers, electricians, and others.  However, universal recognition of “out-of-state” licenses could cause some problems down the road.


For instance, would potential licensees simply get their licenses in certain states that have “easy licensure” and then move to a “higher licensure” state?  If so, would that “de-value” the value of a license in that stricter state?  That could happen and a state with a stellar reputation because of “strict” requirements could become “less professional” by theory.


On the other hand, I don’t necessary believe it is the license, but the “values behind the individual” that create great funeral service.  Yes, one must know the laws, procedures, and practices that licensure brings but one must also uphold the values to mankind that being in the funeral business requires to be successful in the field.  Without the latter, the former knowledge will be meaningless.


Funeral service has made some great moves in the past five years in playing catch-up with the employment issues.  I think, in most locales, it has gotten better.  However, to keep moving in the right direction, and have the appropriate licensure with appropriate requirements, we will have to be a little like Goldilocks —  a continuing solution will not be “too hot” nor “too cold”, but has to be just about the “right temperature” to continue moving funeral service forward.


Related Article —  3 High-Paying Associate Degrees that pay $100,00+ in 2024.  Forbes


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1 Comment

  1. Glenn Gould on May 31, 2024 at 12:08 pm

    The lack of licensed FD’s is most profound in smaller, more remote, communities. I don’t know that relaxing the licensing requirements would make more FD candidates available in these towns. The shortage of licensed FD’s will eventually, if not already, impact the level of care families receive. I believe one of the contributing factors to the increased cremation rate is incompetent arrangers; not so much recently, but 20 years ago when families were deciding between burial and cremation. The arrangers were unable to verbalize the advantages of ground burial vs. cremation.
    If the profession does not increase the number of licensed arrangers, and the laws are not changed, funeral firms will have to begin sharing licenses, just as they share hearses, crematories, etc. Livery services and mobile embalmers are available in many cities; sharing licenses to meet with families, take price shopper calls, etc. will become the only alternative for many smaller volume firms.
    One solution is more productive recruiting. The mortuary schools have demonstrated their inability to recruit; evidenced by the fact they run ads in the industry publications to solicit students for their programs indicates they have no comprehension of the recruiting challenge. Research indicates the most successful recruiters would be working FDs and funeral home owners. They should conduct recruiting efforts at community colleges instead of high schools. They need a recruiting video which could be emailed to requesting firms along with brochure template and presentation scripts. It is very disappointing the associations have not pooled funds to create these recruiting materials. The foundations profess to working to assisting the profession, but some how justify not attacking the greatest challenge to the membership.

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