Wages and job satisfaction

As just a lay person and/or consumer it seems that I am constantly hearing two things about wages in America.  On one hand, it seems that I hear people advocating for, regardless of the market situation, wages that should be at a minimum of $15 to $20 per hour in any line of employment.  On the other hand, I hear that wages have grown faster for the bottom 25% of the workforce during the market run-up the past two years than any other segment of society.

Those numbers don’t necessarily contradict each other, but you would think if wages are moving up rapidly for the bottom 25% in the American workforce, then we would hear less about a higher minimum wage.  And, I just don’t see that.

How about our industry and the salaries for funeral directors and morticians.  In almost all parts of the funeral home profession in America it sounds like there is still an employee shortage.  From anecdotal visits with many funeral home owners and managers that seems to be what I am hearing.

Being a funeral director can be a very rewarding career.  However, there are some negative aspects to the duty — such as night calls and spending for the appropriate education before you can be granted your license.  Eventually, getting that license, however, becomes a gateway to employment.  But, we need that gateway to reward the best with wages commensurate to value.  Are we doing that?

So, what are funeral directors to be paid?  I came across this table from Zip Recruiter that spells out average funeral director income by state as well as high, low, and percentile wages as well.  I’m sure that as with most computer generated numbers, these numbers given are not foolproof, but would give an estimate of what funeral directors are paid in each locale.  I’ve been out of the practice of hiring funeral directors for the past six years and these numbers do seem low to me.

The question on my mind is not the actual numbers.  But, how do we as an industry that prides ourselves on personal, professional services to families in need, raise our average salary numbers in an industry where it appears that the average price per service is dropping.

And another question I have is how do we, from an economic standpoint, tell young people of the value of our profession if it is a profession where income is limited?    Take a look at this recent article about the fast food industry and how they are attempting to get quality managers in their profession.  This article is what gave me the idea of looking into funeral director pay scales.

I personally don’t think it is all about wages — although wages have to be competitive to other industries.  I hired several funeral directors in my time — and I have a pretty good idea that they were satisfied with the entire picture that unfolded at our funeral home.  I feel that way simply because nobody left and because of the relationships that I had, and still have, with those co-workers.  It was about wages. . .but it was also about benefits, team bonuses, profit-sharing, time off, and most of all respect as a valued member of a team. . . .a team in which each individual member felt responsible for the overall value of what we were doing.  In my opinion, it was that individual responsibility that gave each employee purpose for showing up on the job each day.

The death care industry probably has some challenges with staffing and compensation ahead of it.  However, if we can look at these challenges in the whole and take them on from a wholistic perspective, we will have a much better chance to attract, and retain, top people to our industry.

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1 Comment

  1. Duane A. “Duey” williams on January 14, 2020 at 8:27 am

    I personally think these salaries are a disgrace! Who can live on $45K-50K decently in 2020! Anyone with any drive at all would leave the Funeral profession offering these ridiculous low wages! I currently owns company outside of this realm…our lowest paid, non secondary educated employees make more than what ZipRecruiter shows! We offer great benefits, OT, Bonuses, and tremendous self work and a path to advancement. We recently promoted our sales manager to President who once started as a sales person, our Art Director started out as a part time graphic designer and now oversees the Design Department as well as the Project Management Dept. I left the employment ranks as a licensed Funeral Director at age 26 when I asked for a raise (which was the only request of this nature I ever had) . I was told I was making as much as anyone my age or experience was making…he offered me a cost of living raise! I left the Funeral Home shortly thereafter even though I enjoyed the profession. No wonder you are having a difficult time filling positions with quality people! The saying goes…”you get what you pay for”…this includes employees!

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