What kind of funeral service education do we want?

I came across this article from Scoop of New Zealand entitled, “Collaboration to benefit funeral services industry“.  The details of the article go on to tell how different educational institutes in New Zealand are collaborating to develop programs of study for the funeral services industry.

For instance, Open Polytechnic “will develop the educational resources, deliver the course and once approved (by the authorities), award the qualifications”.  Auckland Institute of Studies will “connect the delivery of the programs with faciilites that are reuired for learners’ skill-based training and development”.  In essence, to me that sounds like “online” followed by “practical hands on”.

Funeral service in America has vast and fragmented types of requirements by differing states on what is needed to be a practicing funeral director and/or embalmer in those states.  And, some people will tell you that the education requirement minimum does not seem to matter in relation to the care that client families receive.  Others will argue that point.

From my point of view, as the COVID-19 pandemic has pointed out, there has to be some minimum knowledge that funeral service professionals need to have to provide safe services to all involved.  I don’t think we can just allow people to just state, “I’m going to be a funeral director.”

However, what is needed for a minimum professional level position is highly debatable.  I would argue that the proper answer fits on the continuum somewhere between nothing and a full fledged bachelors degree. . . but what is the proper knowledge?

It’s pretty obvious that the more education, the better off a person is.  However, education in today’s America can be expensive for in-class, hands-on learning.  Can we be like New Zealand and offer a hybrid?  And, maybe there is more than one option. . . maybe an option for those that do embalming and handle the deceased and another degree or certificate for those who only want to work with families in planning and producing funerals and memorial services.

So, I don’t know what the right answer is.  However, our profession needs good young people coming into it and many cannot afford what a 4-year degree would cost.  Would some type of online minimum course work solve the shortage with an additional “hands-on” type of education for those that want the embalmers license work?

It is my opinion that state license boards, the National Funeral Director’s Association, and the mortuary schools of higher education need to look at what the best practices should be.  Now is that time.

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  1. Michael on June 26, 2020 at 9:20 am

    As a licensed funeral director, I agree with the comments left here. The funeral profession is “out of date” the rules and regulations date back 40, 50 years and more. It’s time all states have a split licensing law, and “stop” making licensing difficult. I don’t agree with Bachelor’s Degrees as a requirement for licensing, why would any state make that mandatory, when the salaries aren’t conducive to the demands. True less and less bodies are being embalmed, so why require mortuary school education for something that is dissipating. I strongly feel online classes for licensing of funeral directors, combined with on the job training is long overdue. I have worked with some very talented individuals, but because they didn’t have an interest in embalming…licensing was out of reach and the profession lost them. It’s time to abolish the old, and give a new look to our profession. If individuals want licensing as embalmers, then the funeral homes should become the teaching institution, with federal aid going to assist with educating. Let’s wake up, if we continue to hold on to the old, the future looks pretty bleak. Thank you.

  2. Daniel Isard on June 25, 2020 at 9:08 am

    Let’s start from scratch. What do consumers want from a funeral business in the US? Let’s rebuild the business model to be a 2020 and beyond not a regurgitation of 1900 with new architecture. What percent want to have their loved one’s bodies embalmed? About 40%, yet in 23 states you must be an embalmer to make funeral arrangements. What percent want their loved one to be cremated? More than 50%, yet many states do not allow funeral homes to own retorts and insist they have a prep room. We are totally inconsistent with our business model for the future and our licensing. Once we get those two items aligned, then we can deal with the education of the basic funeral director. Can someone have specialties beyond that such as embalming or reformation of the body? Of course. But the public wants a funeral arranger that can help them plan a personalized event. When all three are in harmony (business plan, licensing and education) then we will have a valuable offering to the public.

  3. Brad Whinery on June 25, 2020 at 6:44 am

    Absolutely correct. Unfortunately, many state boards are still trying to “protect” what they perceive as a threat to the industry. The funeral industry is so far behind as compared to health care. They have MD, PA, ARNP, etc. We could help ourselves by just opening up tiered licensing.

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