Aspiring funeral directors (specifically, those who AREN’T coming from a family business) will often ask a variation of one of these three questions:

“Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into the funeral business?”

“Have any tips for funeral students trying to get an apprenticeship at a funeral home?”

“I just got my license.  How do I land a job at a funeral home?”

Aside from the obvious advice, like, “Don’t make any jokes about necrophilia during your interview”, I feel it was best to crowd source advice from other professionals in funeral service.  Over 150 replied.   Some of the advice is similar, but each comes from a different perspective.

Here are 21 tips for aspiring first generation funeral directors from those who have made it.

“Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into the funeral business?”

1.  From Kristen A.: My advice is … funeral services isn’t a “job”, it’s a calling. If you don’t have it in your heart you’ll never succeed.

2.  From Jim S.: (If you have questions about the funeral industry) the worst thing to do is just “pop” in (to a funeral home) and ask to see anyone. The best course would either be to ask for an introduction from someone you know or make initial contact via e-mail. This is directly from my instructor as well, if you have questions (about the funeral industry), contact a school that offers the Mortuary classes, they have all the time in the world to talk.

2.  From Heidi B.: Job shadow a funeral director for one week if you’re able and tour/talk to a mortuary school.

3.  From Geoff C.:  (Aspiring funeral directors) need to get their foot in the door (very hard) and try to experience as many aspects of the job as possible BEFORE going to mortuary school. They need to understand it’s not all about wearing nice suits and driving nice cars. I personally saw so many, in school, their first time in a prep room was at labs. They do their apprenticeship and get licensed and within a year, they leave the industry.

4.  From Kyle S.:  I was talked out of my career in high school when I approached a funeral director in my town for advice. She told me to basically go away and find another career because I would never get a job, not having relatives in the business. I regret listening to her…so my advice is: if you really want it, DO IT. There will always be a place for you, perhaps not in your town or state….but life is long and hard when there are regrets.

5.  From Erica C.:   Networking is a great tool. Knowing people at a removal service in a larger area is a good thing since they have contact with the majority of the funeral homes. Also, I did my apprenticeship at an embalming service and learned invaluable skills. As an embalmer you are much more marketable.

6.:  From Shandel P.:  Get a job (if you can’t get a job, then volunteer your weekends) at your local funeral home BEFORE you commit to going to mortuary school in hopes of making a career of being a funeral professional. I’ve had quite a few people I went to school with who quit when they started their internship (i.e. after they were done with Mort school) because they couldn’t deal.

7.  From Tony G.:   Be sure to get your Bachelors degree in something else. That way in five years, when you are married and have kids you don’t feel stuck. This business isn’t for everyone and if you find out its not for you, you have a back-up plan. That’s my personal advice, because I am not sure that if I had other options available to me that I would still be in funeral service. It’s changed so much and is so far away from why I started

 “Have any tips for funeral students trying to get an apprenticeship at a funeral home?”

1.  From Boyd C.:  Be willing to relocate (especially for an apprenticeship).

2.  From Ada O.:  Write up a solid résumé and cover letter. Mail it to as many places as you can, and follow up in two weeks if you don’t hear from anybody. I did this for 15 funeral homes and finally got an apprenticeship.

3.  From Cortney N.: There are internships out there! You just have to be proactive. I am not from a family of funeral directors, so I am a first generation. You will most likely have to relocate, there are head hunters out there as well who do assist in finding interns/ internships.

4.  From Matthew S.:  Personal Presentation is HUGE. Dress nice but don’t look like a hooker or pimp. Hide all crazy tattoos and piercings!  (And you should probably shave your beard and cut your hair.)

5.  From Boyd C.:  Follow up. Call funeral homes and ask to just meet with a director to ask questions about the industry. Above all, just keep at it. Eventually a door will open.

6.  From Anna K.:  Yes, you will work A TON of hours your first year. But at what professional job you wouldn’t? Besides, if you love the job you won’t mind spending the time developing your skills and know that it won’t be a waste of time because those hours will pay off in the long run. There are good firms out there. Just be proactive and stay positive.

7.  From Hannah K.:  As an apprentice or new guy/gal everyone is your boss. You do not have a job description. Do your best to do whatever (in legal and moral boundries)it is you are asked to do.

“I just got my license.  How do I land a job at a funeral home?”

1.  Tony G.: Interview, interview, interview and interview. Don’t be desperate to find a funeral home. You will end up quitting and jumping from one frying pan to another. Don’t rush it. You will know when you find the right place.

2.  From Kristin J.:  I had no connections when I started. Talk to teachers, they are huge assets and can help put in words of recommendation. Post resumes on state board websites and nfda. Be open minded and it helps to be willing to relocate. Make sure its something you feel passionate about because its hard day in and day out. Supportive family is a must since hours are all over the place and you don’t get holidays or weekends.

3.  From Dale C.  Now that I am in the position of hiring people, the skills that folks learn at mortuary school are just a small part of what they need to know in order for me to even consider hiring them. Technology, computers, writing and speaking skills are an absolute must. Whether you are fresh from mortuary school or an experienced funeral director the following skills are an absolute requirement.  (You can read more of Dale’s thoughts HERE.)

4.  From Leslie S.:  It’s easier in a bigger city that has corporately owned funeral homes. They tend to hire more workers.

5.  From Ron M.: SCI (Dignity Funeral Homes) are always looking for new hires. I’m a former Location Manager (No License). I started as General Duties and learned as much as I could. Eventually that led to My Several Promotions.

6.  Some real practical advice from Rose A.: Learn proper composure. Walk and talk in such a way as to lend dignity to your profession. Sharpen your listening skills. Don’t jingle your change or check your phone in view of funeral attendants. React with compassion, but do not speak in platitudes. Don’t say, “Good morning” or “good evening” when answering the door, say, “welcome”. Have tissues handy in your pocket. Don’t chew gum.

7.  Rachel M.:  Don’t get discouraged. It may seem difficult to find a job, but it is worth the wait. This is a very rewarding profession and you can’t stop before you start.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve written three pieces that directly and indirectly answer those questions:

10 Burdens Funeral Directors Carry

Ten Reasons I’m a Funeral Director

So, You Wanna Be a Funeral Director? 


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