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How to Become an Embalmer

Embalming is one profession that is recession proof. No matter what types of economic conditions are at play, embalmers can be assured that their services will be needed. Although embalming may not seem like the ideal career choice for some, many people have found that this career provides employment stability, a sense of accomplishment and pride, and lucrative economic benefits that include an average salary of between $15 and $16 per hour. An embalmer is responsible for preparing a body for viewing and burial. This includes cleaning the body, using preservative fluids, performing any reconstructive or restorative services necessary, dressing the body, and applying cosmetics. Preservation may involve either visceral embalming, in which embalming fluid is placed into body cavities, or arterial embalming, in which embalming fluid is pumped through the arteries. The method used is determined largely by the age and condition of the body. If you are interested in a career as a professional embalmer, you must follow these steps to your new career:

Step 1 – Getting an Embalmer Education

The training to become an embalmer requires a formal education through a minimum of an associate’s degree program. This training typically takes at least 2 years of full-time study and is often taught as part of a mortuary science degree. The training program includes classes in anatomy, physiology, pathology, embalming techniques, restorative arts, ethics, funeral service law, and more. In addition, certain schools will include classes in business and management.  Because of the hands-on nature of the profession, it is not possible to complete training entirely online. However, some schools offer hybrid training programs that allow students to complete coursework online, only reporting to a designated location for laboratory practice and education. When comparing programs, look for those that are accredited through the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Here are some things to consider when choosing a training program:

On-Campus Programs

Many embalming students choose on-campus training because they feel more comfortable working in a face-to-face environment. While there are many advantages to this type of program, there are also some distinct disadvantages.

Advantages

  • Access to campus resources and services
  • Structured schedule and class environment
  • Opportunities to collaborate with other embalming students
  • Face-to-face interaction with instructors

Disadvantages

  • Rigid schedule may interfere with work and family time
  • Time and money expenditures for commuting
  • Lack of control over content pacing

Hybrid Programs

Students who are working or taking care of families often prefer a hybrid training program, because they can enjoy the convenience and flexibility of online programs while still meeting the hands-on training requirements of the profession. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid training programs:

Advantages

  • Increased level of flexibility in scheduling
  • Opportunities for face-to-face instruction
  • Access to online and on-campus resources
  • Less expense for commuting

Disadvantages

  • Students must be highly motivated and organized

Step 2 – Completing an Apprenticeship

All states require that embalmers serve as apprentices under the direction of a licensed funeral director or embalmer. Apprenticeship requirements vary from state to state, and some allow students to complete the apprenticeship while attending a degree program. Typically, apprentice embalmers must complete the embalming process on a specified number of bodies before being qualified for licensure. For information on apprenticeship requirements in your state, check with the National Funeral Directors Association.

Step 3 – Licensure

Before you can work independently as an embalmer, you must become properly licensed in your state. State requirements vary from one state to the next, but typically require that you be either 18 or 21 years of age, that you have met specific educational requirements, and that you have completed the required apprenticeship. Once you meet all the qualifications to be licensed, you must submit the completed licensing application, required documentation, and licensing fees to the licensing board in your state.

Step 4 – Preparing Your Resume

While there are certain to be openings for embalmers, the competition for jobs can be fierce at times. As such, it is important that you make the best possible first impression. How do you make that impression? You do so with your professional resume. A good resume can quickly capture the attention of prospective employers. On the other hand, a poor resume will likely get tossed aside and will lose you the chance to land your dream job.

When creating your resume and cover letter, research the employer to whom it will be sent. Craft your submission so it shows that you have a deep understanding of the mission and values of the business and how you can contribute to furthering the company. Include all of your experience, skills, and knowledge briefly, including all pertinent facts without making the resume too wordy or long. Choose a simple, clean font and design to pull the package together perfectly. If you are not comfortable crafting your own resume, consider spending the money to hire professional help. The relatively small cost of a professional resume can yield incredible returns in future income.

Step 5 – Finding a Job

There are funeral homes in nearly every city and town in the United States, providing plenty of places to which you can apply for employment. In addition, you may choose an alternative career path and serve as an embalmer for a medical research facility or other organization that prepares donated bodies for education and research. Joining professional organizations can help you make valuable network contacts that may aid in your job search. You can also use employment websites to help you connect with potential employers. Good sites to check out include FuneralNet, Indeed and Monster.

Having a Great Interview

Once your resume gets you an interview, you may have only one shot to wow the interviewer and land the position. Choose attire that is conservative and timeless and avoid any flashy colors, accessories, or fashion fads. Your appearance should be clean cut and well groomed. If you are a woman, be sure to have your nails bare and well-manicured, wear subtle makeup, and avoid any strong perfumes. Maintain good posture at all times and take your familiarity cues from the interviewer. Make eye contact while talking and keep your answers succinct and to the point. It is okay to stress your strengths and qualifications, but be sure to not come across as overconfident or cocky.

Perhaps more important than your appearance are your answers to interview questions. These may vary widely, depending upon the interviewer and the environment of the business. Because of this, you should have a thorough understanding of yourself and your motivations before attending the interview. It is also a good idea to rehears answers to some potential questions in front of family members or trusted friends who will provide honest feedback. Here are some sample questions you may be asked at your embalmer interview:

  • What appeals to you most about this profession?
  • How do you feel about being on call, even on holidays and weekends?
  • What is the most challenging part of this profession in your opinion?
  • What qualities do you look for in an employer?
  • What salary and benefits would you like to receive?
  • Which skills have helped you most thus far in your pursuit of an embalming career?
  • What would you do if a coworker was having difficulty completing his or her duties?
  • How do you deal with stressful situations?
  • What quality do you think is most important in this profession?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?
  • Why haven’t you procured a job before now?
  • Describe your past experience in embalming and the funeral industry?
  • How would your college teachers describe you?
  • What are your weaknesses as an employee? How would you overcome them?
  • Have you ever worked with a difficult coworker? How did you handle it?

At the conclusion of the interview, feel free to ask any questions about the business or job opening. Be sure to thank the interviewer for his or her time and express a hopefulness of hearing from them soon. Keep it professional and avoid sounding desperate. If all goes well, you may receive the job you want soon.

Working as an embalmer is definitely not for everyone, but it is truly one of the most stable, satisfying jobs available today. If you feel that you have what it takes to become a professional embalmer, now is the ideal time to start searching for an accredited embalmer training program so you can start your new career.

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