The word mortician brings what images to mind? The career of a
mortician is surprisingly different than it is portraied in movies and books. Being
a mortician is a very rewarding job both personal as well as psychological to those
with the temperament, training and discipline required to do the job properly. In
this paper I\'ll be reporting the requirements to become a mortician, also called
funeral director or undertaker, the duties the job requires of you, and the outlook
of this career in the future of the United States.
To become a funeral director in the United States today isn\'t an easy task.
You need to be twenty-one, a high school graduate with some undergraduate
college work, as well as at least one year of professional training in mortuary
science, and completion of an apprenticeship. "Upon completing a state board
licensing exam, new funeral directors are qualified to join the staff of a funeral
home. In many states successful completion of a national examination given by
the National Conference of Examining boards will qualify you for licensure"(IRN
10). In different states the undergraduate college credit varies considerably, one-
third of the states require one year; another third wants two years; and the other
third requires three years of credit(IRN 9). A concentration of courses is also
required in some of the states. You may need to take 15 credits in natural science,
13 in social sciences, 13 in business, 14 in chemistry(IRN 10). In addition to your
college work, you will need at least 50 credit hours of professional work in
mortuary science. "There are about 40 schools of mortuary science officially
recognized by the U.S. Department of Education today"(Shipley 220). The
curriculum generally consists of courses in:
"Embalming, Restorative Art, Chemistry, Microbiology, Pathology, Anatomy,
Small Business Management, Funeral Home management, Merchandising,
Accounting, Funeral Home Law, Computers, History and sociology of Funeral
Service, Psychology of Grief, Grief Counseling, oral and Written Communication,
Funeral Service Law, Business Law, and Ethics"(IRN 11). Along with educational
requirements you need to look at the personal requirements it takes to be a funeral
director. You have to be on call 24-hours a day 7 days a week, death doesn\'t know
any holidays. The people\'s needs come before any of yours in this career. You\'ll
need to work with others in a very fragile condition, you\'ll have to be very patient
with them. A lot of the time the mourners will vent their pent up anger on the
funeral director and will blame you for their problems. Some of time you\'ll need
to deal with religions new to you and that seem strange, but you\'ll have to be
understanding and willing to let the mourners carry out their forms of burial and
mourning. In other words, can you handle a career that requires constant
sensitivity to needs and wants of other people?
One of the duties of a mortician is to embalm the corpse for show. "If the
body is not to be buried within twenty-four hours, most communities require that it
be embalmed"(IRN 6). After the body is brought to the funeral home, you would
see first of all that the body and hair are cleaned and washed for embalming. A
small incision is made at the base of the neck or in the groin to secure access to a
major artery or vein. "The object in embalming is to pump our the body fluids, or
blood, and to replace it with special long lasting chemicals which will keep the
body from decaying for a long period of time and which will prevent it from
further disease or decay, if death has been caused by a specific infectious
disease."(Lamers 420). Tubes are then inserted in the artery or vein. The tube in
this artery is connected to a mechanical pump that injects a preservative and
disinfectant solution into the blood system.(Lamers 426). The chemicals
eventually push all the blood out of the system and take its place in the circulatory
system. "The final step is the completion of yet another procedure to remove
gases and liquids from the trunk organs and this introduces yet another disinfectant
chemical into the area"(IRN 7). If the body is disfigured in any way you may be
required to do some restorative procedures on the body, using materials such as
clay, cotton, plaster of Paris and wax (Lamers 535). You would be required to fill
in any open wounds left on the body by law, but would use a picture of the
deceased and try to make them appear as life-like as possible for the showing
(Shipley 201).