How to Become an Embalmer
Embalmer Careers & Degrees

Embalmers are professionals who have direct contact with deceased bodies after they have been released by a coroner, hospital or another health care facility.

An Embalmer’s job is an integral part of funeral preparations.

These professionals are responsible for preparing an individual’s body for viewing to show to family and friends.

The viewing of a deceased body at a funeral is known to be an integral part in the grieving process.

Individuals who are interested in this career path will need to have respect for grieving families and have the tolerance to be able to work with deceased individuals as well as be able to work odd hours such as the graveyard shift, nights and weekends.

Education Requirements to Become an Embalmer

Individuals who want to become an Embalmer must pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in Mortuary Science from a program accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE).

Visit the website for the American Board of Funeral Service Education for program information, scholarship opportunities and a directory of college and university programs.

The majority of programs offer associate’s degree in this field, but an individual has the option of pursuing a bachelor’s at an accredited university or college.

During their studies, individuals who want to become an Embalmer will take a series of classes that will help them prepare for this profession.

They will take a combination of traditional classroom setting courses as well as complete laboratory hours to help them with the hands on process of embalming dead bodies.

A typical Mortuary Science curriculum will include classes such as: Medical Terminology, Death Psychology, Embalming Laboratory, Restorative Art, Embalming Theory, Pathology, Anatomy and Chemistry.

Some programs also offer classes that prepare students at the professional and business level.

In order to become a licensed embalmer, individuals must also pursue an apprenticeship to gain work experience in this field.

The last step for an individual to become an Embalmer is to secure licensure.

The majority of states and Washington DC require licensure to be employed in this profession.

Although specific licensing requirements vary by state, the following prerequisites are the most common: Individuals must be a minimum of 21 years old; complete a two year program accredited by the ABFSE and the complete an apprenticeship lasting one to three years.

Embalmer Job Description

Embalmers are professionals who work with deceased bodies and prepare them for viewing at a funeral.

Because deceased bodies decay very quickly, Embalmers begin with slowing down that process by utilizing preservation methods.

Embalmers must follow health and sanitation regulations and must ensure all legal requirements are met when working on the deceased.

Embalmers may work odd hours including weekends and graveyard shifts as they may receive calls to embalm individuals at any time.

Embalmers work very closely with funeral directors to assure that a family’s wishes are being met with regards to a body’s presentation.

Once a body is released from a hospital or coroner, an Embalmer will begin by washing, cleaning and disinfecting it to begin the preservation efforts and prevent deterioration.

They will continue with replacing an individual’s bodily fluids including their blood, with preserving agents that slow down the decaying process.

After injecting a body with preserving agents, an embalmer will then work on the physical appearance of a body and will wash and style hair and apply makeup to help create a natural appearance.

If there have been any alterations to a body due to an accident or trauma, an Embalmer may also alter and reshape an individual’s body for viewing purposes.

Embalmer Salary and Career Path

The median annual wage for all Funeral Service occupations, including Embalmers was approximately $51,600 in 2012.

Exact wages will depend on work experience and whether an individual in licensed in both embalming and funeral directing.

Although employed full time, many professionals in funeral services work on call and irregular long hours including nights and weekends.

Job opportunities for all Funeral Service occupations are expected to increase by 12 percent through the year 2022.

This projection is considered an average growth when compared to other professional occupations.

The increase is due to the number of expected deaths including the aging baby boomer population, which is the largest demographic segment.

Individuals with the strongest job prospects are those who are licensed as a Funeral Director and an Embalmer.

Individuals entering this field have many prospects to look forward to including wage expectations and being a part of a family’s grieving process that then begins healing process.

Individuals can assure themselves that their work is special as it takes a special kind of individual to enter this profession.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$50,100
$26K
$36K
$50K
$60K
$76K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$42,780
Arizona$49,570
Arkansas$41,380
California$53,420
Colorado$44,960
Connecticut$69,190
Florida$58,560
Georgia$36,970
Hawaii$42,640
Illinois$56,330
Kansas$52,450
Kentucky$46,230
Louisiana$50,900
Massachusetts$50,810
Michigan$50,580
Mississippi$45,610
Missouri$55,440
Nevada$30,570
Ohio$54,440
Oklahoma$44,500
Oregon$53,590
South Carolina$44,540
Tennessee$50,460
Texas$46,290
Virginia$39,400
Wisconsin$59,750

The top earning state in the field is Connecticut, where the average salary is $69,190.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Connecticut - $69,190
Wisconsin - $59,750
Florida - $58,560
Illinois - $56,330
Missouri - $55,440
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Embalmers, OCC Code 39-4011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is an embalmer?

An embalmer is someone who is specialized in preserving human or animal remains.

Embalming is both an art and a science and embalmers work with a variety of chemicals in order to preserve the body.

Nowadays embalmers are mostly hired to prepare the deceased for viewing by friends and relatives, a step which is usually considered helpful in the grieving process.

As an embalmer, you will need knowledge in a variety of fields, including anatomy, chemistry, and the embalming theory.

You will also need interpersonal skills, compassion, and time-management skills but also the ability to follow strict safety and health regulations.

Most embalmers are employed by death care services but some are self-employed.

They usually work full-time but may also be on-call during evenings or weekends.

QuestionHow much does an embalmer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for embalmers was $46,620, as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors; embalmers can make anywhere between $25,000 and more than $70,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become an embalmer?

Embalmers need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in mortuary science.

Programs accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education are available at community colleges and academic institutes specialized in funeral service.

Such programs cover a variety of topics, including restorative art, pathology, embalming theory, anatomy, chemistry, and funeral service management.

Costs vary widely, depending on the school and the program you choose.

For example, a two-year associate’s degree program in Funerary Service and Mortuary Science will cost you, on average, around $20,000 a year.

Embalmers must follow strict health and sanitation regulations and usually need a state license.

Licensing requirements vary by state and applicants may be required to pass both a state and national examination.

QuestionWhat is the demand for embalmers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for funeral service workers, in general, is expected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Being certified as both an embalmer and a funeral director should give you better job prospects.

QuestionHow long does it take to become an embalmer?

Embalmers typically need a degree in mortuary science from a school accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education, some supervised practical training and a state license.

Two-year associate’s degree and four-year bachelor’s degree programs in Funeral Service and Mortuary Science are available at several colleges.

Most states require embalmers to be at least 21 years of age.

You may also need to complete 1 to 3 years of supervised training/internship in order to qualify for licensure.

After earning your degree you will need to pass a national and/or state exam in order to be able to practice as an embalmer.

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