Embalming Training Programs and Requirements

Embalmers often are trained, licensed and practicing funeral directors. They are charged with transporting the deceased to mortuaries and preparing them for visitation services and burials. Embalmers gain their expertise by completing mortuary science degree programs, which are offered by mortuary schools and community and traditional colleges.

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Training Programs and Recommendations

Mortuary science training programs provide theoretical and extensive hands-on training. There are 60 mortuary science programs accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Although most of them are 2-year associate's degree programs, there are several bachelor's degree programs in mortuary science available.

Embalming training programs teach individuals how to wash, sanitize and preserve deceased bodies. Students learn how to replace blood with embalming fluid. Many programs also instruct students on rebuilding, reshaping and reconstructing tissues using wax, clay, cotton and plaster of Paris. Courses in applying make-up, hair styling and grooming are also offered.

Formal Education

Mortuary science degree programs train embalmers through comprehensive coursework and hands-on apprenticeships. Each state requires all embalmers and funeral directors to be licensed in order to practice mortuary science. As a result, embalmers commonly complete accredited 2-year associate's degree programs in mortuary science.

Associate's Degree in Mortuary Science

Associate's degree programs in mortuary science provide embalmers with the knowledge and skills to handle intimate and specific details surrounding death. Many degree programs include courses in anatomy, physiology and pathology. Students learn embalming techniques, restorative art, business management and funeral law. They also study business ethics, psychology, grief counseling and communication. Mortuary science training programs prepare future embalmers for the apprenticeships that need to be completed prior to licensing.

Job Experience

Embalmers or funeral directors put classroom theory to the test during apprenticeships. These apprenticeships last anywhere from 1-3 years and are performed under supervision of an experienced and licensed funeral director. Typically, apprenticeships occur during or after mortuary school and offer real-life, hands-on experience in embalming, funeral planning, visitation procedures and burial ceremonies.

Licenses and Certifications

Licensure is required for embalmers and funeral directors in all 50 states. Some states offer umbrella licensure for both embalmers and funeral directors. Others require two separate licenses. However, most demand that applicants be 21 years old, have two years worth of formal education, complete an one 1-year apprenticeship and pass the licensing examination.

Upon licensure, embalmers may join the staff of one or more funeral homes as trade embalmers open their own funeral homes. Over 30 states require embalmers and funeral directors to maintain licensure through continuing education credits.

Workshops and Seminars

The National Funeral Directors Association is a professional forum for mortuary science professionals and organizes state-level professional associations. These national and state-focused organizations offer annual seminars and workshops for embalmers and funeral directors. These seminars may be used for continuing education credits.

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