American Board of Funeral Service Education


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get into Funeral Service?
Each state has its own licensing regulations governing entry as a funeral director. Most require a combination of postsecondary education (typically Associate Degree in Funeral Service Education), passage of the National Board Examination, and service as an apprentice for one or two years.

Do I have to go to college to become a funeral director?
In most states the answer is "Yes." The amount of college required varies from state to state with the Associate Degree in Funeral Service Education being the most typical. However, requirements vary from no college to four years of college. Contact the licensing agency for the state in which you plan to work, or contact one of the accredited college programs for more information.

What about the job market in funeral service?
On a national basis there are generally more jobs available than there are licensed funeral directors to fill them. However, this varies from region to region and from town to town. Funeral service is a profession that most people enter only after having had positive personal experience and not as a result of reading books or watching videos.

What type of person becomes a funeral director?
People enter the funeral service profession from a wide variety of backgrounds and possess a variety of motivations. The desire to be of assistance and to work in a human service profession motivates many individuals. Others view funeral service as relatively "depression proof" and enter the profession after serving for a number of years in other careers. Approximately 51% of the funeral service graduates in 2003 were women, with an average age of graduates in their upper 20s. Two thirds of graduates had no prior direct family relationship with funeral service.

How much will I earn?
Salary varies from region to region, from urban to rural community, and from small to large funeral homes. The overall national average in the decade of the 1990s has been in the mid to upper $20K range for newly licensed funeral directors. Starting salaries for new funeral service licensees often closely approximate those of starting teachers in the same community.

How about working conditions in funeral service?
You can expect to work a regular schedule of hours plus additional hours in the evening and on certain weekends, either on call or in the funeral home. Funeral service is a 24 hour, 7 day per week profession, although the workload is spread among all funeral home staff. While on duty the funeral director is expected to dress in business attire. Above all the funeral director must reflect a personable, sincere and professional manner.

How do funeral directors spend their time?
A small percentage of the funeral directors' time is spent preparing bodies. The overwhelming majority of time is spent working directly with families. For this reason funeral service is referred to as a "human service profession."

What subject areas comprise the Funeral Service Education curriculum?
An Associate Degree or its credit hour equivalent is required. This means that your academic program must consist of at least 60 semester (90 quarter) hours of academic course work. At least 25% of that course work must be in general, non-technical education courses. Most programs also require the successful completion of practicum time within a funeral home. The curriculum in Funeral Service is comprised of the following courses:

       Sciences, including micro-biology, pathology, chemistry, anatomy, embalming and restorative art

       Business, including small business management, funeral home management and computer skills

       Social Sciences, including history and sociology of funeral service, psychology of grief and bereavement counseling

       Law and Ethics, including business law, funeral service law and funeral service ethics

Is scholarship aid available?
Scholarship aid is most often available through the financial aid office of the college that you attend. The American Board of Funeral Service Education also offers a scholarship program for which you can apply after you have completed at least one term of study in an accredited funeral service program. Awards from this program are either $250 or $500. Approximately one half of each years applicants are granted a scholarship. More information about the ABFSE Scholarship Program is available in the Scholarship section of this website. In addition, you can obtain an application for a scholarship by writing to:

    American Board of Funeral Service Education
    Executive Director
    Robert C. Smith III

    3414 Ashland Avenue, Suite G
    St. Joseph, MO 64506
    Office: (816) 233-3747
    Cell: (816) 262-0711
    FAX: (816) 233-3793

The completed application must be returned to ABFSE along with two essays, transcripts of all college courses attempted and a written recommendation. Deadlines are in March and September each year. Click here for further information and deadlines. Your local state funeral directors association is also a potential source of financial aid.


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