Morticians and Funeral Directors are trained to help bereaved families cope with the loss of loved ones and to make the arrangements for disposition of the body of the deceased in such a way as to provide for a safe environment for the living. Funeral directors oversee the arrangements being made for the public or private services made to honor the deceased and, in addition, manage the business and legal aspects of providing for the deceased and the living. Morticians carry out legally required embalming. Frequently, funeral directors are also trained as embalmers and are licensed for both sets of skills. Some states require that all practitioners are certified in both. More information can be obtained about these professions from the web sites listed below; the best general source is: The Occupational Outlook Handbook .
Control of licensure for these professions is a function of the state in which the person intends to practice. Each practitioner must pass a national written exam and practical one as well (often carried out at the state-level). The required level of general and specific education varies from state to state; some states allow practitioners to start their specialty education directly out of high school. Others, like the State of Iowa require two years of college before starting the specialty mortuary education. [There is a trend toward encouraging a four year degree, especially for those planning to work in large urban areas]. In addition to the college study and 12 month of mortuary science education (study of embalming and funeral direction and other techniques) in a specialized program, Iowa requires a one year internship spent carrying out a legally prescribed set of procedures supervised by an Iowa-licensed mortician. The following web sites give access to state regulations and educational programs, respectively: National Funeral Directors Association and American Board of Funeral Service Education. On-going education is a crucial part of this profession and is required for licensure extension.
The University of Iowa provides the preparatory course work needed to make a successful application to one of fifty-four Mortuary Science Programs in the U. S. Most are AAS (applied science) programs; a few programs offer the specialist (4 year-BS/BA) degree. At The University of Iowa, we do keep track of students planning Mortuary Science with a special "major" code (118) and have a few new students each year. For more information call (319) 353-5700, to make an appointment with a pre-mortuary science advisor in the Academic Advising Center (C210 Pomerantz Center).