With death a certainty, many consider the funeral industry recession proof. A March 2009 CBS Atlanta story reported that during the economic downturn of that year, many enrolled in mortuary school. The Gupton Jones Funeral Service College President Patty Hutcheson told CBS Atlanta she saw enrollments increase by 25 percent in 2009. Mortician schools teach students how to prepare bodies for funerals as well as how to operate funeral homes.

Degree Programs

Most mortician schools offer an Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science or a Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, mortuary science programs teach students about the legal and ethical practices of the funeral industry, also called deathcare; business management, bereavement counseling, psychology, anatomy, chemistry, embalming techniques, restorative art, and hygiene and sanitary science.

Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science programs last approximately two to four years. Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science programs typically last four years. The programs often include an apprenticeship in a local funeral home. Some schools offer online courses through video conferencing. However, students are required to complete the embalming and anatomy lab courses on campus.

Certificate and Diploma Programs

Some mortician schools offer certificate or diploma programs. The course work prepares students to work in support roles in funeral homes as administrators, hearse drivers or mortuary technicians. Many of these programs allow students to enter the workforce quickly. For example, the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science offers a diploma program in embalming and funeral directing which can be completed in 12 months on campus or less if completed through the accelerated online program.


Funeral directors must pass a national board exam to earn their license to work in the field. Licensing requirements vary by state, but generally licensed practitioners must have at least two years of formal education and one year of apprenticeship. Some states require a separate license for embalmers. Typically, the licensing exam includes a written test and a demonstration of skills.


Prospective mortuary school students should look for schools that have been approved by the American Board of Funeral Service Education to ensure that the schools are providing an education that meets the standards for licensing and for employers. When searching for schools, take note of whether the program prepares students for licensing in the state, with instruction in embalming technology and apprenticeships. Students should determine whether the school has any additional fees related to funeral home visits or lab work.

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