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Funeral directors are responsible for organizing funerals and running the day-to-day operations of funeral homes. They hold several meetings with the families of the deceased to determine funeral details and guide them through the process. Much of their time is spent on paperwork and event coordination, as they must complete several documents for clients and follow a tight timeline for funerals, even handling many at the same time. In addition to these duties, funeral directors take care of financial accounts, employee training, inventory monitoring, and other internal functions. Work hours can be irregular, since they must be on-call at all times. Many funeral directors describe their career as challenging yet meaningful.

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Funeral Director Duties and Responsibilities

While a funeral director’s day-to-day duties are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with this role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:

Consult with Families

Funeral directors talk to the families of the deceased regarding funeral arrangements, communicating with sensitivity and tact to help them make informed choices. This involves exploring cremation and burial options, conceptualizing obituaries or memorial videos, and explaining the necessary procedures and cost breakdowns.

Coordinate Funerals

It's up to funeral directors to coordinate funerals in light of the family's preferences. They oversee all logistical details, from reserving the venue to arranging for clergy members. Since their main priority is ensuring that the funeral runs smoothly, those in this role must be alert at all times during the proceedings, and they should follow industry regulations.

File Legal Paperwork

Part of preparing for funerals is filing legal paperwork such as life insurance and Social Security forms. Funeral directors are in charge of interviewing families for relevant information and obtaining, filling out, and submitting these documents on time.

Manage Business Operations

Funeral directors manage various aspects of a funeral home's day-to-day operations. They commonly monitor the company's finances and inventory, working alongside accountants to maintain records, make purchases, organize payroll and tax processing, and prepare budgets. Other duties may include creating marketing plans and analyzing business needs.

Supervise Employees

Since this is often a senior position, funeral directors supervise and delegate tasks to full- and part-time employees. In addition to providing training regarding funeral policies and procedures, they also take an active role in the recruitment of specialized staff members, such as embalmers and funeral attendants.

Funeral Director Skills and Qualifications

Funeral directors need emotional maturity to work with families who are experiencing loss. Beyond this, they must be proactive and dependable, with a knack for logistics. In addition to state licensure, employers look for funeral directors who have the following skills:

  • Organization skills - because funeral directors usually only have a short period of time to plan funeral arrangements and handle complex documents, they must be excellent organizers who can foresee obstacles and coordinate efficiently with other people
  • Interpersonal skills - funeral directors must be able to communicate well with families who are grieving or in a state of emotional distress. They should be compassionate and empathetic, listening well and attentively responding to the family's needs
  • Project management - comfort with project management is crucial to this role. In order to meet deadlines consistently, funeral directors must take a strategic approach, optimizing processes and monitoring deliverables from staff members
  • Business acumen - funeral directors may take on several business functions, including sales, marketing, HR, and operations. They must be able to switch fluidly between these roles and make informed decisions based on industry knowledge
  • Knowledge of legal procedures - those in the funeral industry must comply with strict federal and state regulations. Funeral directors must constantly update their knowledge and adapt to changes accordingly, whether they involve paperwork or more hands-on aspects of the job

Tools of the Trade

Funeral directors often use the following tools to accomplish their tasks:

Funeral home software (PROCession, MiMS Elite, CSII 2000)

Legal documents (cemetery property deeds, insurance and social security forms)

Funeral equipment (caskets, urns, crematories)

Microsoft Office (Word, Excel)

Funeral Director Education and Training

Many funeral directors have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in mortuary science or a related field. Alternatively, they may acquire certification through vocational schools or accredited institutions. While employers do not look for specific educational credentials directly, regulations specify that all funeral directors must possess state licensure, which requires classroom training and a long-term internship. In addition, they must pursue learning opportunities every year to maintain their licensure.

Funeral Director Salary and Outlook

According to PayScale, funeral directors make a median annual salary of around $45,000. Funeral directors in the top 10 percent of earners receive as much as $71,000 every year, while those in the lowest 10 percent make as little as $30,000.

In terms of job outlook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment growth of 5 percent for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors. The main drivers of this growth are an aging population and the increasing popularity of preplanned funeral rites among the middle-aged.

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Helpful Resources

Read through the following resources to learn more about the role of funeral director and what you can do to pursue this career path:

National Funeral Directors Association

established 120 years ago, NFDA has now evolved into the largest organization that caters to funeral professionals. It offers business management tools, programs, courses, and networking events meant to help funeral directors keep up with industry developments

The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care

described by a reviewer as the one book that should be read about funerals, this collaboration between a preacher and a funeral director gets to the essence of what it means to be a funeral professional. It provides thoughtful commentary on challenging topics such as commercialization and the increase in cremation

International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association

join this thriving international community of more than 9,000 member businesses and gain access to informative articles, cremation training, conventions and conferences, free phone consultations, and other educational benefits

Confessions of a Funeral Director: How the Business of Death Changed My Life

written by Caleb Wilde, a sixthgeneration funeral director who also blogs about his experiences, this book describes how his work shifted his perspective on death and allowed him to make a difference in other people's lives

"Career Spotlight: What I Do as a Funeral Director"

this article features a candid interview with a funeral director about his daily life and the rewards and challenges of his profession. He also provides insider advice and dispels common myths about the industry

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