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A Career As A Funeral Director

Tis' the season for our young to think of the future. Graduation is upon us and many

Gail Valentine Taylor

will hear the speeches that encourage our youth to "believe, achieve and succeed." They are provided an opportunity to learn about a variety of careers to consider. A career as a Funeral Director is one of the careers in Funeral Service that is worth exploring.

Every society develops a means to memorialize and bury their dead. In America we have funeral services with viewing of the deceased, memorial services without the viewing, graveside services, and our dead are buried or cremated. There are lots of decisions that have to be made by the family at the time of death. The funeral director is a licensed and educated person, trained in counseling, educating, and in guiding families through the process of arranging a funeral. The funeral director as the title indicates, also directs or facilitates the funeral ceremony. To be the manager of a Funeral Home/Mortuary you must be a licensed funeral director. (There are also assistant funeral directors/ funeral service facilitators, that "assist" licensed funeral directors.)

In most funeral homes, a licensed funeral director wears many hats: counselor, coordinator, director, consultant, caregiver, driver, and others. (In a large firm the funeral director may just perform one or two of the above.) As a counselor you inform families of their options and guide them in making decisions: when and where to have the service, what type of casket or urn, how many limousines, who will officiate, sing, give remarks, how many death certificates, escorts, programs are needed, what about an obituary in the newspaper, what is interment preference, burial or cremation?, etc... Once decisions are made, the funeral director coordinates the delivery and ordering of the desired services and merchandise. The funeral director also educates the family re: the laws that apply to their particular situation, and facilitate the gathering of needed information and signing of necessary documents.

The funeral director acts as a consultant/coordinator and community resource person. On behalf of the family the funeral director consults with ministers, church staff, doctors, musicians, Veterans Administration representatives, grief counseling professionals, casket company representatives, cemetery and crematory representatives, attorneys, insurance companies, flower shops, printers, etc...in order to facilitate the services. The funeral director has a wealth of knowledge re: community resources, and often make referrals.

The funeral director is also a caregiver. Families need encouragement as well as caring, patient and compassionate service, and sometimes even a hug.

The funeral director often serves as a driver and transports decedents from the hospital or home into the care of the mortuary, to the cemetery, to and from the airport when shipment is involved, etc...

In addition, as the title implies, a funeral director is educated and trained to "direct" a funeral. This includes setting up for the service, transporting the deceased by hearse, transporting the family, making sure everyone on program is in place, seating the family, facilitating the viewing, and much more.

In order to become a funeral director in California, you must be at least 18 years old, have at least an Associate of Arts degree and pass a state exam on laws, procedures, etc...

As well as characteristics go, a funeral director needs to be caring, compassionate, patient with people and sensitive to their needs, as well as a good listener. Maturity is a must, as well as timeliness, sincerity, good communication skills, and professionalism.

Being a funeral director has many benefits. You get to be of service, and get to know your community. You are appreciated and respected by many, and blessed to be able to you make a difference in people's lives. Also, you can make a decent living, as starting salaries can range from $35,000.00- $45.000.00, depending on the scope of the job, size of the firm, related professional experience, etc... The manager of a funeral home would potentially make considerably more.

While considering career options, it is worth your while to explore occupations in funeral service. In addition to being a funeral director, there is the job title of embalmer.

The next Funeralwise article will explore that profession.

[Gail Valentine Taylor, M.S.W. Funeral Director and Co-Owner of Woods-Valentine Mortuary (626) 798-8941 Email: gailt@woodsvalentinemortuary.]


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