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M is for Mortician

by Mark Schultz
September 2016

There is more to a mortician's job than simply making the funeral arrangements. These include other tasks such as arranging for clergy members to perform needed services, organizing pallbearers and informing them of their duties, providing information on funeral service options and products, and conducting the series of events to prepare the deceased for their funeral. They also perform a host of other duties such as offering counsel and comfort to bereaved family and friends and participating in community activities for funeral home promotion. While this may not seem like a pleasant job to many, it is an essential occupation to help the bereaved celebrate the life of their deceased loved one (see Table 1).

Table 1: Other Tasks of a Mortician
  • Obtain information needed to complete legal documents, such as death certificates or burial permits
  • Oversee the preparation and care of the remains of people who have died
  • Consult with families or friends of the deceased to arrange funeral details, such as obituary notice wording, casket selection, or plans for services
  • Plan, schedule, or coordinate funerals, burials, or cremations, arranging details such as floral delivery or the time and place of services
  • Perform embalming duties as necessary
  • Contact cemeteries to schedule the opening and closing of graves
  • Maintain a casket display area
  • Close caskets and lead funeral corteges to churches or burial sites
  • Inform survivors of benefits for which they may be eligible
  • Discuss and negotiate prearranged funerals with clients
  • Maintain financial records, order merchandise, or prepare accounts
  • Provide or arrange transportation between sites for the remains, mourners, pallbearers, clergy, or flowers
  • Plan placement of caskets at funeral sites or place or adjust lights, fixtures, or floral displays
  • Direct preparations and shipment of bodies for out-of-state burial
  • Manage funeral home operations, including the hiring, training, or supervision of embalmers, funeral attendants, or other staff
  • Clean funeral home facilities and grounds
  • Receive or usher people to their seats for services
Source: 0*Net OnLine (

In Minnesota there is only one public educational institution that offers a bachelor's degree in Mortuary Science – the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. During the fall semester of each year the program admits between 30 and 36 new students, and for those who already have a bachelor's degree there are two "accelerated track" plans available. From the 2014 program information and national board exam statistics, as seen in Table 2, it seems that this program has a pretty solid outcome for their graduates.

Table 2: Mortuary Science Program Information and National Board Exam Statistics
2014 Program Information
Number of New Students Number of Graduates Timely Graduation* Percent Employed Left Before Completion
37 30 91% 83% 1
* Timely graduation = complete program in 1½ time designated program length
National Board Exam Statistics
Year and Degree Type Number of Takers Number Passed Percent
2012 Arts 33 30 91%
2012 Science 30 27 90%
2013 Arts 38 35 92%
2013 Science 40 39 98%
2014 Arts 27 21 78%
2014 Science 26 23 88%
Source: American Board of Funeral Service Education

In Minnesota there are approximately 460 morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors in 487 funeral homes in 346 cities. There are an additional 540 funeral attendants in the state. With a median wage of $29.04 per hour, morticians make almost 54 percent more than the median wages across all occupations ($18.88) while funeral attendants, with a median wage of $13.08, make about 37 percent less (see Table 3).

Table 3: Employment and Wages for Mortuary Science in Minnesota
Occupation Employment Wage Percentiles
10th 25th Median 75th 90th
Total, All Occupations 2,772,240 $9.38 $12.40 $18.88 $29.60 $44.78
Morticians, Undertakers, and Funeral Directors 460 $17.09 $23.54 $29.04 $35.45 $41.31
Funeral Attendants 540 $9.85 $11.00 $13.08 $15.82 $18.30
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

There is quite a bit of variation in the employment and wages for morticians depending on the area of the state. Not surprisingly the highest employment is in the Seven County Metro area. The highest median wages, however, are in the Southeast regions at $38.23, which is just shy of $10 higher than the median wage in the metro (see Table 4).

Table 4: Regional Employment and Wages
Region Employment Median Wage Total Openings
Minnesota 460 $29.04 110
Seven County Metro 220 $25.56 30
Southeast 20 $38.23 N/A
Southwest N/A N/A N/A
Central 30 $33.94 10
Northeast N/A N/A 10
Northwest 10 $22.83 10
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

While morticians may not make up a large percentage of the jobs in Minnesota, they are, nonetheless, an important presence in the labor market and provide needed services for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

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