Being a Mortician

The word mortician brings what images to mind? The career of a
mortician is surprisingly different than it is portraied in movies and books.
Being a mortician is a very rewarding job both personal as well as psychological
to those with the temperament, training and discipline required to do the job
properly. In this paper I\'ll be reporting the requirements to become a
mortician, also called funeral director or undertaker, the duties the job
requires of you, and the outlook of this career in the future of the United
To become a funeral director in the United States today isn\'t an easy
task. You need to be twenty-one, a high school graduate with some undergraduate
college work, as well as at least one year of professional training in mortuary
science, and completion of an apprenticeship. "Upon completing a state board
licensing exam, new funeral directors are qualified to join the staff of a
funeral home. In many states successful completion of a national examination
given by the National Conference of Examining boards will qualify you for
licensure"(IRN 10). In different states the undergraduate college credit varies
considerably, one-third of the states require one year; another third wants
two years; and the other third requires three years of credit(IRN 9). A
concentration of courses is also required in some of the states. You may need
to take 15 credits in natural science, 13 in social sciences, 13 in business, 14
in chemistry(IRN 10). In addition to your college work, you will need at least
50 credit hours of professional work in mortuary science. "There are about 40
schools of mortuary science officially recognized by the U.S. Department of
Education today"(Shipley 220). The curriculum generally consists of courses in:

"Embalming, Restorative Art, Chemistry, Microbiology, Pathology, Anatomy, Small
Business Management, Funeral Home management, Merchandising, Accounting, Funeral
Home Law, Computers, History and sociology of Funeral Service, Psychology of
Grief, Grief Counseling, oral and Written Communication, Funeral Service Law,
Business Law, and Ethics"(IRN 11).

Along with educational requirements you need to look at the personal
requirements it takes to be a funeral director. You have to be on call 24-hours
a day 7 days a week, death doesn\'t know any holidays. The people\'s needs come
before any of yours in this career. You\'ll need to work with others in a very
fragile condition, you\'ll have to be very patient with them. A lot of the time
the mourners will vent their pent up anger on the funeral director and will
blame you for their problems. Some of time you\'ll need to deal with religions
new to you and that seem strange, but you\'ll have to be understanding and
willing to let the mourners carry out their forms of burial and mourning. In
other words, can you handle a career that requires constant sensitivity to needs
and wants of other people?
One of the duties of a mortician is to embalm the corpse for show. "If
the body is not to be buried within twenty-four hours, most communities require
that it be embalmed"(IRN 6). After the body is brought to the funeral home, you
would see first of all that the body and hair are cleaned and washed for
embalming. A small incision is made at the base of the neck or in the groin to
secure access to a major artery or vein. "The object in embalming is to pump
our the body fluids, or blood, and to replace it with special long lasting
chemicals which will keep the body from decaying for a long period of time and
which will prevent it from further disease or decay, if death has been caused by
a specific infectious disease."(Lamers 420). Tubes are then inserted in the
artery or vein. The tube in this artery is connected to a mechanical pump that
injects a preservative and disinfectant solution into the blood system.(Lamers
426). The chemicals eventually push all the blood out of the system and take
its place in the circulatory system. "The final step is the completion of yet
another procedure to remove gases and liquids from the trunk organs and this
introduces yet another disinfectant chemical into the area"(IRN 7). If the body
is disfigured in any way you may be required to do some restorative procedures
on the body, using materials such as clay, cotton, plaster of Paris and wax
(Lamers 535). You would be required to fill in any open wounds left on the body
by law, but would use a picture of the deceased and try to make them appear as
life-like as possible for the showing (Shipley 201). "Most important, however,