Jobs Worse Than HR: Funeral Directors?

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I could never be a funeral director.

Being the human resources geek that I am, I visited the BLS website in the aftermath of my great aunt’s death. I wanted to learn a little more about the funeral services industry. It turns out that being a funeral director is a hot job. (You Baby Boomers out there — the ones who don’t trust anyone over 40 — are singlehandedly responsible for expanding the market. Way to go!)

I learned that the job of a funeral director is quite scientific and technical. Funeral directors are licensed; there are serious compliance issues related to federal & local regulations; and most employees in the field have four-year degrees. Furthermore, the job of a funeral director is quite complicated and requires a working knowledge of laws, ethics, and various religious traditions. There’s also a psychological component built into the job and the successful candidate must be able to guide a grieving family through a series of very important financial & emotional decisions.

Oy.

The National Funeral Directors Association has a fascinating website, too, with interesting resources and statistics. (Did you know that a cremation chamber reaches between 1400 degrees to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit? Neither did I.)

Here are some significant points about the job from the BLS website:

  • Job opportunities should be good, particularly for those who also embalm.
  • Funeral directors are licensed by the State in which they practice.
  • Funeral directors need the ability to communicate easily and compassionately and to comfort people in a time of sorrow.

You can also visit the NFDA website and learn more about being a funeral director. What surprises me most is that only 20% of the people who work in the funeral services industry are self-employed. (I thought that number would be higher but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a corporatist movement in the field.)

Also, I was surprised to learn that the median annual earnings for wage and salary funeral directors were $49,620 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $37,200 and $65,260. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,410 and the top 10 percent earned more than $91,800.

Only $91,800? Really, I thought they’d earn more — especially because they are asked to work with both dead people and the grieving, emotional relatives. I don’t know anyone in the field of funeral services, so I can’t ask if there are other perks with the job beyond the emotional satisfaction of assisting people during a crisis.

I am attending my great aunt’s funeral services on Monday & Tuesday. I won’t be live-blogging the endeavor (although I might be on Twitter); however, I will attempt to seek out the owners of the funeral home and ask them if they want to talk about their jobs. I’m curious, yo. I will report back to you in the evening and provide any additional facts/stories from the funeral home proprietors. I might also have some family tidbits to share, too.

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