Funeral director

A funeral director, also known as an undertaker (British English) or mortician (American English), is a professional involved in the business of funeral rites. These tasks often entail the embalming and burial or cremation of the dead, as well as the arrangements for the funeral ceremony (although not the directing and conducting of the funeral itself unless clergy are not present). Funeral directors may at times be asked to perform tasks such as dressing (in garments usually suitable for daily wear), casketing (placing the human body in the coffin), and cossetting (applying any sort of cosmetic or substance to the best viewable areas of the corpse for the purpose of enhancing its appearance). A funeral director may work at a funeral home or be an independent employee.

McLaren cortege
Funeral directors driving a hearse in a funeral procession
Urn shop
Showcase of an urn shop in Nice, France
Mortician's resorative tools
Mortician's restorative tools, Museum of Funeral Customs, Springfield, Illinois


The term mortician is derived from the Latin word mort- (“death”) + -ician. In 1895, the trade magazine The Embalmers' Monthly put out a call for a new name for the profession to distance itself from the title undertaker, a term that was then perceived to have been tarnished by its association with death. The term Mortician was the winning entry.[1][2]


As the societal need to account for the dead and their survivors is as ancient as civilization itself, death care is among the world's oldest professions. Ancient Egypt is a probable pioneer in supporting full-time morticians; intentional mummification began c. 2600 BC, with the best-preserved mummies dating to c. 1570 to 1075 BC. Specialized priests spent 70 full days on a single corpse. Only royalty, nobility and wealthy commoners could afford the service, considered an essential part of accessing eternal life.[3]

Across successive cultures, religion remained a prime motive for securing a body against decay and/or arranging burial in a planned manner; some considered the fate of departed souls to be fixed and unchangeable (e.g., ancient Mesopotamia) and considered care for a grave to be more important than the actual burial.[4]

In Ancient Rome, wealthy individuals trusted family to care for their corpse, but funeral rites would feature professional mourners: most often actresses who would announce the presence of the funeral procession by wailing loudly. Other paid actors would don the masks of ancestors and recreate their personalities, dramatizing the exploits of their departed scion. These purely ceremonial undertakers of the day nonetheless had great religious and societal impact; a larger number of actors indicated greater power and wealth for the deceased and their family.[5]

Modern ideas about proper preservation of the dead for the benefit of the living arose in the European Age of Enlightenment. Dutch scientist Frederik Ruysch's work attracted the attention of royalty and legitimized postmortem anatomy.[6] Most importantly, Ruysch developed injected substances and waxes that could penetrate the smallest vessels of the body and seal them against decay.[5]

Historically, from Ancient Egypt to Greece and Rome to the early United States, women typically did all of the preparation of dead bodies.[7] They were called "Layers out of the dead". Mid nineteenth century, gender roles within funeral service in the United States began to change. They were referred to as “layers out of the dead”. Late nineteenth century it became a male dominated industry with the development of Funeral Directors, which changed the funeral industry both locally and nationally.[8]

Role in the United States

As recently as 2003 15% of corporately owned funeral homes are owned by one of three corporations.[9] The majority of morticians work in small, independent family run funeral homes. The owner usually hires two or three other morticians to help them. Often, this hired help is in the family, perpetuating the family's ownership. Other firms that were family-owned have been acquired and are operated by large corporations such as Service Corporation International, though such homes usually trade under their pre-acquisition names.[9]

Most funeral homes have one or more viewing rooms, a preparation room for embalming, a chapel, and a casket selection room. They usually have a hearse for transportation of bodies, a flower car, and limousines. They also normally sell caskets and urns.[10]

Organizations and licensing in the United States

Licensing requirements in the US are determined at the state level. [1]. Most require a combination of post-secondary education (typically an associate's degree), passage of a National Board Examination,[11] passage of a state board examination, and one to two years' work as an apprentice.[12]

Role in the UK

The role that a funeral director will play in the UK includes most of the administrative duties and arrangement of funeral service, including flower arrangements, meeting with family members, overseeing the funeral and burial service. This does not include embalming or cremation of the body until further training is completed.[13]

Organizations and licensing in the UK

In the UK, as with most trades, no formal licence is required to become an undertaker (funeral director). There are national organisations such as the British Institute of Funeral Directors (BIFD), the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral directors (SAIF) The BIFD offers a license to funeral directors who have obtained a diploma level qualification - these diplomas are offered by both the BIFD and NAFD.

All of the national organisations offer voluntary membership of "best practice" standards schemes, which includes regular premises inspection and adherence to a specific 'code of conduct' These organisations help funeral directors demonstrate that they are committed to continual personal development and they have no issue with regulation should it become a legal requirement [13].

[14] [15] [16]

Role in Canada

The role of a funeral director in Canada can include embalming, sales, oversight of funeral services as well as other aspects of needed funeral services.[17] Family owned funeral homes are common.[18]

Organizations and licensing in Canada

A funeral director in Canada will assume many responsibilities after proper education and licensing. Courses will include science and biology, ethics, and practical techniques of embalming.[17] There are a number of organizations available to Canadian Funeral Directors.[2][3]

Employment opportunities

Mortuary science graduates may have to relocate to find jobs.[10]


  1. ^ "How Morticians Reinvented Their Job Title". Mental Floss.
  2. ^ "Home : Oxford English Dictionary".
  3. ^ "Encyclopedia Smithsonian: Egyptian Mummies".
  4. ^ "Death in Ancient Civilisations". HISTORY. Archived from the original on 2015-10-04.
  5. ^ a b Steven Fife. "The Roman Funeral". Ancient History Encyclopedia.
  6. ^ "Frederik Ruysch: The Artist of Death". The Public Domain Review.
  7. ^ Quigley, Christine (1996-01-01). The Corpse: A History. McFarland. ISBN 9780786401703.
  8. ^ "Funerals and Burial Practices | Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia". Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  9. ^ a b Turner, Chelsea. "Corporate Growth in Funeral Home Industry". Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  10. ^ a b "Funeral Directors." Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition. 4 Aug, 2006. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. 8 Dec, 2008. <>
  11. ^, Students' NBE
  12. ^ American Board of Funeral Service Education, Frequently Asked Questions
  13. ^ "The British Institute of Funeral Directors". Retrieved 2018-08-02.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b "Funeral Services |". Retrieved 2018-08-03.
  18. ^ "Home". OFSA. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
Co-op Funeralcare

Co-op Funeralcare is the trading name of Funeral Services Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Co-operative Group, based in Manchester. It operates over 1,000 funeral homes and is the largest funeral director in the United Kingdom, accounting for 16.5% of the "at need" funeral market during 2016. Co-op Funeralcare is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors and is also Funeral Planning Authority registered.In addition to its funeral home operations, the business also operates repatriation services; crematoria and cemeteries; woodland burial grounds; a memorial masonry manufacturing facility and a coffin factory and workshop. Customers can earn a share of the profits in proportion to patronage through The Co-op Membership scheme.

Earle S. Banks

Earle S. Banks (born June 25, 1954) is a Mississippi lawyer, funeral director, insurance agent, and (since 1993) has been a Democratic member of the Mississippi House of Representatives.


Embalming is the art and science of preserving human or animal remains by treating them (in its modern form with chemicals) to forestall decomposition. The intention is usually to make the deceased suitable for public or private viewing as part of the funeral ceremony, or keep them preserved for medical purposes in an anatomical laboratory. The three goals of embalming are sanitization, presentation, and preservation, with restoration being an important additional factor in some instances. Performed successfully, embalming can help preserve the body for a duration of many years. Embalming has a very long and cross-cultural history, with many cultures giving the embalming processes a greater religious meaning.

Embalming is distinct from taxidermy. Embalming preserves the human body intact, whereas taxidermy is the recreation of an animal's form often using only the creature's skin mounted on an anatomical form.

Frederick D. Gardner

Frederick "Fred" Dozier Gardner (November 6, 1869 – December 18, 1933), an American businessman and politician from St. Louis, Missouri, served as the 34th Governor of Missouri from 1917 to 1921.


Grey-collar refers to the balance of employed people not classified as white- or blue collar. It is used to refer to occupations that incorporate some of the elements of both blue- and white-collar, and generally are in between the two categories in terms of income-earning capability.

Grey-collar workers often have licenses, associate degrees or diplomas from a trade or technical school in a particular field. They are unlike blue-collar workers in that blue-collar workers can often be trained on the job within several weeks whereas grey-collar workers already have a specific skill set and require more specialized knowledge than their blue-collar counterparts.

The field which most recognizes the diversity between these two groups is that of human resources and the insurance industry. These different groups must be insured differently for liability as the potential for injury is different.

Examples of grey-collar industries:

Airline pilots


Emergency medical services personnel

Farmer or agribusiness

Flight attendants


Funeral Director



Police officers


School Administrators

Skilled tradespeople and technicians




Harry Readshaw

Harry A. Readshaw III (born August 7, 1941) is a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 36th District and was elected in 1994. He and his wife live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and have three children. He graduated from Carrick High School in 1959 and attended Duquesne University from 1959 to 1962. He graduated from the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in 1962. Prior to elective office, he served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and in the Carrick Community Council. He has been a funeral director since 1970.

Jimmy Lord

Jimmy B. Lord (born March 24, 1936) was an American politician in the state of Georgia.

Lord is an alumnus of the John A. Gupton College, a mortuary science school in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a funeral director (self employed) and businessman. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1977 to 2008. He married Fronie McCoy and has two children.

John Richard C. King

John Richard Christopher King (born June 25, 1976) is an American politician. He is a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from the 49th District, serving since 2009. He is a member of the Democratic party. King previously served as a Chester city councilman from 1999- 2000 and county councilman from 2000 to 2006. King is also a funeral director at Christopher King's Funeral Home in Chester, South Carolina, Professor at Clinton College in Rock Hill, SC.

Joseph A. Kozlak Sr.

Joseph A. Kozlak, Sr. (July 8, 1896–August 14, 1966) was an American lawyer, funeral director, and politician.

Kozlak was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He went to Saint Thomas Academy and University of Minnesota. He went to law school and was admitted to the Minnesota bar. Kozlak was a funeral director. Kozlak served in the United States Army. He served in the Minnesota Senate from 1935 to 1938 and was a Democrat. Kozlak also served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1921 to 1922, 1925 to 1934, and from 1941 to 1942. His son John S. Kozlak also served in the Minnesota Legislature.

Mortuary science

Mortuary science is the study of deceased bodies through mortuary work. In other words, mortuary science can be defined as the professional study of a dead body through mortuary work. The term is most often applied to a college curriculum in the United States that prepares a student for a career as a mortician or funeral director. Many also study embalming to supplement their mortuary science studies. Some states require funeral directors to be embalmers as well. Students applying for mortuary science should have a plan about it and must develop passion for the study before applying for the course at the college level. This would make students to study hard and become knowledgeable on the subject matter.

Ralph Day

Ralph Carrette Day (November 21, 1898 – May 21, 1976) was mayor of Toronto, Ontario from 1938 to 1940. He was also an accomplished funeral director, owning his own funeral home. He also served as chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission in the 1960s and 1970s. He was also a member of the Orange Order in Canada.

In 1916, at the age of 17, Day joined the Canadian army to fight in World War I. He would fight and survive action at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Day entered municipal politics in the 1930s, first as an alderman and then as a Controller before being elected mayor in 1938 and served until 1940.

Italian-Canadian men were interned by the federal government shortly after Italy declared war on Canada during World War II; Day announced on June 11, 1940 that their families, despite now lacking a breadwinner, would be denied welfare stating "This country is at war with Italy and Italians cannot very well expect us to spend money for war purposes for the purpose of maintaining alien enemies."In 1963 Day became chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission a position he would hold until 1972.

The Ralph Day Funeral Home still operates but has since merged with another Day family acquisition "Heritage Funeral Centre, "Ralph Day Chapel" in Toronto on Overlea Boulevard.

Reginald Hayward (politician)

Reginald Hayward (May 2, 1880 – November 15, 1961) was a funeral director and political figure in British Columbia. He represented Victoria City in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 1924 to 1933 as a Conservative. Hayward was Mayor of Victoria from 1922 to 1924.

He was born in Victoria, the son of Charles Hayward. In 1908, he took over the operation of the B.C. Funeral Company, a business established by his father. Hayward was a school trustee and city alderman before becoming mayor. He married Isabella Morrison Jaffrey. Hayward was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the assembly in 1916. He was defeated when he ran for reelection in 1933. He died in 1961 in Victoria.

Roger Sloman

Roger Sloman (born 19 May 1946) is an English actor. He grew up and was educated in South East London. He trained to be a teacher and then went to East 15 acting school between 1967 and 1970.

He started work at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, followed by spells in theatre in Nottingham, Birmingham and Sheffield. He toured England and Scotland with the 7:84 theatre company and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

On television, Sloman is best known as Keith in Mike Leigh's Nuts in May, as well as Baldy Davitt in Ripping Yarns, Three-Fingered Pete in The Black Adder and Right Bleedin' Bastard in The Young Ones. He was also known as Rocky Wesson in the return series of the ITV series Crossroads, and as the funeral director Les Coker in the BBC Series Eastenders. He played the abrasive games teacher Mr Dan 'Frosty' Foster in the first series of Grange Hill (1978) and he appeared in one edition of Bad Boyes (1987).

His film appearances include Lenin in Reds, by Warren Beatty.

Sloman has worked many times at The National Theatre in London playing, amongst others, Bardolph in Henry IV. Also appeared as Magwitch in Great Expectations at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

He has three children.

Southwark News

Southwark News is a weekly local newspaper based in Southwark, south London, England. It is the only independent, paid-for newspaper in London.

The newspaper is owned and run by Southwark Newspaper Limited, based in Bermondsey. Southwark News started life as the Bermondsey News in 1987, as an A-4 photocopied sheet of paper and rapidly grew to cover the entire borough and the surrounding area. The paper was founded by Dave Clark, who died at the age of 53, and was funded for a time by a local funeral director, Barry Albin-Dyer.The group also publish the Weekender series, covering Southwark, Lambeth and Greenwich, as well as the Millwall website News At Den.

Stuart Kirby

Stuart Kirby (born May 9, 1981) is a race car driver. He has driven in ARCA, the Busch Series, and the NEXTEL Cup Series. A former apprentice funeral director for his family's funeral home, he drove the No. 51 Chevrolet owned by Competitive Edge Motorsports in 2005, but was released before the season could be concluded. He currently owns a Bruster's Ice Cream franchise in Bowling Green, KY and is still pursuing a career in racing.

That's Your Funeral

That's Your Funeral was a BBC sitcom from 1971 about a North of England funeral director called Basil Bulstrode (Bill Fraser). Storylines used many urban legends about the funeral industry. It was cancelled after one series.

A very similar theme was used far more successfully in the ITV sitcom In Loving Memory.

Thee Undatakerz

Thee Undatakerz were an American hip hop group composed of Reverand Tom (Kool Keith), Al Bury-U (BIG NONAME), M-Balmer and The Funeral Director. They were signed to Activate Entertainment.

The group was formed by Kool Keith in 2003 with members Al Bury-U (a.k.a. BIGNONAME), M-Balmer and The Funeral Director as well as Kool Keith himself, who adopted the persona of Reverand Tom. The group released their debut album, Kool Keith Presents Thee Undatakerz on May 11, 2004. The album was not a huge commercial success but did feature the semi-successful single, "Party in tha Morgue", which would later appear on the soundtrack for Blade: Trinity. Kool Keith Presents Thee Undatakerz has thus far been the only album released by the group. It is unknown whether the group will return.

Thomas Jeneary

Thomas Michael Jeneary (born March 31, 1952) is an American politician in the state of Iowa. He was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 2018.He was born in Des Moines, Iowa and is a retired dentist and funeral director. He is the Vice Chair of the Iowa Board of Dental Examiners.

In medicine
After death

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