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. [1]


Funeral directing occurred in ancient times. Most famous are the Egyptians who embalmed their dead. In the United States, funeral directing was not generally in high esteem before the 20th century, especially in comparison to physicians,[2] but because many funeral directors study embalming as part of mortuary science programs, they can be classified as a part of the medical field.[3]

Funeral directors gained higher status that peaked in the 1950s but which later declined in the 1960s and 1970s. Many reputations were eroded as a result of high-profile exposés on a few rare cases of unethical sales practices and police investigations that followed criminally negligent behavior of some morticians.[2] However, funeral homes remain a necessity in society, though employment growth until 2014 is expected to increase at a slower rate compared to other occupations.[4][5]


Degree requirements differ by school and by state. Those wishing to become funeral directors have other requirements that usually include two years of college coursework (including studies in mortuary science), one year of experience as an apprentice, and a qualifying examination.[4]

College degrees in mortuary science can usually be earned in two to four years.[4] Some community and junior colleges offer two-year programs while universities can offer both two- or four-year programs.[4] The curriculum typically includes courses in anatomy, physiology, pathology, embalming techniques, restorative art, and business management.[4] Suggested coursework or extracurricular activities include those that enhance skills in public speaking and interpersonal communication, as funeral directors should be personable and skilled communicators in their work with grief-stricken clients.[4]

More than thirty states have schools that offer mortuary science programs. For example, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, and Texas all have four schools.[6]

Student reactions

Students of mortuary science often report feeling the pressure of odd questions and looks from other college students.[7] They are frequently shunned by other students and often find that they associate only with other mortuary science students.[8]

Regarding personal reactions, mortuary science students indicate a certain level of desensitization, as human bodies they work with become an impersonal “interconnected system of arteries and veins.”[8] While students often explain that their first experiences are the most difficult, they do become accustomed to the work, though the various odors are considered the worst element of the job.[9]


Mortuary science students are also subject to disease. As morticians sometimes work with infectious cadavers, an element of risk is inherent, though considered remote if recommended precautions are followed.[4] They are also subject to formaldehyde exposure during embalming procedures,[10] but that is avoided with strict health regulations. Mortuary schools, like the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science has tried to and has successfully implemented the use to lower exposure and true formaldehyde fluids, produced by the Champion Company to try to greatly reduce the risk of HCHO exposure to the mortuary science students.

Emotional stress can take a psychological toll on mortuary science students. Students report the strongest reactions when working with the bodies of children.[11] The emotional and mental strains account for a high drop-out rate among mortuary science students.[9]

Funeral homes

Studies in mortuary science include business management classes, as many graduates later open their own funeral homes as small businesses. Twenty percent of funeral business are made up of individual businesses owned by morticians.[4] Because of the need for funeral homes in most cities in every state, many establishments thrive and competition grows.[12]

Establishing a funeral home is not difficult in some states for degreed individuals. In some cities, a mortician's license may include a registration fee, formal notification to the state, and/or a building inspection.[13]


Funeral home facilities usually include:

  • Wake room: for services and visitations.
  • Preparation room: for embalming and restoration.
  • Merchandise display: caskets and other merchandise that customers may purchase.
  • Privacy room: for the family.
  • Office: for mortician's personal and administrative use.
  • Livery: a garage to keep funeral coaches and other vehicles.[12]

Funeral homes usually have staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Cahill p. 109–111
  2. ^ a b Torres p. 382
  3. ^ Torres p. 383
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bureau
  5. ^ Habenstein, Robert W. and William M. Lamers
  6. ^ "Directory of Accredited Mortuary Schools in the United States"
  7. ^ Cahill p. 105
  8. ^ a b Cahill p. 106
  9. ^ a b Cahill p. 108
  10. ^ Suruda et al.
  11. ^ Cahill p. 109
  12. ^ a b Torres p. 384
  13. ^ Torres p. 388, as quoting Roger D. Blackwell
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006–07 Edition, Funeral Directors, on the Internet at (visited November 21, 2007).
  • Cahill, Spencer E. “Emotional Capital and Professional Socialization: The Case of Mortuary Science.” Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 2, Special Issue: Qualitative Contributions to Social Psychology. (Jun., 1999), pp. 101–116.
  • "Directory of Mortuary Schools in the United States" (visited May 1, 2015). Copyright 2015.
  • Habenstein, Robert W. and William M. Lamers. The History of American Funeral Directing. Bulfin Printers; Milwaukee, WI, 1962.
  • Suruda, Anthony et al. “Cytogenic Effects of Formaldehyde Exposure in Students of Mortuary Science.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention, Vol. 2 (September/October, 1993), pp. 453–460.
  • Torres, David L. “Professionalism, Variation, and Organizational Survival.” American Sociological Review, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jun., 1988), pp. 380–394.
Adolph Wolter

Adolph Gustav Wolter van R Wolter (September 7, 1903–October 15, 1980) was German-born American sculptor, educator, and carver. Wolter was born in Reutlingen, Germany. His father was a stone carver and Wolter apprenticed with him before enrolling in the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. In 1922 he immigrated to the United States and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1933 Wolter arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana, to carve the reliefs (created by Leon Hermant) on the Indiana State Library; he stayed in Indiana for the remainder of his life.

Wolter graduated from the Herron School of Art and later taught there. He also taught at the Indiana College of Mortuary Science as a professor of "restorative art, " "apparently using his understanding of anatomy to help morticians repair the faces of those who had been in accidents." The use of sculptors to aid in the facial reconstruction of war veterans had already been pioneered by sculptor and medical doctor R. Tait McKenzie, author of Reclaiming the Maimed.Wolter is remembered for creating both public monuments and architectural sculpture.

Wolter was married to the late Evelyn Crostreet of Indianapolis. Step-grandchildren include Brian Grossman, who resides in Washington D.C., Anne (Grossman) Tillie and Keith Grossman, who reside in Indiana, and Elizabeth Wolter, who resides in Connecticut.

Arthur Mayo (politician)

Arthur Farley Mayo III (May 10, 1936 – November 3, 2015) was an American businessman and politician from Maine.

Bob Allen (Pennsylvania politician)

Robert Allen (born October 14, 1945) is a former Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He represented the 125th legislative district from 1989 through 2006.Allen attended Pottsville High School and earned a degree in business administration from Lycoming College in 1968. He graduated from the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in 1969.He was defeated by Gary L. Hornberger in the 2006 Republican primary because of his support for the controversial 2005 legislative pay raise. Hornberger went on to lose the general election to Tim Seip.

Carla Harvey

Carla Harvey is an American musician from Detroit, best known as a vocalist of the American heavy metal band Butcher Babies. Harvey is also an author, artist and actress. She landed her first job in Hollywood as an Entertainment Reporter for the Playboy Channel, and appeared on many popular network TV shows like Rules of Engagement. Harvey took a break from the entertainment world to earn a degree in Mortuary Science from California's Cypress College, and worked as an embalmer and funeral director before forming the Butcher Babies and pursuing her lifelong dream of being a touring musician.

Harvey is passionate about writing. She was named a "comic book mastermind" by Hustler. Her first published comic book Butcher Babies was released with great success at San Diego Comic-Con 2011. Her first full-length novel, Death and Other Dances, was released in 2014, and a new comic series entitled Soul Sucka was released in 2015.

Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science

Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science (CCMS) is a primarily two-year, non-profit, private mortuary science college, located adjacent to St. Xavier High School just outside Cincinnati in Finneytown, Ohio, USA. CCMS is the oldest school of its kind in the United States, tracing its history back to the Clarke School, which organized its first class on March 8, 1882. The school was later called the Cincinnati College of Embalming, arriving at the present name in 1966. CCMS offers Associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees in mortuary science.

Clarence Lightner

Clarence Everett Lightner (August 15, 1921 – July 8, 2002) was an American politician and mortician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as Mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina from 1973 to 1975. He was the first popularly elected Mayor of Raleigh since 1947, and the first African American elected mayor of a mostly-white, major Southern city in the United States.

Lightner was born in 1921 in Raleigh. He attended North Carolina Central College, where he played as a quarterback on the school football team. After graduating, he enlisted in the United States Army and served on a tour of duty during World War II. He subsequently enrolled in the Echols College of Mortuary Science, and in 1959 he assumed control of his father's funeral home. He was elected to the Raleigh City Council in 1967. During his tenure he chaired a committee tasked with studying mass transit and for one term acted as Mayor pro tempore. In 1973 he launched his candidacy for the office of Mayor. Backed by a coalition of blacks—who comprised less than 16% of all registered voters—and white suburban residents who were growing increasingly concerned about urban sprawl, Lightner won the November election, surprising observers and garnering national media attention. During his tenure the city council bolstered floodplain construction regulations, rejected large road construction projects, and instituted a mass transit system.

Though Lighter's service was largely uncontroversial, members of his family were mired by legal troubles. His reputation suffered as a result, and he placed last in the mayoral primary election in 1975. In 1977 he was appointed to fill the vacant North Carolina State Senate seat for the 14th district, serving through 1978. He chaired the Southeast Raleigh Improvement Commission from 1993 to 2001. Lightner died in 2002.

Edgecliff College

Edgecliff College was a private Catholic women's college located in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was founded in 1935 and merged with Xavier University, also of Cincinnati, in 1980.

Finneytown, Ohio

Finneytown is a census-designated place (CDP) in Springfield Township, Hamilton County, in southwest Ohio, United States, just north of Cincinnati. The population was 12,741 at the 2010 census (down from 13,492 in 2000). Finneytown is home to the largest private school in Ohio (St. Xavier High School) and the Cincinnati area's annual Greek Festival (at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church).

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.

Gary Finch

Gary D. Finch (born March 13, 1944) is a Republican member of the New York State Assembly representing the 126th Assembly District, which includes portions of Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, and Onondaga counties.Finch was born in Auburn, New York and attended Cayuga Community College. He received a degree from the Simmons School of Mortuary Science in 1966. He also earned a B.S. degree in public administration and political theory from Empire State College (State University of New York) in 1989.Since 1970, Finch has owned and operated Brew-Finch Funeral Homes, Inc. a company which operates funeral homes in central New York State. Finch's first elected position was as a trustee for the Village of Aurora in 1979. He then was elected mayor of the village in 1982, a position he held for eight years.Finch was first elected to the State Assembly on November 2, 1999. He won the November 2008 general election with 65 percent of the vote and ran uncontested in the November 2010 general election.He serves as Assistant Minority Leader to the Minority Conference, and is assigned to the Assembly committees on Agriculture, Banks, Corrections, Insurance and Rules.He lives in the town of Springport with his wife, Marcia Herrling Finch and their two children, Amy and Gregory.

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 A. Gupton College

John A. Gupton College is a private 2-year college in Nashville, Tennessee that specializes in mortuary science. Founded in 1946, it awards the Associate of Arts degree in Funeral Service. Gupton College is accredited by both the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Gupton is located just west of downtown Nashville, in the same building as the Tennessee Funeral Directors Associational Office.

Most of Gupton's students attend in order to prepare for careers as funeral directors. All students follow the same curriculum.

Lincoln College of New England

Lincoln College of New England was a private college in Southington, Connecticut. Lincoln's regional accreditor placed the college on probation in the summer of 2018 and the institution subsequently stopped admitting students and announced that it would close in December.Lincoln was known for its criminal justice, dental hygiene, mortuary science, nursing, and occupational therapy assistant programs.

As of the Spring Semester 2015, Lincoln was the only institution in Connecticut offering a mortuary program.

Lincoln College offered a total of 24 degree programs including legal assisting, medical assisting, and clinical assisting. The tuition for Lincoln was, on average, approximately $16,400 per year with additional fees averaging $300. On-campus housing was available for up to 300 students, with average room prices around $3,600 per year per student.

Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science

Pittsburgh Institute of the Mortuary Science is a funeral service program based in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States.

Rhine McLin

Rhine Lana McLin (born October 1948) is an American Democratic politician from Ohio. McLin received her Bachelor of Arts in sociology and secondary education from Parsons College and her Master of Education in guidance counseling from Xavier University. She also holds an associate's degree in mortuary science granted by the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.

In 1988, when McLin's father, Ohio House of Representatives C. J. McLin Jr., died, Rhine McLin was appointed to serve the remainder of his term. She was then elected to the seat in 1990, and reelected in 1992. She then was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1994, and re-elected to the senate in 1998. In 2001, McLin was named minority leader (completing the term of Ohio senator Ben Espy). She served in that post until she left the Senate in 2002, barred by term limits from running for re-election again that year. She ran for the office of mayor of Dayton.

McLin was elected mayor of Dayton in 2001, defeating incumbent Republican Michael R. Turner and began serving her term in 2002. She was re-elected in 2005, defeating opponent David R. Bohardt. McLin was an Ohio delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention. In 2009, she lost re-election for mayor.Rhine McLin's political career has been full of firsts. In 1994, McLin became the first African-American woman elected to the Ohio State Senate. She was the first African-American woman to serve as Ohio Senate minority leader. Upon leaving the Senate, she became the first woman to serve as mayor of Dayton. She is the third African-American mayor of Dayton. Finally, in late 2005 she was the first African-American woman to serve as head of the Ohio Democratic Party.

As of 2012, McLin serves as the Vice Chairwoman of the Ohio Democratic Party. In August 2012, McLin was tipped as a possible candidate to fill the Ohio state representative seat vacated by Clayton Luckie, but she ultimately declined to run.

Ryan Mishler

Ryan Mishler (born May 23, 1968) is a Republican member of the Indiana Senate, representing the 9th district.

Wheeling, Illinois

Wheeling is a village in Cook and Lake counties in the U.S. state of Illinois. A suburb of Chicago, it is primarily in Cook County, approximately 23 mi (37 km) northwest of downtown Chicago. The population was 37,648 at the 2010 census. Wheeling is named for Wheeling, West Virginia.

In medicine
After death

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