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sufferkate's avatar

Interested in being a mortician?

Asked by sufferkate (155points) April 22nd, 2012

ok this is a dumb question and I will feel to stupid to call up funeral homes to ask this question. I am just a 33 y.o. woman with no college background, but have been fascinated with death since I was around eleven. I watch autopsies on the web, but I know its not the same as being right there. Do you think the morticians would let me watch? I just really don’t want to go to school to find out I wasted thousands of dollars cuz I can’t handle the smell, sounds, and all bodies are not pretty. If I could just sit a couple feet out of their way and see if I could handle it.

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15 Answers

poisonedantidote's avatar

I highly doubt you would be allowed to watch, the best you could manage is probably being in the audience at some kind of show like that autopsy show on tv.

However, I would advise that you be careful how you go about it, announcing you are fascinated with death is not going to do you any favors.

chyna's avatar

The funeral home in my home town offered to take the senior class through the viewing of a dead body to drive home what could happen when you drink and drive. It wasn’t to watch an autopsy though. So I would think if they were willing to do this, they would be willing to allow you to view a dead body also. And I don’t mean one that is dressed and prettied up for the funeral. This was one that was in a body bag. I don’t see the harm in asking.

Charles's avatar

I was considering becoming a mortician but I realized I didn’t have enough charisma – so I became an engineer instead.

Brian1946's avatar


As much as I admire and respect what engineers do, I your quip made me LMAO. :-D

CWOTUS's avatar

I would imagine that mortuaries hire people without degrees all the times, as orderlies if nothing else. Why not apply that way for the environmental exposure, and then ask there how to follow up if you’re still interested? You may even be able to get some on-the-job training to help out.

Kayak8's avatar

There are typically two different licenses obtained by those working in the funeral industry: 1) morticians license and 2) funeral directors license. Most funeral homes prefer to hire folks who have/are working toward both as they are more versatile. This is also one of the remaining trades where an apprenticeship is required (usually 2 years).

Check online for the Funeral Directors Association in your state. They will be able to tell you the educational and apprenticeship requirements specific to your area. It would be ok to ask them, appropriately, what you essentially asked above (leaving out the fascinated with death part as indicated wisely by @poisonedantidote). I would just indicate an interest in the field but state that you aren’t sure if you can handle it or not and what do they recommend to find out if this is the career for you.

There are also a number of decently written books that might interest you:

The Undertaking: Life Stories from the Dismal Trade is very well written and sensitive on the topic.

Stiff by Mary Roach is an interesting book about folks who “donate their bodies to science” and is full of information about life after dying.

American Book of the Dead (much like its Tibetan predecessor) talks about the spiritual side of things in an important way in the current American funeral industry.

The Final Bath is written by a young funeral director and talks about the challenges of being a female in this very male dominated field. This one talks of her life working in a morgue. Her other book, Into the Hands of Strangers tells much more about the funeral industry from a woman’s point of view.

wildpotato's avatar

I’d call the Vocation Vacation people or some other career sampling company and see if they can set you up with a place. Mortician is not one of their VV’s currently available options, but they might take requests, or another company might do it for you.

Another idea: if your family has ever made use of mortuary services for a loved one’s passing, you could go there and say you really appreciated the job they did and the care they took, and are interested in the process and in helping others as you have been helped. Worked for Rico in Six Feet Under.

sufferkate's avatar

That was a great show. I grew up catholic and for CCD one night we visited a funeral home, and I was cleaning houses when I was 12 or 13, and I told them that I would like to be a mortician some day, and that I would clean the funeral home for free to get my foot in the door. I gave them my name, address and phone number, needless to say they never called me.

sufferkate's avatar

i did read Stiff too and I did donate my body to science just last week. I figure why not?

filmfann's avatar

You could get a job at the mortuary.
A friend of mine is a “collector” for the Neptune society. He has some pretty wild stories. I am sure that most people would not be able to handle that.

rooeytoo's avatar

At one point in my life I lived in a very small town directly across the street from the one and only funeral home. It was owned and operated by one very small man. Many times there would be a knock on my door in the middle of the night and the small man would request the help of my husband and I to get a large dead person out of the herse and into his establishment. That alone made me realize that is one industry I am not able to work in. But for those who are attracted to it, they certainly perform an errand of mercy.

In Australia there is a chain of funeral homes called White Lady Funerals for those who would prefer a woman’s sensitivity.

Bellatrix's avatar

You could also call up your local mortuary and explain your interest in working in the field and ask if there is anyone there you could talk to about the job. This may lead to opportunities to learn more about the work they do and perhaps to observe once they have met you and see you are sincere. People like to talk about the work they do. They will also be able to tell you about qualifications you may need and experience you can gain to help you to gain employment. Please let us know how you go.

ro_in_motion's avatar

There is a difference between coroners (who can do autopsies and might also be morticians) and morticians pure and simple. One looks at the cause of death and the other prepares a body for funeral which may or not include cosmetic work if the person is viewed in an open casket or not.

Sadly, in America, there are States where you don’t have to be a doctor to be a coroner. This is, of course, incredibly wrong.

Kayak8's avatar

@ro_in_motion In some states there are also distinct differences between coroners (who are elected and do not have to be physicians) and medical examiners (who DO have to be physicians).

seekingwolf's avatar

Morticians (people who work in a funeral home) may not be doing the actual autopsies you see on teh web. They prepare the body for cremation or burial. The autopsies you are seeing are usually done by coroners (doctors usually). Some states may not require a coroner to be a doctor, but MOST do, and you’re certainly not going to be one without a college degree. Working at a funeral home though, yes, you could do that. Contact your local ones, see what is available.

I have no idea what embalming fluid they use but I’ve worked in both hospice AND in bio labs so I am (ugh) familiar with formaldehyde (used to preserve dead things) as well as the smell of people who have died. Both are very unpleasant smells. Make sure you can stand them both because you’re going to encounter them – a lot. Most people are not “freshly dead” upon arrival at a funeral home and in my experience, you definitely can smell things just 20 min after death. god it is so sad that I know this from experience; I really wish I didn’t!

But hey, if you are good with all of that and are happy working there, more power to ya. Death is one life’s inevitable things. People are always dying. Funeral homes will always be needed, regardless of the economy or what have you.

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