People die every single day. It is always a tragedy, but it is also part of life. What do you think happens to those dead bodies? It would be gross if they just piled up in the streets, right? That is why the world has embalmers.
Embalming is the preparation of dead bodies for burial by preserving human remains. It is not the type of job that many people ever consider. You have to be very comfortable around dead bodies and have a very positive attitude about death. Does that sound like you?
Embalming is as much a public health service as a tribute to the dead. Dead bodies can spread disease as they decompose. Embalmers disinfect and prepare the body to preserve it longer. Embalmers have degrees in mortuary science, which includes the study of anatomy, thanatology, chemistry, customer service, religious preferences, biology, law, psychology, and embalming. After completing a degree, most embalmers apprentice before they take state board examinations to obtain a license from the state. Every state requires a license. Embalming isn’t a career you can just jump into tomorrow. It takes dedication – 9 to 36 months of dedication.
Embalming is an ancient profession that has been perfected through trial and error, research, and invention. The embalming process takes several hours and can be broken down into four main parts. First is arterial embalming where chemicals are put into the blood stream. Next is cavity embalming where a body’s internal fluids are removed. Then comes hypodermic embalming where an embalmer embalms under the skin. Last is the cosmetic aspect where an embalmer deals with visual flaws and any injured body parts. If reading this job description made you twinge, you may want to look into a different career.
Embalmers have a physically hard, emotional job. They work in well-ventilated, isolated, sanitary locations – often in funeral homes, hospitals, medical schools, or morgues. You can apply directly to these places to find work. Your only company while you’re at work is you and the corpse. Depending on where you work, you may have different daily tasks. In hospitals, morgues, and med schools you may just need to preserve and disinfect bodies, possibly preparing cadavers for medical school students.
Many embalmers work in funeral homes and have direct contact with the deceased’s family. Death is a sensitive subject, and embalmers need to be calm and respectful at all times. At a funeral home, your job is to pay tribute to the body and prepare the corpse for open casket funerals. This means cosmetic skills are important. You’ll need to know about make-up, clothing, hair, and much more. The goal is a lifelike appearance for the corpse.
Embalming is a technical and artistic job. Embalmers can plan on 40 hours a week, but often the hours are irregular. It is also a job that often qualifies you for benefits. Embalmers average $50,000 per year to perform their ancient art. Many embalmers also become funeral directors to expand their career opportunities and paychecks. Embalmers rely on a steady flow of bodies to stay in business.
An embalmer’s goals are sanitation, conservation, presentation, and preservation of the dead body. Basically the embalmer has to drain the body, inject solutions, and make a dead body look as presentable as possible. It’s a unique job and it definitely pays the rent.
Quick Facts About Embalming Jobs
Job Title: Embalmer
Office: Clean, well-ventilated, sanitary location
Description: Prepare dead bodies for funeral services
Certifications/Education: Degree in Mortuary Science. Certified by State.
Necessary Skills: Able to work with dead bodies.
Potential Employers: Funeral homes, hospitals, medical schools, morgues
Pay: $25,000 to $85,000 per year, average is $45,000
Mortuary School Directory
National Funeral Directors Association
National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association
American Society of Embalmers
American Board of Funeral Service Education