Interest 'Flourishing' in This Rather Grim Career

Amid an industry worker shortage, mortuary science programs are seeing big enrollment jump
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2022 7:21 AM CDT
Suddenly, Everyone Wants to Be a Funeral Director
Everyone wants in on the funeral industry at the moment.   (Getty Images/kzenon)

Mortuary schools are still doing the hard sell on their websites to get potential funeral home workers to enroll. Turns out, though, that may not be necessary at the moment. Although there's a worker shortage in the industry, interest in funeral services is "flourishing," reports CNN Business. According to the American Board of Funeral Service Education, there was nearly a 25% jump last year, compared to 2020, in new students signing up for accredited mortuary science programs across the nation, and that enrollment percentage could rise even more in 2022. This surge comes amid high demand as the funeral industry starts to age out, with more than three-fifths of funeral home owners planning to retire within the next five years, says Randy Anderson, who heads up the National Funeral Directors Association.

Perks of such a career include a shorter on-ramp from the first day of school to getting a job (a mortuary science degree doesn't take as long as a traditional four-year college degree) and a modest but solid salary range. In 2021, the median wage for morticians, undertakers, and funeral arrangers was close to $50,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For funeral home managers—a position one can ascend to in just a few years if all goes well—that median salary rises to $74,000. Women especially are flocking to this traditionally male-dominated industry in ever-increasing numbers. "It makes sense," says Ed Michael Reggie of the online service Funeralocity, noting women's "empathetic bent" and their ability to perhaps better assist families during the formidable process of death.

Older students are also showing up to seek a second career. Ryan Nowatka, who owns two funeral homes in Wisconsin, says he gets a "deep sense of satisfaction" from his job, and that it's his calling. "We have the unique opportunity to care for and serve families at one of the most difficult times in their lives," he tells the Watertown Daily Times. "My goal is always to be a resource to families and serve them in any way that we possibly can, to help them through their loss." If you're soon to complete a mortuary science program, prospects look good. "The shortage is so serious right now that there's a 90% job placement rate for graduates," Leili McMurrough of Illinois' Worsham College of Mortuary Science, one of the country's oldest mortuary schools, tells CNN. (More mortuary stories.)

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