Become a Funeral Director

Considering a career in funeral service?

Whether you are headed off to college or beginning a second career, funeral service can provide a lasting and rewarding employment in what many consider a stable industry.

Good candidates for funeral service careers include those who:

  • Have a healthy attitude toward death and want to help others.
  • Feel comfortable interacting with people at extremely emotional times.
  • Are willing to work an unpredictable schedule that includes nights, weekends and holidays.

Speaking with someone who has experience in the funeral profession will help you gain a full understanding of the industry as well as get a firm grasp of what will be expected of you. Meeting with your local funeral director is a great way to learn more about what the day-to-day duties entail. Start by contacting a local funeral director. Introduce yourself, explain that you are interested in a career in funeral service and would love to speak to them about it.

Getting Your License

In New Jersey, individuals must be licensed by the State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey to engage in the practice of mortuary science, embalming or funeral directing. Obtaining a funeral director's license is a multi-step process that includes meeting education and training requirements and passing licensure exams. Basic requirements for licensure include:

  

Minimum Age:

21

Minimum College:

2 years

Mortuary School:

1 year

Residency/Citizenship:

Must reside in NJ during training and be a U.S. Citizen.

Internship:

2 years*

Licensing Examination

Pass state and national qualifying exams

*A shorter, one-year internship may apply for individuals who have completed three academic years of instruction in a college or university

Average Compensation

New Jersey Funeral Industry Salary Data for 2019

  Average Median
Licensed Owner* $121,639 $106,014
Licensed Non-Owner $79,435 $76,325
Newly-Licensed Non-Owner $47,806 $50,909
Clerical and Administrative (Hourly Rate) $22.23 $21.00
Funeral Attendant (Hourly Rate) $19.29 $18.00
Interns (Hourly Rate) $18.01 $15.50

 

* Owner compensation includes only the compensation taken in the form of W-2 wages and does not include other typical forms of owner compensation, such as dividends, rent and net profit distributions.

Source: Thanexus, Inc. 2019 Annual Compensation Survey. The compensation survey represents data for 269 licensed and 563 non-licensed staff for a total of 832 funeral service employees in New Jersey.

Education Requirements

After completing a minimum of two academic years of instruction in a college or university approved by the New Jersey Commission of Higher Education you may enroll in a mortuary science program.

You should enroll in a program that has been accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education to ensure proper training in the managerial and technical aspects of the funeral service profession. These programs introduce you to science topics relevant to funeral directors, including:

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy
  • Embalming
  • Restorative arts techniques.

In addition to science courses, the program includes courses in:

  • Business and funeral service laws and ethics
  • Management principles
  • Accounting
  • Psychology

Additionally, an internship must be performed before, during or after the formal education process. Upon completion of education and an internship, students will be required to pass a state and national board examination to become licensed.

For information on how to apply for an internship, click here.

Licensure

Licensing Examination

After completing all education and training requirements, you will be required to pass national and state licensure exams as well as perform an in-person embalming practical.

National Board Exam

The International Conference of Funeral Service Examining administers the National Board Exam. This exam covers two broad areas of funeral service: arts and sciences.

The arts section covers accounting and management, business, law, and psychology. Anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, and restorative arts, are tested in the science section.

Jurisprudence Examination

The State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey administers the Mortuary Jurisprudence Examination that covers state laws and regulations as they relate to the mortuary science profession. The examinations are held in February, July and October of every year. It is recommended that you contact the Mortuary Board to verify your eligibility to sit for the exam.

Prior to examination, all individuals must submit to Mortuary Board evidence verified by oath of:

  • Age, U.S. Citizenship, and New Jersey residency for at least six months prior to examination (note that all interns are required to reside in New Jersey for the length of the internship).
  • Certificate from the New Jersey Commissioner of Education verifying that all schooling (high school, at least two years of college, and one year of mortuary school) has been completed.
  • Certificate from a licensed New Jersey funeral director attesting to the completion of one or two years, whichever applicable, as a registered trainee under his or her supervision.

After the successful completion of the Jurisprudence Examination you may schedule with the Mortuary Board an in-person practical exam. This will be the opportunity where a sitting Mortuary Board member will view your practical embalming skills at the mortuary where you are serving your internship.

Once all three exams are successfully completed, the Mortuary Board will take the necessary steps to issue your license as a practitioner of mortuary science.

Maintaining Your License

The State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey requires funeral directors to earn 10 continuing education credits biennially in order to maintain active licensure.

Continuing education enables funeral directors to stay current on laws regarding the funeral profession as well as advancements and trends in the industry.

The biennial continuing education credit obligation for New Jersey licensees consists of: 

  1. At least two (2) credit hours of in-person training in preneed funeral arrangements.

  2. At least three (3) credit hours of in-person training in funeral directing ethics and in New Jersey law and rules relating to the practice of mortuary science.

  3. No more than three (3) credit hours in courses or programs dealing with funeral merchandising, such as caskets, outer burial containers and clothing can be applied to the continuing education requirement for licensure renewal. A licensee shall not receive any continuing education credit for viewing exhibits at professional and/or technical meetings and conferences.

  4. Annual in-person training in applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws and regulations as required by the federal OSHA standards. Licensees who seek continuing education credit for such training must attend a course or program approved by the Mortuary Board and may not apply more than three (3) credit hours in such courses or programs toward the continuing education requirement for licensure renewal; and

A licensee may only receive continuing education credit for a course or program once during the biennial licensing period. Additionally, licensees are not permitted to carry over continuing education credit into the next biennial licensure period.

Funeral Directing in New Jersey with an Out-of-State License

The State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey will issue a license to an out-of-state practitioner provided that specific education and experience requirements have been met. 

An application documenting and certifying the practitioner’s education and experience, along with the required fees, must be submitted to the Board in order to be considered for licensure.

Reciprocal licensure, or licensure by credentials, is a means by which a funeral director from one state with similar education and experience can become licensed in another state without fulfilling all the terms of licensure, such as completing an internship or sitting for the national exam. Some funeral directors who work close to a border of another state find it beneficial to hold licenses in both states.

In New Jersey, the out-of-state practitioner must have held a valid license or certification to practice mortuary science for at least two years immediately prior to applying for a New Jersey license. If they have not met the experience requirement, they must verify active engagement in the practice of mortuary science for at least five years prior to the application submission.  Qualified applicants are also required to complete the Mortuary Jurisprudence examination issued by the Board.   

For additional information on the requirements, contact the State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey.

Limited Practice with an Out-of-State License

Funeral directors from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York cross state borders to make removals or accompany bodies to cemeteries and crematories.  It is important to always check with the appropriate state licensing authority before engaging in funeral service activities in any state other than the one in which you are licensed. 

New Jersey has a reciprocal agreement with New York that allows a New Jersey licensed funeral director to take a body to a New York cemetery for final disposition without the assistance of a New York licensed funeral director. Similarly, the agreement allows a New York licensee to take a body to a New Jersey cemetery for final disposition without the assistance of a New Jersey licensed funeral director.

New Jersey also has a reciprocal agreement with Pennsylvania, but it works differently than the agreement with New York. Under this agreement, a Pennsylvania licensed funeral director may bring a body into New Jersey for final disposition without being accompanied by a New Jersey licensee. However, a New Jersey licensed funeral director must have a Pennsylvania Limited License to enter that state to take bodies to a cemetery.  Without a PA Limited License, they must request that a Pennsylvania licensee meet them at the place of final disposition.

For all other states, New Jersey funeral directors should contact the state licensing authority to understand that state’s requirements and limitations for out-of-state licensees.

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