Guaranteed jobs: Funeral school enrollment surges amid shortage of workers in funeral industry

Amid a shortage of human resources in the funeral industry, the number of students enrolled in universities that specialize in funeral education is increasing.

“The shortage is now so acute that the employment rate of graduates of these programs reaches 90%.”

According to the American Funeral Services Board of Education, in 2021, nationwide freshman enrollment in accredited necropsy programs increased 24% compared to 2020.

McMurrow, who also chairs the Accreditation Board of the American Board of Funeral Education (AFBSE), said the overall rate of increase in student enrollment in the United States’ 58 accredited funeral programs or institutions could be even higher this year. said that there is

Randy Anderson, president of the National Association of Funeral Directors, said he was acutely aware of the labor shortage, and that colleges were unable to mass-produce licensed workers quickly enough to meet the need for new hires. He says he can’t.

Demand for funeral directors is particularly high, and an aging workforce is making them race against time, Anderson said.

“There is an urgent need to replace people who have been in this profession for years and are about to retire,” he said. “More than 60% of funeral home owners say they will retire within his five years, which is a lot.”

The NFDA now has more than 20,000 members, and each state has its own apprenticeship and licensing requirements, Anderson said. Also, most states require funeral directors to graduate from an accredited college program.

According to the latest government data, the funeral industry generates more than $16 billion in revenue annually. Industry figures show that there will be more than 18,800 funeral homes in the United States in 2021, mostly privately owned small businesses, down from 19,902 in 2010.

Young women and those who wish to have a side job join the ranks

Women make up 72% of recent funeral services education graduates, according to the latest AFBSE statistics. “It was male dominated until the 1970s,” Anderson said.

and they are young. McMurrough says that at Worsham, typical students are women between the ages of 24 and 29, but many are older applicants seeking new careers.

“Women have a huge interest in this area, and it makes sense. Women tend to be absolutely empathetic and perhaps ready to help their families get through very difficult life events.” will,” said CEO Ed Michael Reggie. Funeral.coman online resource to help families find the funeral home or crematorium provider that best suits their needs.

“Nobody’s going to be a funeral director unless you have parents in the business,” Reggie said. It’s a shorter program than a full degree, and you can earn between $60,000 and $75,000 a year.”

Ellen Wynn McBrayer is the Funeral Director of Jones-Wynn Funeral Home and Crematorium, a third-generation family business with two locations in Georgia. Her grandmother, Shirley Drew Jones, was the first woman to become a state-licensed funeral director.

Currently, the majority of freshmen in the Necropsy Program are women.

McBrayer said her grandmother would like more women to enter the profession.

“New and younger people coming in are more open-minded about customizing services to what their families want rather than doing things the same way,” McBrayer said. “Funerals are not a day of your life, they are a lifetime of a day.”

Several factors are fueling the growing interest in this profession.

McMurrough said her school saw an increase in enrollment after Worsham began offering an online program two years ago. “This gave people who had another job but were also interested in that field the flexibility to pursue it,” she said.

Worsham offers a one-year associate degree ($22,800 tuition) and a 16-month online associate degree program ($24,800 tuition). Eighty percent of her most recent cohort of students in her course online at the university were women, she said.

Speedy career advancement is also attractive.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, the average wage for the funeral industry, including funeral home managers, was $74,000, and $48,950 for morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors. However, “from a college degree to becoming a funeral director or even owning your own funeral home, there are opportunities for advancement in just a few short years,” McMurrough said.

not for everyone

There are also pitfalls.

“There are still some areas where we have not caught up to other industries in terms of competitive salaries, and that remains a challenge in recruiting and retaining workers,” said Anderson of the National Association of Funeral Directors. .

Burnout is another challenge.

“At the height of the pandemic, people across the industry were working non-stop,” McMurrough said. “But I’m doing it because you care.

Still, many new students say the pandemic has also affected their desire to serve their communities, McMurrow said.

“In the past two years, many people have experienced death in unexpected ways. Families have not been able to grieve as they would like,” she said. “In some cases, funeral home staff are the last to see the deceased instead of their own family members. These moments have affected people.”

Hannah Walker has already received a job offer after graduating from a funeral school program this month.

Hannah Walker, who graduated from Warsham this summer, is one of them.

“I certainly never intended to graduate from this program, but my grandfather turned to it first,” said Walker, 31, who lives in Michigan. She reframes what her experience would be for her other family members.

So about two-and-a-half years ago, Walker took the first step, calling several funeral homes and asking one of their employees if they would like to experience job shadowing first-hand.

“I did it for almost a year and realized this was for me. I knew I wanted to do this,” she said. I have a job waiting for her at the funeral home.

“This is not a career path for anyone,” said Anderson. “You must be drawn to it, to the opportunity to help your fellow man, and to be content with that alone.”


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