THANOS magazine

United States | North America | November 28, 2022

“To Help People” Cited As Top Reason Students Enrolled in Funeral Service School

By Deana Gillespie and Edward J. Defort, USA

All directors are inevitably asked why they wanted to become a funeral director. According to the 841 students participating in this year’s NFDA Funeral Service Student Expectations Study, the main reason was they “want to help people,” cited by two-thirds of respondents. Placing second was “honor/care for the deceased'' (59.2%) and funeral service was a “calling” or “they’d always wanted to do this” (53.8%). These three reasons form a consistent thread through past surveys as the top reasons students decided to enter funeral service programs. Also cited were:

  • Learn techniques/industry: 34%
  • Want to own a funeral home someday: 33.8%
  • Get a license/degree: 30.6%
  • Personal experience at a funeral home: 29.3%
  • Interested in science: 27%
  • Job security: 24.7%
  • Get a job/change careers: 19.6%
  • Previous experience at funeral home: 14.2%
  • School reputation: 13.6%

As part of the 2022 NFDA Funeral Service Student Expectations Study, students were asked several openended questions. One, focused on school curriculum, asked, What do you think is needed for curriculum changes/ additions to better prepare you for a career in funeral service? Below is a sampling of the responses received:

  • A general social studies class (like speech). A class to help one understand social cues and how to deal with altercations in the workplace. Problem-solving skills.
  • A lot of students are making a career change, so online classes are in desperate need. Most people have families and children, and since this is the only public school in the state, the commute can make it so that we can’t even attend classes and have to spend five years or more trying to graduate from the program as the classes cannot work around our schedule.
  • Add a course in résumé and interview preparation.
  • A workshop on audiovisual skills. In the times of COVID, there has been a shift to virtual viewings and funeral services. It would be nice to have a better understanding of AV equipment for these uses.
  • Actual applicable skills that are required to do the job, such as how to do a removal and the different techniques in the challenging circumstances.
  • Arrangement conference education. Learn to talk to people. Grief counseling.
  • Classes on balancing life and work, managing our own mental health and general life skills.
  • I do feel there is a lot of gray area when it comes to serving your apprenticeship about what you can and cannot do as an apprentice.
  • I have always felt there should be at least one class that teaches the death practices of multiple cultures and spiritual beliefs, as well a class about the psychology of grief/grief counseling.
  • I think that anatomy and physiology should be a requirement before taking any embalming classes.
  • I understand the grading system is rigorous, but not being able to review or know what we got wrong on tests is not helpful whatsoever. It’s setting students up for failure. They are unable to review what they did wrong.
  • I wish there was a seminar prior to admission to the program that discusses the realities of our industry – meaning the late nights, oncall schedule, difficult families, groundskeeping, etc. I think there were a lot of people that entered the program without prior experience in funeral service, and that can be a big shock to them once they are out in the industry, especially if they work for a smaller firm.
  • More scenarios of a funeral home setting in class.
  • Update books, dealing with topics we deal with currently. A lot of the books we have were written many years ago and don’t pertain to what’s going on now.


Read the whole interesying article in the autumn issue of THANOS magazine - you can read online at pages 16-19

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