Funerals and Women : The 'New' Career


Published: 05/20/2010

by Funeral Home Resource Team


Over the past decade and a half, the number of women learning the fundamentals of funeral home finance, embalming, thanatology and grief counseling has almost doubled. The number of female mortuary students has risen to 60 percent, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). This means that women are paced to outnumber men in an industry that has been male dominated for the past century.

It used to be that fathers with funeral homes did not consider the business to be their daughters legacies. That was in large part to the (now outdated) belief that a woman's place was not in the workforce, and certainly not around death. Now, it is not at all uncommon for a daughter to be anticipated to take over the family funeral home.

There is a generalized belief, that women can bring a little extra something to modern funeral arranging. Women are generally considered to be honest, trustworthy, and innocent. Grieving families feel like they can trust a woman and won't be taken advantage of, as could easily happen during the funeral planning process. People tend to trust women more. And since many women have a natural instinct to comfort and are typically detail oriented, they often fit in well within the funeral industry.

Often in cases in the death of an infant or child, bereaved parents will find comfort in a woman handling their baby and helping them make arrangements. It is, human nature, after all. Women are generally the ones who comfort and nurture, and this 'normalcy' helps families cope better in many situations.

For ages, women have been caretakers of the sick and elderly, but historically they also played a large part in the care of the dead. In ancient Greece, women were responsible for preparing the remains of the body duty to take care of their own dead, and it was usually the women who handled this. In Hebrew tradition, women did the washing and dressing because it was considered unclean and distasteful work for the priest. In Colonial America, women prepared their dead family members. Well-to-do families would hire a female nurse to prepare the body. Regardless, it was usually a woman who was the caretaker of the deceased.

The funeral industry is seeing a revival in women choosing funeral care as their occupation, and as older Funeral Home Directors and owners retire (or pass on themselves) it will be, in many cases, women who replace them.

The most recent compensation survey reveals that the median salary of funeral home directors has gone from $60,000 in 2004 to $75,737 in 2006. Other funeral home staff position salaries have remained the same or dropped slightly.