Guide to Becoming a Funeral Attendant: Unlocking Opportunities with a Positive Outlook! If you are extremely empathetic and able to comfort people during a challenging time, a career as a funeral attendant may be right for you. This entry-level position is also a good option for someone interested in a career as a funeral director or mortician because it allows them to gain hands-on experience in the industry. Learning about how to become a funeral attendant can help you decide if you want to learn more about the career.
In this article, we discuss what a funeral attendant is, what they do daily and how to become one yourself.
What is a funeral attendant?
A funeral attendant, also known as a funeral assistant, helps the funeral director plan services at a funeral home or chapel. They perform a variety of tasks to minimize the amount of stress families experience during a funeral. Funeral attendants work closely with the funeral director, clergy, cemetery and crematorium staff.
What does a funeral attendant do?
A funeral attendant is responsible for various tasks, including:
Speaking with the deceased’s family and associates to help them with funeral arrangements, including selecting the type of service and coffin
Collecting the deceased from the morgue, hospital or other places of death
Preparing the facility for the funeral, including cleaning the reserved room, setting up chairs and decorating with flowers, photos and other decorations
Preparing the body and casket for a wake or funeral
Moving the casket from the morgue to the room for viewing
Escorting mourners into the chapel or the reserved room
Distributing and gathering tribute and attendance cards
Driving hearses and mortuary fans
Offering help as casket bearers
Ensuring that all legal documents are issued and processed, including death certificates and cremation certificates
How to become a funeral attendant
Here are basic steps you can take to become a funeral attendant:
1. Research the industry
Before pursuing this career path, it’s important to first understand the role’s primary responsibilities. Funeral attendants typically work closely with grieving family members and may also be required to handle the deceased. Before taking further steps, it’s important to consider whether you are comfortable with the idea of completing these tasks.
2. Pursue customer service experience
Funeral attendants hold a customer-facing role within the funeral home. They often work closely with family members to help them select a coffin or choose specific details for a wake or funeral. For this reason, they typically should have at least some experience working with the public. To obtain this experience, consider looking for job openings as a receptionist, customer service representative or even a retail sales associate.
Another way to gain valuable customer service experience is through volunteer positions. Consider volunteering at a church or for another organization to help plan events. You could also volunteer to help with funeral and burial services as this would give you hands-on experience in a relevant environment and help you better understand your feelings working in that industry.
3. Meet the educational requirements
To qualify for a position as a funeral attendant, you need at least a high school diploma or GED. To set yourself apart from other candidates, you may want to consider pursuing a college degree in mortuary science.
4. Complete on-the-job training
New funeral attendants partake in extensive on-the-job training led by the funeral director or another member of the funeral home’s staff. During this training, they learn the layout of the funeral home along with steps to help set up for funerals.
5. Consider advanced education
Because a funeral attendant position is an entry-level role, you may want to consider pursuing additional training and education to qualify for more advanced positions in the industry. A degree in mortuary science can help you qualify as an undertaker, mortician or funeral director. State requirements can vary, so it’s important to research guidelines for educational and licensing requirements.
Skills for funeral attendants
There are several skills that you may need to develop to succeed as a funeral attendant, including:
Communication: Funeral attendants need to have strong verbal communication skills to communicate the family’s requests to the funeral director and other staff members. They also need reading comprehension skills to fully understand and act upon written instructions.
Active listening: These skills are critical to understanding the needs of the person with whom they’re speaking and asking appropriate follow-up questions. Additionally, they need to read body language—nonverbal cues—to understand the message, including what the other party may not be saying directly.
Critical thinking: Critical thinking skills are valuable for helping funeral attendants offer families guidance about the type of funeral that best meets their needs.
Time management: Funeral attendants need to have strong time management skills to ensure all the necessary tasks are completed promptly for a funeral to be successful.
Customer service: Customer service skills are critical as funeral attendants need to successfully evaluate the needs of family members and identify the best way to help them.
Empathy: Because funeral planning is stressful for family members, funeral attendants need to be empathetic and understand the various feelings that families may be experiencing. Ultimately, the ability to be empathetic allows a funeral attendant to better meet the needs of the deceased’s family and friends.
Job outlook for funeral attendants
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t provide specific information for funeral attendants, it offers career information for funeral service workers. Employment in that area is projected to decline 4% by 2030 due to the increase in cremations, an option that requires fewer funeral service workers.