Working with the dead typically appeals to two types of people. Those who don’t like a lot of personal interaction in their work (the dead aren’t going to complain or engage in office politics, after all) and those who are compassionate and derive satisfaction from helping others through their grief. Either way, working in the funeral industry isn’t as depressing or creepy as you might think. It can be quiet, peaceful work and you can feel good that you sent others into the afterlife with dignity and respect. If you want to work with the dead, here are some job options for you.
Grave digging. You no longer need to labor for hours with a shovel. Most digging these days is done with a backhoe. You may not need to grave dig full time, either. Some cemeteries don’t have enough volume to keep a grave digger on staff full time. If you own a backhoe for another business like landscaping or construction, you may be able to work on an “on call” basis for a few cemeteries and help them out when needed. It can be a nice little sideline business for you.
You will be the one who prepares the body for burial by replacing bodily fluids with the preservation chemicals.
Mowing the grass, pulling weeds, and tossing out old flowers are all the job of the landscaper or caretaker. It’s quiet, peaceful, outdoor work that you may be able to combine with an existing landscaping business.
This job may involve everything from casket sales to arranging/conducting the service to comforting the family and friends. The director also usually retrieves the body from the place of death or the morgue and brings it to the funeral home for preparation for burial.
Hair and makeup artist
If you have a talent for hair and makeup, you can use that skill to prepare the dead for viewing. Beyond hair and makeup you may need some special skills in reconstruction, depending on the cause of death.
Casket/urn design and construction
There is a market for custom made caskets and urns. If you have strong woodworking skills, you can make a good income because custom caskets usually sell for more than their mass produced counterparts. You can design traditional caskets or biodegradable caskets for green burials. If metalworking or pottery is more your thing, you can design urns for cremated ashes.
There are some cemeteries that still allow the traditional headstone or sculpture. If you are a stone cutter or sculptor, you can make money designing, inscribing, and personalizing grave markers.
If traditional burial isn’t for you, you might want to open a crematorium. Restrictions and requirements vary by state and it is a closely regulated industry so you will need special permits and inspections. As an operator of a crematorium, you may also be called upon to comfort the grieving family to conduct brief services prior to cremation.
Hearse or limo driver
If you like to drive, you can work for a funeral home as a hearse or limo driver. If you’re driving the hearse, you’ll drive the body from the place of death to the funeral home and then on the cemetery. If you drive the limo, you’ll drive the family members from the funeral home to the cemetery and then back to their home or hotel. This may not be a full time job. If you own an existing limo business, you can add funeral homes to your client list.
Janitor at a funeral home
Funeral homes need to be cleaned just like any other business, especially after a service. This can be a great way to get an introduction to the funeral business and see if it’s something you want to be a part of.
Some of the occupations above require some formal education. Embalmers, for example, usually have degrees in mortuary science and must be state-licensed. Funeral directors usually have degrees in mortuary science or funeral service and they usually serve an apprenticeship before getting a full time job. Makeup artists usually have some formal cosmetology training, although it may not be required; talent alone might get you the job. Other jobs such as janitorial work or grave digging may require no formal education.
There are also lots of emerging jobs in the funeral industry that are associated with the green burial movement. Some people are designing monuments for ashes that are then dumped into the sea to act as habitats for sea life. There are jobs designing biodegradable caskets. It’s an open and emerging field and there may be more jobs in the future that have not been identified yet.
Working with the dead isn’t scary or creepy. Unless you’re an embalmer or makeup artist, or you run a crematorium or funeral home, you’re not likely to have much contact, if any, with the bodies. You’ll just be tending to other aspects of the death ritual. If you want quiet work without a lot of office politics or gossip, this may be the industry for you.