“Many [funeral school] graduates would like to stay in the city versus going to a more rural location,” says Karen Giles, president of the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, in Ohio. "But if the need/opening is there and the graduate really wants it ... that could be just the break needed." Indeed, funeral directors who can embalm, and who are willing to relocate, will have an easier time finding work, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The BLS foresees “average”—7 to 13 percent—job growth for the field, and notes that the current pool of longtime funeral directors is, on average, older than workers in other occupations. They are therefore “expected to retire in greater numbers over the coming decade,” which should create more openings.
“When no one else in your family is in the business it can be harder to break in,” says Muneerah Warner, founder of Funeral Divas, a social and mentoring group for industry women. “Try to seek out a woman-owned firm. Usually you can find favor with someone who has gone through the same process as you.”
Speaking of gender, has it become any easier for women to find work in this industry? “Yes and no!” says Meg Dunn, president and CEO of the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service, a mortuary school in Manhattan. “Many funeral homes still prefer to hire men because of their perceived versatility. While a woman may bring a different skills set to a funeral home, many owners value the traditional male employee. However, the majority of funeral service students are female, so many homes hire women out of necessity. Over the next several years we are sure to see the number of women hired increase.”
Organizations such as Warner’s, and the Association of Women Funeral Professionals, are helping women reclaim what AWFP founder Kim Stacey sees as their rightful place as funeral providers. “That’s what women do,” she says. “We birth babies. We bury the dead.”
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