Embalmers: Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

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Job description

Embalmers prepare bodies for interment in conformity with legal requirements.

  • Dress bodies and place them in caskets.
  • Conform to laws of health and sanitation and ensure that legal requirements concerning embalming are met.
  • Close incisions, using needles and sutures.
  • Attach trocar to pump-tube, start pump, and repeat probing to force embalming fluid into organs.
Read more about what does an Embalmer really do at work and what is it like being and working as one.

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Average salary
$46640 per year

Average hourly wage
$22 per hour

Embalmers with little to no experience tend to make between $25260 and $33970 while the more experienced ones can earn over $56740 per year.

Top 5 paying states Hourly Annual
NY $44 $91,760
OH $27 $56,010
MO $25 $52,810
OR $25 $51,960
CA $24 $50,280

One of the easiest ways to increase your salary as an Embalmer is to move to a higher paying state like NY. Right now, the highest paying states for Embalmers are NY, OH, MO, OR and CA.

However, a higher pay at NY doesn’t guarantee that you will make more because the living expenses at NY might be twice as high than where you are currently at now.

Three other factors that can increase your salary as an Embalmer is the degree you hold, the industry you work in, and lastly the company you work for.


Recommended degree level
Associate’s degree

We asked other Embalmers what degree they had when they got the job and most of them said they had an Associate’s Degree followed by a Bachelor’s Degree.

Other than that, we also asked them what did they major in and here are the most popular majors that came up.

Funeral Service and Mortuary Science, General
Mortuary Science and Embalming/Embalmer
Read more about how to become an Embalmer and the degree, training and education you need.

Pros and Cons

Here are some of the pros and cons of being an Embalmer.

Suitable for people who likes practical and hands-on work
Suitable for people who wants to work in a supportive work environment
This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.
It is not too difficult to get into this career. Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.
Not suitable for people who likes to work with designs
Salary is below average
Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week)
Demand for this career is declining

What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Is this job meaningful

70% of Embalmers said they were satisfied with their job and 82% said they feel like their job is making other people’s lives better.

Working experience from R. Eric Sawyer Source: Quora

I am an embalmer. Or at least I still have the license, even though my duties no longer include embalming. They did for some 20 years.

In the US, embalming and funeral directing are matters of state law and regulation, not national – laws vary from state to state. My entire career has been in Texas.

In small funeral homes, most funeral directors are “dual licensed,” and function both as FD and embalmer. In large firms, there is much more specialization, often total separation. In Texas, the licensing requirements are separate to reflect this.

Some of my early career was in just such a dual role. Some of my mid years were as part of our firms overnight embalming shift, so that is what I will describe. Later years were just as a funeral director/arranger, then as a funeral home manager, and now in primarily administrative capacity.

As an embalmer, we would receive a “First Call” – a notice that a death had occurred and our services were requested. Usually, we received this information from a funeral director, but after hours, we often got the call from either the family or from a hospital. I would then call the other of those two (or the police officer or nurse if the death occurred at home) and confirmed that we were all on the same page, and were indeed authorized to bring the body into our care.

I, or along with a co-worker, would then go to the place of death and bring the decedent back to the funeral home, where we would treat the body according to the instructions we had received from the next of kin. Permission is required before embalming can be done, and it Texas, it is never legally required. Funeral homes, including my own, are permitted to require embalming if certain services, such as an open casket for the public to see the body, are selected. But if there is an objection to embalming, it is always possible to make selections that do not require it (more info on request).

The body may simply be washed, and placed in refrigeration, if embalming is not authorized. When the body is to be embalmed, the technical process involves using one of a variety of techniques to ensure that the mouth and eyes are closed. Then an incision is made in one or more places so that a vein and artery may be accessed. A tube is placed in each vessel, and embalming fluid, mixed to fit the embalmers judgement of the current need, is injected under pressure into the artery while blood is drained from the vein. Depending on conditions, more than one site may be needed to get good results. The pressure and rate of flow is monitored so as to get the fluid to diffuse into all the tissue of the body, while not being so great as to cause the body to swell under that pressure.

After this “arterial embalming” a long thick needle is inserted through the abdominal wall so as to remove as much of the contents of the “hollow organs” (the stomach, lungs, heart, intestine) as possible. Embalming and preservative fluids are then introduced using that same device.

All incisions are then sealed, along with any incisions or punctures that may remain from medical treatment.

As might be expected, this basic description is quite sparse, and will be greatly altered to deal with problems caused by discoloration, trauma, obesity, certain illnesses, autopsy, organ/tissue/bone donation etc. In all cases, the aim desired is that the body be preserved from further changes for the duration of the time needed for the funeral – no further swelling, no discoloration, no odors, no “leakage” of various bodily fluids.

It is my experience that some regions practice a more extensive quality of embalming than do others, perhaps related to the different degree of cultural expectations, along with the skill and experience of a particular embalmer.

The body is then bathed again, dried, and dressed. Hair and cosmetics are then done (order may vary, and some firms may use other sorts of personnel to do cosmetics and hair). Cosmetics are done because, along with melanin, the chief determinant in skin color is the amount, color, and visibility of blood seen through the skin, and that has been replaced. Embalming fluid is often tinted to more closely resemble blood, but it is never perfect.

We were honored for many years to assist with the funerals of the nuns at a local convent. Even these ladies allowed us to use a little cosmetics to make them look more like themselves.

The body would then be dressed according the the instructions given to us through the funeral director, usually in clothing supplied by the family, and then placed in the casket chosen. We also offer a hospital bed to be used for a visitation, when a casket is not desired -as when the family wishes to have “a viewing” but will have the body then cremated, perhaps in a pretty utilitarian container, instead of being buried. No need for an elaborate casket unless it is by family choice.

As an overnight embalmer, my shift ran from 6 pm until 7 am, 5 days a week. To be honest, I think that schedule lead to some pretty sleep-deprived driving at times. I don’t think it was a good thing, but I did it for 3 years, as well as the 10 prior years as a general funeral director/embalmer.

Working experience from Madison Juarez Source: Quora

Being an embalmer is always interesting. The process of bathing, setting features, raising the intended vessels, Injection of fluids, is all routine for every loved one. Each case is different. In the end its all about making a loved one look viewable for their families, who need closure, or even just a final good-bye, preserving the body for encasement in a casket for an in ground burial, mausoleum, or even flying across county/state. Of course, hazards are present, we have to ensure we properly protect our own living bodies from fluids, needle sticks, respiratory inhalation, etc as all of these things are universal hazards. As an embalmer, we strive to care for loved ones with the upmost dignity and respect as if the loved one on the table was our own family or friend.

Working experience from Keith Nagata Source: Quora

It’s a very rewarding career. Being able to bring closure to family members is one of the benefits of being an embalmer. My favorite and most important statement I can hear from a love one of the deceased, is “Oh my god, she looks so beautiful just like I remember her.” One of the most cherished memories I have is when one of the family members was very hesitant whether to view her mom because the last time she saw her mom, she was in the hospital when she passed and didn’t look like herself. After spending some time with her and letting her know that she should view her mom because once she is buried, she might regret not saying her last goodbye’s. Well, she viewed her mom, thought she looked like she was still alive and was just sleeping. She felt so relieved and thankful that she got to see her mom one last time. I still see her at times when she comes for other funerals. She still thanks me and always says hi. It warms my heart knowing she will always carry a wonderful memory picture of her mom for the rest of her life.

Working experience from Corinna L. Olsen Source: Quora

I have been an embalmer for 13 years and over time I’ve come to specialize in the worst of the worst, that is, people considered not viewable.

What I get mostly are youth gang shootings, but I also see plenty of car wrecks, drownings, and bodies not found for days.

I work on a freelance basis providing facial reconstruction services to funeral homes who don’t have embalmers on staff or that don’t have people skilled in reconstruction of facial trauma. In these cases, embalming is almost always necessary for viewing. I live in the US and it is legal to have viewing without embalming, but if there has been any sort of traumatic death it’s usually not possible to have a pleasant viewing experience with no embalming.

Viewing the body is not important to all cultures or all people, but for many, it is. My job is to show them a body that looks like the person they lost. This is an especially invaluable service when the grieving person was the one to find the body, like if you come home and find that your husband has shot himself. Or if you were in a car wreck and you watched your son’s head get smashed. I can make it look like that never happened.

Likewise, if you watched your mother waste away from cancer to 70 lb and you just wish you could see her the way she looked before she got sick, I can’t promise miracles but I can make her look better than she did when she died.

Mortuary cosmetics and restorative skin materials are made to work with dry, hard tissues. Dead skin that is not embalmed will quickly start to decompose and will not hold cosmetic products.

Embalming is meant to last through the viewing and funeral. Many families I serve have extended viewings, often in the family’s home for up to 3 days. I don’t guarantee how long the results will last and no embalmer should. There are too many variables at play. I’ve seen bodies dug up after 20 years that looked perfect and I’ve seen bodies dug up after 5 years that were nothing but skeletons.

I believe that nobody should be pressured into embalming or lied to about it. It is almost never required by law, at least in America. But I also believe in the importance of viewing, and if you lose a loved one in a traumatic and disfiguring way, it may be a comfort to be able to see them as you last remembered them.

Is this right for me

Best personality for this career
The Builders and The Organizers

You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tends to like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery..

They also like following set procedures and routines. They like working with data and details more than with ideas.

Learn more about Embalmers

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