EMBALMERS California Occupational Guide Number 340 Interest Area 2 1995
Among the most ancient professions is that of EMBALMER - the individual who prepares the dead for burial. Over 5,000 years ago, Egyptian Embalmers had developed such skill in their work that bodies prepared by them for interment remain in an excellent state of preservation today. Modern Embalmers provide the essential service of helping to protect public health by preparing remains for burial in conformity with laws of health and sanitation and are instrumental in preventing the spread of contagious diseases.
Embalmers, who are employed by funeral directors, prepare the remains for interment. Embalmers wash the body with germicidal soap and then begin the embalming process by removing body fluids and other matter. They replace body fluids with embalming fluid and pack cavities with cotton or other material. Embalmers may reshape or reconstruct features, when necessary, applying the techniques of derma surgery. They apply cosmetics to give a natural appearance, dress the body, and place it in the casket selected by the family. Embalmers must know and follow legal requirements covering the embalming process, including special procedures necessary for remains that are to be transported to other states or overseas, or where death was caused by an infectious disease.
Job duties vary according to the type and size of establishment. In large establishments, Embalmers may be involved with the entire embalming process, or with just one phase of the process. In smaller establishments, the embalming process may be performed by Funeral Directors who are also licensed Embalmers. Embalmers may serve as pallbearers, attend the visiting room, and provide other assistance to the bereaved. If they are employed in county coroner's departments, they may assist the coroner at the scene of death or at autopsies, file police reports, and testify at inquests or in court.
Most Embalmers also perform all the duties of funeral directors, which include providing assistance to the family of the deceased by coordinating funeral activities and being responsible for all the details surrounding the burial or the cremation ceremony. They interview family members or other authorized persons to arrange for the preparation of the obituary notice, assist with the selection of casket or urn, and determine the location and time of burial or cremation. They direct the placement of the casket and floral displays in the viewing parlor or chapel and arrange guest seating. After the service, Embalmers assist with placing the casket in the hearse and organizing the procession to the cemetery. They also may arrange for transporting the deceased to another state for interment.
The embalming process is carried out in isolated, well ventilated, clinically clean areas that must meet standards set by the State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. Embalmers are responsible for maintaining the workrooms and equipment in a sanitary condition. Although a health hazard may be encountered when handling contagious disease cases, the risk of infection is minimal because of the required strict sanitary conditions. Embalmers are often required to perform heavy lifting and may be outdoors for extended periods, sometimes in inclement weather.
Embalmers may belong to a local Embalmer's association or the Mortuary Employees Union. They may also be members of the California Funeral Director's Association and local funeral director's associations.
The following information is from the California Projections of Employment published by the Labor Market Information Division. It shows the number of Embalmers will grow slower than average through 2005. (Projected growth for all occupations in California is expected to average 24 percent through 2005.)
Estimated number of workers in 1990 670 Estimated number of workers in 2005 760 Projected Growth 1990-2005 13% Estimated openings due to separations by 2005 130
(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)
According to the State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers, there are currently about 3,500 licensed Embalmers in California. Turnover is low, with openings occurring occasionally. Some mortuaries report a less than adequate supply of qualified applicants to fill available openings. Officials in the industry feel that a labor pool crisis could occur in the near future because too few potential applicants are in training to serve a growing and aging population. Demand is expected to increase during the next few years as the population ages and the large number of Embalmers who entered the field following the Second World War reach retirement age.
WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS
Experience, the size of the mortuary, the mortuary's geographic location, and commissions and bonuses, from Funeral Director activities often determine the precise wage level of Embalmers. Qualified Embalmers usually earn between $1,400 to $3,400 a month. Union scale in some areas of the state extends to $3,500 per month for a 40 hour week. Apprentices usually receive beginning wages of $1,200 to $1,900 per month. Depending on the job duties and the union, the apprentice scale can reach $2,500 a month. Many mortuaries provide room and board for apprentices and pay a lesser salary. Some employers offer commission pay in addition to base salaries. In most establishments the hours of work vary. Generally, Embalmers work an eight-hour day, five or six days a week. Days of long work hours may alternate with idle days when employees are on call. Smaller mortuaries may have Embalmers or apprentices living on the premises. Employees in larger mortuaries work in shifts and generally have regular working hours. Some free-lance at several mortuaries.
ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING
Prospective Embalmers must have good health, be free of any allergy to the chemicals used, and should have at least moderate physical strength for required lifting. Manual and finger dexterity are necessary. Important personality traits include courtesy, tact, understanding, emotional stability, and the ability to communicate easily with the public.
California requires all Embalmers to complete a nine-month course at a State Board accredited school of mortuary science. They must also serve a two-year apprenticeship within California and pass a State licensing examination. Candidates must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or its equivalent. High school preparation should include courses in the sciences and English.
College of mortuary science courses include embalming sciences, basic sciences and State law. Students desiring to become managers or administrators in funeral establishments may take courses in funeral management, mortuary management, and psychology. Since each state has special requirements and few have any kind of reciprocity agreements with California, individuals considering working outside the State of California after graduation should learn the requirements of those states before beginning training and education.
The two-year apprenticeship may be completed before or after attending the school of mortuary science. To qualify as apprentice Embalmers, applicants must meet the same age and educational requirements as for licensing and must have obtained employment in a funeral establishment approved by the State Board.
After completing the apprenticeship and mortuary science course work, prospective Embalmers must pass the California licensing examination, given semiannually. The examination covers chemistry, anatomy, pathology, embalming, bacteriology, restorative arts, and California law.
An Embalmer with a pleasant manner, ability to meet the public, and a capacity for administrative work may become a specialist in funeral arrangements, a partner, or a mortuary manager. While many funeral homes are sole proprietorships, an increasing number are owned by corporations that have created mid-management and upper level positions. Other possible promotional opportunities for Embalmers include association with medical schools or hospitals, and teaching. Embalmers can earn extra money and often advance their careers by publishing articles for professional and scientific journals. Occasional openings may occur in county civil service.
FINDING THE JOB
Most opportunities to become apprentice Embalmers are obtained through personal application at funeral establishments. Persons interested in this field should contact local mortuaries, funeral directors' associations, local clergy, or one of the colleges of mortuary science for information or assistance.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers 2535 Capitol Oaks Dr. Sacramento, CA 95833 (916) 263-3180
California Funeral Directors Association 347 Main Street Placerville, CA 95667 (916) 621-1755
OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES
DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1) Embalmer (per. ser.) 338.371-014
OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Embalmers 390140
Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.