Embalmers preserve and prepare bodies for burial or cremation.
Salary range: £17,000 to £28,000
How to become an embalmer
You can get into this job through:
- working towards this role
- specialist courses run by a professional body
You could do training to become an embalmer with your employer’s help, if you’re already working in the funeral industry.
Volunteering and experience
Work experience in a funeral service, mortuary or funeral home could help you to find a trainee position.
You’ll usually need to complete a training course approved by the British Institute of Embalmers.
Courses can be studied in the classroom or by distance learning and last between 2 and 3 years. Practical sessions will take place in an embalming theatre.
There are no set entry qualifications but GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, maths, chemistry or biology may be helpful.
You may have an advantage if you know about different faiths and cultures and the way they deal with death.
Professional and industry bodies
You could join the British Institute of Embalmers for professional development and to make industry contacts.
You’ll find more details about working as an embalmer through the British Institute of Embalmers.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- customer service skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- sensitivity and understanding
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- the ability to work well with others
- the ability to use your initiative
- knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
- knowledge of psychology
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
Restrictions and requirements
You may need specific vaccinations to be an embalmer, which are set out by the Department of Health and Public Health.
As a minimum, your employer should offer you vaccinations against:
What you’ll do
As part of your job, you could:
- wash and disinfect bodies to prevent deterioration and infection
- remove fluids and gases from the body and replace them with preservatives
- use plaster of Paris or wax to restore the appearance of bodies after injury
- wash and arrange hair and apply cosmetics
You will also:
- work with funeral arrangers to make sure the families’ wishes are met
- keep the mortuary clean to meet health and safety regulations
- make sure the mortuary is fully stocked
- complete paperwork required by law
You could work in a laboratory, at a funeral home or at a research facility.
Your working environment may be cool, physically demanding and you’ll travel often.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could become self-employed and work independently with several funeral directors.
You could go on to take further training and specialise in HIV or tuberculosis work, or join a team responding to disasters.
You could also become a funeral director.