Life as a funeral director can be busy and stressful, as this job requires a mix of customer service, on-call responsibilities, and the ability to deal with death and grief. Job responsibilities can vary depending on the size and organization of a funeral home. In some cases a funeral director may be a primary operator, handling arrangements, embalming, pickups, and other tasks. Others focus on helping customers and managing paperwork, leaving embalming and preparation to assistants and specialized staff.
One aspect of this job that can be difficult is the unpredictable hours. Historically, funeral directors often lived at the funeral home so they could be available at all times, although the advent of cell phones has made it more possible to maintain some distance from work. Customers may call at any hour for a pickup, or a hospital, coroner, or similar entity might call to request service. The funeral director needs to be prepared to pick up bodies and get them into storage quickly.
If the job includes embalming and related services, the funeral director prepares bodies, a process that includes washing them, applying makeup, and consulting with families to make sure the deceased appear as expected. Otherwise, it may be necessary to supervise assistants while they perform these tasks. In addition, funeral directors handle paperwork, supply ordering, payroll, and other business aspects to keep the facility running smoothly and functionally. They may also need to attend continuing education workshops, seminars, and related events to keep up with the field.
Interpersonal skills are an important part of life as a funeral director. Customers are met during a very difficult time in their lives, and sensitivity is required along with a knowledge of different cultural traditions and communities. Having connections and a respected reputation is critical, so life as a funeral director may include attending civic events, supporting community endeavors, and sponsoring organizations in need of assistance.
While funeral directors work with death, the job is not necessarily sad, although individual clients can be difficult to work with; life as a funeral director may involve dealing with infant deaths, for example, which can be traumatic for parents and family. Many people in this career enjoy the ability to provide services in a time of need, especially when these involve unusual or special arrangements to honor the deceased. Working with multiple staff members can help distribute the stress caused by high workloads and long on-call hours by ensuring that people get time off to decompress. Life as a funeral director may be rewarding for people who are well-suited to the work.