More Women Are Enrolling in Mortuary Schools

National, September 10, 2022 – Beam Media

Colleges specializing in funeral services education are seeing an increase in enrollment amid a scarcity of personnel in the funeral service industry.

Lily McCmore, director of programs at Worsham College of Mortuary Sciences in Wheeling, Illinois, one of the oldest mortuary schools in the country dating back to 1911, said.

In 2021, new student enrollment nationwide in accredited mortuary science programs jumped 24% compared to 2020, according to the American Council on Funeral Services Education.

McMorrow, who is also chair of the American Board of Funeral Services Education (AFBSE) accreditation committee, said the overall percentage increase in student enrollment at 58 accredited funeral programs or institutions in the United States could be higher this year.

Randy Anderson, president of the National Association of Funeral Directors, is acutely aware of the employment crisis and says colleges cannot recruit licensed workers quickly enough to meet the need for new staff.

Anderson said the demand for funeral directors is particularly high, and an aging workforce has made it a race against time.

“There is an urgent need to replace those who have worked in the profession for many years and are retiring,” he said. “More than 60% of funeral home owners said they would retire within five years. That’s a lot.”

Anderson said the NFDA currently has more than 20,000 members, and each state has its own professional training and licensing requirements. Most states also require funeral directors to graduate from an accredited college or university.

According to the latest government data, the funeral industry generates more than $16 billion in annual revenue. There were more than 18,800 funeral homes in the United States in 2021, most of them small, privately owned businesses, down from 19902 in 2010, according to industry figures.

Young women, second job seekers join the ranks

Women currently make up 72% of recent graduates in funeral services education, according to the latest AFBSE figures. Anderson said, “Until the 1970s, men dominated. And in every decade since then, the number of women entering the profession has increased.”

And they’re younger tooThe typical student in Warsham is 24 to 29 years old, McMurrow said, but many of the older applicants are seeking a new job.Ed Michael Reggie, CEO of an online resource to help families find a funeral home or crematorium provider that best meets their needs.

“No one plans to be a funeral director, unless one of your parents is in the business,” Reggie said. “But as a first-time career, it’s general and not an expensive degree. It’s a shorter program than a full college degree and you can make $60,000 to $75,000 per year.”

Elaine Wynn McBrair is the funeral director for Jones-Wynn Funeral Home and Crematorium, a third-generation family business with two locations in Georgia. Her grandmother, Shirley Drew Jones, was the first woman to serve as a licensed funeral director in the state.

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