When entering the funeral industry, it is important to first look into individual state requirements. Each state has its own licensing regulations governing entry as a funeral director. Most require a combination of postsecondary education (typically Associate Degree in Funeral Service Education), passing the National Board Examination, and completing an internship for one or two years. The amount of college required to become licensed varies among states as well, requirements vary from no college to four years of college.

With all the variations in requirements across the country, keeping up with how these requirements and regulations in education evolve and change over time can be tricky and sometimes complicated. However, change is inevitable so keeping up with the latest licensing news is vital.

“Many states are moving towards ensuring that the individuals who perform cremation operations are trained and certified. I’m certain this will lead to even more educational requirements being established as more states observe the importance and liability of such,” states Jack Lechner President and CEO of Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.

As funeral service continues to evolve with the emergence of millennials, we see a gradual shift toward developing a more inclusive learning culture – primarily in technology. The adoption rate of new technologies by the millennial community entering funeral service will bring a new set of expectations on how to learn and collaborate. Millennials expect to learn through using multiple devices, virtual delivery, over multiple forms of platforms and media accessed on-demand, all with a focus on speed and efficiency.

“Millennials are fueled by the need to consume content fast — when and how they want it. Educational institutions must meet these expectations by utilizing innovative technologies that are new in funeral service education. For the years ahead, the impact on how funeral service education will be delivered will be a major change and will shape the industry in the future,” explains Jill Karn, Chief Operating Officer of Pierce Mortuary Colleges.

Change is constant and everyone should embrace change. As educational standards continue to increase over the years, these changes will only benefit the industry and shape it into a well-respected and admired profession.

“As funeral directors become more educated through continuing educational offerings, we become stronger and more knowledgeable to better our families in the future. The future of our profession rests with well-educated mortuary science students; as well as current interns and licensees. The curriculum is also changing to reflect the current and future trends in the funeral profession. There is an appreciation of the complexities confronting today’s funeral practitioner in such diverse areas as business management and accounting, psychology and counseling, marketing and public relations, and others. A computer science course is also available, as well as a Professional Seminar Series designed to keep the student abreast of the different facets influencing the funeral service profession,” explains Dr. Joseph Marsaglia of Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. FBA

Get industry information and advice from top educational institutions for 2017 in this feature editorial.

All Pierce Mortuary Colleges strive to create the best and most advanced environment for all students, graduates, partnerships and funeral directors.

“At each of our campuses (Mid-America College of Funeral Service, Dallas Institute of Funeral Service, and Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service) we host on-campus employer visits throughout the year with companies looking to hire graduates. Even before our students graduate, employers are encouraged to use these events to interview, make contacts with potential hires, and to begin their hiring search. We offer career placement assistance and personalized career plans for students from day one and our job placement rates are excellent. Another important service that we offer to funeral directors is continuing education/CEUs. We provide on-campus continuing education events throughout the year so that your employees have the tools and licensing requirements they need to thrive in a constantly evolving workplace,” explains Jill Karn, Chief Operating Officer of Pierce Mortuary Colleges.

Whether you want to advance your professional career or take a few courses for personal enrichment, Pierce Mortuary Colleges will connect you to your goals. They offer programs taught by experienced professionals at each of their three locations. For individuals seeking to advance credentials or enhance their career, they offer an Online Bachelor of Science in Funeral Service program at Mid-America College of Funeral Service. For individuals seeking to explore interests, develop skills and enhance their careers, all Pierce Mortuary Colleges offer an accredited associate program, certificate programs, and a variety of courses.

“We thrive and strive to act on signals of change from the funeral service profession and environment – we decode them, reshape the information landscape, process and strategize for a positive outcome. Competitiveness is often defined as doing something better. For us, it is more about being excellent at learning to do new things – to have the ability to read and act on signals. We must have our antennae tuned to signals of change from the funeral service profession and environment. Our belief isn’t surrounded by rivalry but instead is about innovating, improving, and succeeding. We value competiveness as an elevation to our Colleges to go above and beyond what is expected from the funeral service profession. We aim to empower our students, alumni, and faculty through successes, challenges and what to expect for every favorable outcome,” Karn adds.

Licensed Funeral Directors/Embalmers, and service professionals alike, must make the shift to fully embrace that education is a lifetime process. In the past, education was primarily targeted to the entry level practitioner.

“Today, with the advent of so many regulatory agencies and the expansive continuing education required at the state level, all practitioners should be embracing the concept of a life time of learning as to evolve with changing regulations, service trends, and family needs. We believe that our approach to hands-on learning through a campus based program is the best way to facilitate a strong, balanced education foundation. CCMS instructors are experts in their respective areas, and their credentials reflect such. The small teacher to student ration makes the educational experience incredibly valuable. Students are only required to spend 16 months here after meeting the core education prerequisites. CCMS’ high standard of education delivered during their 16 months on campus, not only prepares them to serve the profession, but also minimizes the time spent away from home and the funeral home,” explains Jack Lechner President and CEO of Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.

“Because we are professionally accredited we are up to date with the ABFSE curriculum that is used as one of the anchors for the National Board Examination (NBE) and because we are regionally accredited, a student can transfer our degree to any other regionally accredited College or University in the U.S. For example, after earning my BMS from CCMS, I went on to earn two masters degrees at two major universities. Our educational program offerings provide opportunity not only to graduates, but to service professionals who desire a life time of learning through relevant continuing education seminars,” states Lechner.

“Professionally and regionally accredited means that our student’s education is transferable anywhere in the U.S. The credit they earn is theirs to keep. CCMS’ fully accredited academic programs are held to a standard which meets or exceeds the professional and regional program standard requirements as evidenced in the high pass rates on the National Board Examination, which are statistically well above the national average. CCMS students are not only presented with the curriculum that is required by the ABFSE, students also benefit from the additional semester in the Bachelor program where the curriculum is enhanced and built around the current needs of the death care profession. Students graduate with a profound respect for their instructors that is evident in the emotional displays as students graduate the program and in the rate graduates return to serve as adjunct and guest instructors for years to come. This respect and connection sets the conditions for licensed alumni to return to CCMS for their Continuing Educational needs,” he continues.

PIMS offers educational opportunities for mortuary students from every state. To meet the licensure requirements of each state, PIMS has several programs available; such as the diploma program, associate degree programs, and bachelor degree cooperative programs.

“Prospective funeral homes would be interested in our educational services; especially when having to choose a mortuary program. PIMS offers both campus based and online educational programs and was the first mortuary school to have a complete up and running online program. All PIMS students take a cremation course and receive their CCO (Certified Crematory Operator) certification. Additionally all students, have extensive practical application in making ‘mock’ funeral arrangements to celebrate the life of a deceased. Moreover, all campus students, regardless of their state, receive a three hour program on Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting,” explains Dr. Joseph Marsaglia, CFSP of PIMS.

PIMS offers an extensive program designed to prepare students for the many challenges they will encounter as funeral service professionals. The diversified curriculum continually evolves to address the changing needs and expectations associated with contemporary funeral services. PIMS continues to provide thorough training in the mortuary arts and sciences. This training includes a theoretical understanding as well as personalized practical instruction by licensed funeral directors and embalmers. The school not only utilizes the facilities in its own building but also works in cooperation with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office to enhance the student’s exposure to a wide range of applied experiences.

“Our faculty members exhibit a wide range of interests and come from very different backgrounds both within the funeral profession and within their own areas of expertise. This allows for an individualized learning experience whereby the student becomes acquainted with the skills required of the funeral professional. The students are encouraged to actively participate in this experience and are supported in this effort by the faculty and the administration. The Institute strives to provide relevant information on all topics surrounding the last rites industry thereby allowing both students and licensees to make informed choices within their chosen profession. In addition to this, an attempt is made to instill a sense of social consciousness which stresses the growing responsibilities and obligations of the funeral service professional. Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science aspires to provide its graduates with the resources and the confidence to represent funeral service as a professional caregiver providing a valuable contribution to the community,” Marsaglia continues.