Funeral directors play a crucial role in organising and overseeing funeral arrangements, based on the preferences of the deceased or their family members. From assisting with floral arrangements, coordinating catering after the service and supporting in the preparation of the deceased’s body, funeral directors provide invaluable assistance to families facing an exceptionally challenging and emotionally charged period. So, how to become one and what does it really take to be good at it?
We’ve answered some FAQs below.
Do you need specific qualifications to become a funeral director?
The Australian funeral industry is unregulated. Therefore, there is no licensing system in place for funeral directors and/or embalmers. While qualifications are not required to work within the funeral industry, formal training can help build your skills, your confidence and your career options.
What kind of courses or qualifications would be helpful to enrol in to become a funeral director?
Various nationally recognised qualifications are available within the Australian funeral services industry, which can only be obtained through training provided by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). Given the practical components of these courses, it is a prerequisite that participants must be employed in the Funeral Services Industry.
Among the courses available, these may be of interest:
Certificate II in Funeral Operations
This is tailored for employees working under supervision, such as mortuary assistants, funeral director’s assistants and funeral drivers.
Certificate III in Funeral Operations
This course is recommended for employees who work relatively independently; those who might need to coordinate and supervise others. Roles covered include funeral director’s assistants, funeral arrangers or conductors, funeral director assistants and customer service consultants.
Certificate IV in Funeral Services
Designed for those working autonomously, with responsibilities that involve coordinating and supervising others. This includes roles such as funeral directors, cemetery managers, and crematorium managers.
What are the cons of becoming a funeral director?
Being a funeral director is not a job for the faint-hearted; it demands a specific set of skills, a genuine passion for the industry and helping people, and a well-suited personality.
While there are many pros to becoming a funeral director, it's important to acknowledge the associated challenges:
As a funeral director, you will likely have to work evenings, weekends, public holidays and extended hours. Due to these demands, it’s a role that requires passion and dedication. The work itself can also be stressful. Like doctors, funeral directors are on call 24 hours a day.
Some funeral directors have observed that only approximately 15% of their time is dedicated to working directly with the deceased. Most of their time is focused on interacting with the living – whether it involves providing emotional support to the bereaved, assisting in funeral arrangements, or handling administrative tasks.
Additionally, funeral directors often have to put their own emotions aside to support those who are grieving. This emotionally demanding role can undoubtedly take its toll.
Frequently, when people learn that someone is a funeral director, it prompts a string of misguided questions due to misconceptions about the job. However, this social stigma may shift when an individual works directly with a funeral director and recognises the crucial role they play in offering support to grieving families.
Depending on their duties, some funeral directors handle corpses, which may expose them to the risk of infection or disease. While the occurrence of medical risks is rare, the implementation of proper training and the use of appropriate equipment are crucial preventative measures.
Ongoing training is often pursued by funeral directors to enhance their knowledge in this area. Alternatively, some may opt to outsource this work, yet they may still be responsible for overseeing it.
What kind of qualities should a funeral director have?
Since they navigate the delicate terrain of grief and loss with families and loved ones, it’s crucial that a funeral director is empathetic. A funeral director has a deep understanding of the emotional weight carried by those in mourning but also offers genuine care and support.
This might involve actively listening, offering solace, and creating a safe space where emotions can be expressed openly. During the most challenging period of someone’s life, a funeral director's empathetic approach can become a source of comfort, fostering trust and helping families navigate the challenging journey of saying goodbye to their loved ones.
Planning a funeral demands a unique set of skills and insider knowledge, making it a challenging task for those unfamiliar with the industry. This is where funeral directors step in. A good funeral director should be able to address any questions a client may have and clearly explain what services are available to them.
Staying informed about industry advancements, the best funeral directors strive to offer the most up-to-date and exceptional service to their clients, and are therefore always learning (and perhaps upskilling).
Not all families want traditional funerals for their loved ones, and at times, they may not have a clear idea of what the final farewell should look like. Given that everyone experiences grief differently, funeral directors must be flexible and even creative in their approach to providing support.
Emotional strength and intelligence
Funeral directors are pillars for families seeking guidance. Emotional resilience and intelligence is key to success, requiring a balance between sensitivity and strength. Maintaining a positive outlook in the face of heartbreak is crucial for navigating the complexities of the profession.
As a funeral director, you are likely to be supporting multiple families at any given time. Likewise, you will also be taking care of more than one deceased at any time. A high level of organisation is crucial to ensure you are aware of what is going on with each family, and to ensure you keep the process moving in order to ultimately give your families the closure that they need.
Funeral directors act as compassionate guides throughout the death process, offering support and assistance. From career stigmas to emotionally demanding periods, funeral directors encounter various challenges. Nevertheless, embarking on a career as a funeral director is a profoundly meaningful pursuit. It offers not only meaning but also a sense of empowerment and that you are helping others. By enrolling in relevant courses and continually upskilling, you pave the way to enter the death care space confidently.
Liked this blog and keen to read more? You may be interested in learning how to become a funeral celebrant.