If you plan to earn a living as a funeral director, you'll need the right credentials. All states require funeral directors to obtain licenses. To obtain a funeral director’s license, you must be at least 21, have an associate degree from an accredited mortuary sciences program, serve an apprenticeship and pass a state licensing exam. The nation had 29,760 funeral directors as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Funeral directors earned a median annual income $52,790 a year as of May 2011, according to the BLS. That’s higher than the median for all U.S. jobs of $34,465 a year. The bottom 10 percent of earners among funeral directors averaged $29,490 a year. The top 10 percent averaged $97,200. Salary differences come from factors including industry and practice region.
Funeral directors who worked for the federal executive branch earned more than the industry average, with a mean wage of $71,440 a year, according to the BLS. The federal executive branch classification includes federal, state and local governments, excluding state and local schools and hospitals and the U.S. Postal Service. Funeral directors working in death care services also out-earned industry averages, with a mean income of $61,340 a year.
Funeral directors in several states took home above-average pay. New York had the highest mean annual wage for funeral directors as of May 2011, at $83,730. New Jersey ranked second, with a mean of $79,600. Connecticut’s mean of $77,350 ranked third. Rounding out the top five were Massachusetts, at $73,830, and Minnesota, at $72,860.
Among metropolitan areas, Nassau-Suffolk, New York, topped funeral-director pay as of May 2011, with a mean annual income of $121,090. Second-place Columbus, Ohio, had a mean salary of $92,240. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California, placed third, with a mean of $89,200. The New York-White Plains-Wayne area straddling New York and New Jersey had a mean of $87,630. California’s Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale market completed the top five, with mean earnings of $87,080.
The BLS forecasts job growth of 18 percent for funeral directors from 2010 to 2020, as an aging population means more deaths. Plus, increasing numbers of seniors prearrange end-of-life services, creating more demand for funeral directors. Funeral directors who embalm and are willing to relocate can expect especially strong job prospects.