New to the Profession

Becoming a Funeral Director

The funeral profession has been around for centuries, and although it has changed over the generations, the concept remains the same. It is a profession dedicated to assisting families in their time of need, the embalming, burial or cremation of the dead, and the arrangement of funeral ceremonies.

Many people drawn to this profession have a certain set of skills and characteristics that are unique. The best Funeral Directors are amazing organizers who can multi-task effortlessly with exceptional communication skills when dealing with grieving families. Are you a good fit? Lets explore this a bit more.

Creative Opportunities

Funeral Directors specialize in bringing people together for a common purpose. A Celebration of Life service for example, is just that, an opportunity for family and friends to get together and celebrate the life of somebody they loved dearly. In many cases the Funeral Director will sit with the family and assist them in creating a memorable event. Venues need to be researched, caterers, flowers, décor, technology and so much more. Connect to your creative side and assist the family in creating a more personalized concierge-styled memorial service. For example, add a photo and short biography inside the driver’s window of Gary’s classic car and sign up for the annual Classic Car Show where you invite friend and family to come along and honour Gary at one of his favourite events. Betty loved to fly and when she passed away suddenly her children wanted to do something special to honour her. Instead of having the service at the local funeral home or church, the flowers, caterers and audio visual equipment all got set up at the local airport hanger where her friends and family congregated to celebrate her colourful life.

Organizing one-of-a-kind memorial services for families can be very rewarding. Some of the best Funeral Directors have a background in event planning!

Organizational Skills and Multi-Tasking

It isn’t uncommon for these skills to be important in a job, however in the funeral business being organized, efficient and able to do more than one task at a time is critical. A normal day can involve many different tasks such as meeting with families, answering phone inquiries, organizing small details of an upcoming event, all while communicating with other co-workers (including the embalmer if needed), ordering caskets, urns and flowers, printing service cards, writing an obituary notice and submitting it to numerous papers, and scheduling part time staff and vehicles needed for an upcoming service. Checklists are the Funeral Director’s best friend and must always be reviewed and revised throughout the day. You must always be one step ahead of the game. Ordering a casket isn’t enough, you have to make sure that it shows up with enough time for the mortician to do his work, you have to make sure it is the correct one and you have to make sure that all the work is finished in time for the funeral coach to leave for the service. If you thrive in organizing details, meticulous planning and flawless execution, you will be a great Funeral Director! On the other hand, if you struggle with working on more than one task at a time, and get easily flustered with organizational duties, maybe this isn’t the profession for you.

Strong Interpersonal Skills

Being a Funeral Director isn’t always easy… you are dealing with people under extremely stressful circumstances and can sometimes be injected into very emotional situations and conversations. Learning how to deal with people under these conditions is vital. While being compassionate and caring is what is required most of the time, there are situations when you need to take charge and play a more assertive role in guiding family members into making important decisions. A good Funeral Director doesn’t always say ‘yes’ to please, as there can be limitations on timing due to church scheduling or a coroner’s involvement in the case.

It is very important to have clear and concise communication with all involved. Most Funeral Directors will not leave important information on voice mail messages or emails, they will phone and speak directly to the executor or family member in charge of the arrangements. Always following up, confirming, re-confirming and organizing every detail is so important.

Embalming

The funeral schooling is now divided into two groups, you can become a licensed Funeral Director, or you can become a licensed Embalmer. Some people may prefer more of a behind the scenes role where they can develop skills related to restoration, preservation and preparation of the deceased. This job is more suited for individuals who have an interest in human anatomy, chemistry, cosmetology, and those who work well with little or no direction from others. Many embalmers find their career quite rewarding as you are able to serve people of all walks of life, giving them the opportunity to view their loved ones one last time. It is considered a very noble profession and most embalmers can spend years mastering their skills.

Getting Your Formal Education

Once you make the decision to become a Funeral Director you will have to enroll in an accredited program. You will also need to have a funeral home sponsor you so that you can gain the practical hours needed to graduate. In British Columbia you can start your journey at the Canadian College of Funeral Directors in which you will need to complete 3600 hours of work-based training as well as in-school and online courses. The program takes 10 months to complete.

Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services is proud to sponsor dedicated individuals interested in this rewarding career. You will receive a salary and also have your education paid for while you develop and learn the necessary skills to become a licensed Funeral Director or Embalmer.

Your First Two Years As a Licensed Funeral Director.

What can you expect in your first two years working for Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services as a newly licensed Funeral Director or Embalmer?

Funeral Director

As a new licensed Funeral Director you will begin your career by developing practical experience meeting with families right away, providing compassionate support and organizing their funeral needs. You will be working very closely with a more senior Director who will oversee some of the more complicated services and with other staff members to assist with the planning if needed.

Some of your days will be spent in the office dealing with administrative aspects of the job, phone enquiries, booking and planning the upcoming funerals, and communicating with your families, while other days you will be out at churches and cemeteries directing funerals. Some can be done in an hour, others can last a whole day.

Most Funeral Directors are caregivers who enjoy serving others. They receive appreciation and recognition from the families they serve, which validates their chosen profession. It isn’t uncommon to look at the desk of a Funeral Director and see a collection of personalized thank you cards that they have collected from the families they have helped over the years. It can be a very rewarding career for anybody who has a gift of sensitivity and compassion with top-notch skills of event planning.

Embalmer

As a licensed embalmer you will leave the school with a highly trained specialized skill and will be responsible for embalming and preparing the bodies of the deceased for funeral services as well as burials or cremations. You will spend most of your time in the preparation room, which is usually located in the bottom floor or the back end of the funeral home. Most embalmers work on their own, however for the few years you will be interning under direct supervision of a more senior embalmer.

A great embalmer will pay attention to details and is able to handle a vast array of surgical instruments, equipment, and tools needed to perform all the tasks. As the demand for talented embalmers grows, you will find this profession a great career choice with a guaranteed job in the years to come.

About Alternatives

At Alternatives our motto is “Different, On Purpose” and we live up to that. We believe that our number one asset is our people, and our people are our competitive advantage. For that reason we offer a rewards program that helps our employees be well and live well. It includes the following:

Competitive Pay – where we provide above the average pay salaries to our employees,

Employee Benefits – All of our employee benefits include extended medical, drug reimbursement, dental and vision care, life and accident insurance and disability benefits.

Additional Benefits  - All funeral directors who make arrangements in the family home, will receive their own vehicle that can be used outside of office hours. This includes insurance, repairs and gas. We also offer flexible work hours in which you can schedule personal appointments during office hours.

Next Steps

As an independently owned and owner operated business, we understand the value of having great staff. We are always interested in adding talented people to our team and helping them foster a new and rewarding career.

If you would like to learn more about Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services, send an email to [email protected], or give us a call anytime (604) 857-5779, ask to speak with Tyrel Burton, Owner.

We look forward to meeting you!