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Embalmer

Embalmers preserve and prepare bodies from the time of death until they can be buried or cremated.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £17,000 to £28,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll usually need to complete a 2-year training course approved by the British Institute of Embalmers (BIE). You could do this with your employer’s help if you’re already working in the funeral industry.

You may find it useful to have GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English, maths and science, or equivalent qualifications. 

You could start as a trainee. Work experience in a funeral service, mortuary or funeral home could help you to find a trainee position.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • practical skills for using tools and surgical instruments
  • the ability to pay close attention to detail
  • sensitivity to other people's feelings
  • a responsible and dignified approach to work
  • a strong stomach for dealing with unusual sights and smells

3. What you'll do

You'll work for a funeral service as an employed embalmer or a contractor. Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • washing and disinfecting bodies to prevent deterioration and infection
  • removing fluids and gases from the body and replacing them with injected preservatives
  • using plaster of Paris or wax to restore the appearance of bodies after injury
  • washing and arranging hair and applying cosmetics

You might also be:

  • working closely with funeral arrangers to make sure the families' wishes are met
  • keeping the mortuary clean and meeting health and safety regulations
  • making sure the mortuary is fully stocked
  • completing any paperwork required by law

4. Salary

Starter: £17,000 to £19,000

Experienced: £20,000 to £28,000

You may be able to earn more if you're self-employed.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. During busy periods, you may need to cover weekends. You may also need to work an on-call, emergency rota.

You may travel to different funeral services locally and nationally.

The mortuary setting is stark and clinical. You'll spend a lot of time lifting and carrying. You'll also be on your feet for most of the day.

When embalming, you'll wear protective clothing like rubber boots, gloves and a theatre gown.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could become self-employed and work independently with several funeral directors.

You could go on to take further training and specialise in HIV or tuberculosis work, or join a team responding to disasters.

You could also become a funeral director.

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Last updated: 18 August 2017