The Funeral Profession: Expectations Vs. Reality


From my personal experience, I think it’s safe to say that the funeral profession is one of the most misunderstood businesses out there.

It could be because of our country’s negative feelings towards death. Or, it could be because of all the horror stories we read about on the Internet of funeral homes misplacing bodies, scamming innocent families and who knows what else. But in the end, it’s clear that there are a lot of misconceptions about this business and the people who work in it.

Today, I’m here to put some of those assumptions to rest. With that being said, here are the six most popular misconceptions the public assumes about the funeral profession… and the realities behind them.

Expectation: All funeral directors are money hungry scam artists.

Reality: Most funeral directors actually have your well-being in mind.


For some reason the media really likes to portray funeral directors as being professional scam artists. Sure, there’s always a bad apple (or a few) in the bunch, but it’s pretty unfair to assume any funeral director you’re going to deal with is on a mission to scam you. In fact, most funeral directors are incredibly caring, emotional people who truly want to help you during your time of need. To avoid those bad apples, it just takes a quick search on Yelp and Google and you’ll find out pretty quickly whether or not that funeral home is credible and trustworthy.

People join the death care industry for the great pay.

Reality: Most funeral professionals aren’t in it for the money.


Before I started working in the funeral profession several years ago, I always had this idea that funeral directors and funeral homes were sitting on huge piles of money. I mean, in the world of supply and demand, how couldn’t they? Nobody is going to stop dying anytime soon, right? Well, I quickly realized that this was far from the truth.

In fact, the average funeral director or embalmer makes about $51,600 a year (although other sources report an average income of $42,240). So much for those those imaginary piles of money. All this time I thought that funeral directors chose this business for the money, I was wrong. It turns out, people choose this business because they believe it’s their calling, regardless of what their paycheck says.

Expectation: Funeral professionals are usually old, stuffy men wearing suits.

Reality: People of all ages work in the funeral profession (in fact, there are more women than men).


Just less than 40 years ago, the funeral service industry was dominated by men (and yes, arguably stuffy ones in suits). In fact, only 5% of the funeral profession was made up of women. Historically throughout Hebrew and Greek cultures, women played a huge part in preparing the dead. But for many years in the U.S., they were considered “unfit” to be lifting and transporting bodies from the home to the funeral home.

Now, in the new millenium, women make up 60% of the funeral profession. I believe this is because we are experiencing a shift in the needs and wants from today’s families. Today’s average funeral consumer wants to be comforted, supported and know they can trust their funeral director to take care of them and their loved one. I think the needs and wants of today’s families are better offered through sensitive, emotionally-charged funeral directors who are social savvy and less intimidating than a cold, distant man in a suit. This isn’t to say males can’t offer this type of care to families. But it does speak a lot about the spike in females in the profession.

Expectation: Only weird, gothic people work in funeral service.

Reality: Funeral service employees are just like everyone else… completely sane and “normal.”


It might be hard to believe, but the people you see in the picture to the right are real funeral directors. I know, it might be weird to see funeral directors who are young, drinking and having fun, especially with the way the media portrays funeral professionals. But the reality is that everyday “normal” people work in the funeral profession and choose it for reasons that don’t include being gothic, creepy or obsessed with death. If you don’t believe us, check out these 20 reasons why normal people enter this profession.

Expectation: Corporate funeral homes will not offer the same level of care as independent funeral homes.

Reality: The level of care you receive from a funeral home has nothing to do with whether or not they’re corporate.


The word “corporation” almost always leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. Honestly, it leaves a bad one in mine too. After all, terms like “local”, “independent” or “family owned” usually tell you that you’re choosing a business with friendly, familiar faces who are living in your town and know your family and friends. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have a less than extraordinary experience working with corporate funeral homes.


Sure, many corporate funeral homes have sales quotas that they must meet. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the funeral director you’re working with at a corporate funeral home is going to care less about you or your loved one than a funeral director at a mom-and-pop funeral home. Many funeral professionals who have worked for both corporate and independent funeral homes will truthfully tell you that they offer the same level of service to families no matter where they’re employed. To them it’s all about the service, not about the agenda.

Expectation: A funeral home is a creepy, dark, depressing place to be.

Reality: Many modern funeral homes embrace bright colors, natural sunlight and uplifting decor.


Traditionally, funeral homes are known to be dark, smelly, scary and intimidating. Just the thought of walking into a funeral home can be enough to give you the heebie jeebies. But now, many funeral homes are taking steps towards changing the way people see funeral homes. Most have undergone a renovation that incorporates more natural lighting, plants, bright colors, and uplifting decor. In fact, some funeral homes are so beautiful that people are hosting weddings, movie nights, and even graduations at them. If you’re interested, feel free to check out the 10 most beautiful funeral homes, cemeteries and resting places in the world.

One last thing…

The funeral profession is a business that not many people take the time to learn more about. If you read this article and are still under the impression that the funeral profession and everyone in it is creepy, intimidating, soul sucking or rich, I encourage you to find out for yourself. Seriously. Visit a funeral home in your community and see what it’s really like. Talk to a funeral director or two. Heck, you could even take one out for coffee and pick their brain on the current state of their business. And when you do, tell us about your experiences in the comments below. Chances are, you’ll be surprised… in a positive way!

What other misconceptions do you think exist in the funeral profession? Tell us in the comments below!

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  1. Boyd Rick Bingham

    I found out from talking to a funeral home friend that he actually plays the guitar. How normal is that since my own family actually are Music people.It was a ice breaker for getting to be on the same level. I will someday even let him tune and play my fathers guitars.

  2. Roger Glenn Sept

    Fantastic article, thank you. I know when we are confronted with the high cost of funerals, we take plumbers’, electricians’, garages’ hourly rates and multiply it by the man hours that go into a funeral; the cost of the funeral pales when looked upon this way. We also point out that we do not charge overtime when called out at all hours to attend a family’s needs. It is fair to say, the criticism is quickly squashed.

  3. Robert Muratore

    What great points you made all of which are 100% true. I received my license back in ’85. And none of my family are remotely connected with the funeral industry. To work these types of hours, holidays etc. You truly have to have the love and passion for it. It’s a shame at the age of 55 I just cannot seem to find a FT position. The firm I worked for twenty years I was in the prep room FT. But I am not giving up. Bang on enough doors one will open. Great article.

  4. Maggie Rezac

    Rochelle, thank you so much for this blog! So very true on a topic of extreme misunderstanding. My beautiful daughter is also a Funeral Director & when I tell people, they still squint, until I educate them that the majority of her/your work is dealing with the living {survivors}. Only thing I would add to this blog is my own ‘mantra’…PRE-PLAN! After the nightmare of details following my husband’s suicide 18 years ago, I met w/ my own funeral director & got the arrangements for a simple cremation done. Commissioned my own ceramic urn at little cost & now no one will have to sit around that table trying to decide what I should wear! Had a very positive experience with a different funeral home a year ago when my big brother died suddenly & you guessed it, we had a female Director! Very compassionate & competent. May God Bless You in your continued endeavors! Love the video! LOL, black nail polish? Ha ha ha ha! Shalom. -maggie rezac

  5. Brent De Land

    Very nice pieced. Helpful information.

  6. Barbara Cho

    My father is getting old and he asked me to find a funeral home for him. This is really hard for me to do. Thanks for the information it has taken a lot of stress off me. It also brings peace to my heart to know that normal people will be help us. Thanks again!!

  7. Eva Ambriz

    I live in a small town that has 2 funeral homes,my immediate family have had 1 close family member pass away last summer and our local funeral director was so good in taking care of me and my family as well as my deceased son, this family can now get together and talk about prearrangements, life insurance,family plots etc. my sons passing opened up a new chapter in our lives that helped us learn much more of things that need to be addressed and taken care of now that we are living. In the past we had been blessed by not having this experience to where we did not even think of funeral homes or anything like that ,then my oldest daughter wanted to go to mortuary school and the family is saying ” omg why” so she completed her school and went to work for a funeral home, well after my sons passing we had a very different attitude towards all the caring people in the business, I was very thankful for our local funeral director and his staff in providing the beautiful arrangement and service for my son, I never once thought that he was out to scam me and my family, he did his job in a very professional and caring way.