People who are interested in a career in the funeral service industry are coming from all walks of life today. In the past, most funeral directors, morticians, and embalmers worked in family businesses, followed in the footsteps of relatives, and were male. Now all of that is changing and people who have no family history of funeral service work are applying to colleges to get degrees in Funeral Science or Mortuary Science. Some estimates say that more than 50% of these new students are female, and many are relatively young. It's no longer considered 'strange' for a woman to become a mortician.
One of the most difficult things about a career in funeral service is getting started. There are not that many colleges across the US that offer a Funeral Science or Mortuary Science degree. The colleges that do offer the degree can have strict requirements and limited enrollment - meaning that not just anyone can get into the program. Preference is often given to people who have experience working in a funeral home. People who have similar types of work or volunteer experience, who have advanced degrees in other areas, and/or who have other impressive credentials come next. If there are still spots available, other applicants will be interviewed.
Some schools are easier to get into than others, and a few offer online courses and degrees, although a student still has to go to the school for clinical and practical classes such as embalming labs. The other option for these students is to satisfy their lab requirements at a funeral home that has been approved by the school, and getting this approval can be costly and time-consuming. No matter what school you choose to apply to, make sure it's accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) or the degree you attain might not be helpful in getting you a job or a license in many states.
Schooling is also not the only issue for people interested in a career in funeral service. Internships are required in many states, and they are often one year for a funeral director and two years for an embalmer. Eighteen is the earliest age that a person can obtain a license in any state, and in some states the age is 21. Only Colorado doesn't license its funeral directors.
If you're willing to pound the pavement to get an internship, and you're willing to apply until you get accepted into a college program for funeral service, though, your persistence will eventually pay off. In the meantime, any extra skills you can learn could be helpful to you in your chosen profession. A lot of schools like to see prospective students who speak a second language, know something about cosmetology for reconstructive purposes, and can properly operate a computer. Counseling, psychology, or bereavement training are also good skills to have, but none of them are required to apply to a school that offers a Funeral Science or Mortuary Science degree.