Funeral Directors and Embalmers

Unit Group 6272

Skill Type: Sales and Service Occupations

Type of work

Funeral directors co-ordinate and arrange all aspects of funeral services. Embalmers prepare the remains of deceased persons for public visitation and burial.

For the full and official description of this occupation according to the National Occupational Classification, visit the NOC site.

Examples of Occupational Titles

  • apprentice embalmer
  • embalmer
  • funeral director


Job prospects in this occupation are good.

(Update: April 2014)

Over the last few years, the number of funeral directors and embalmers has increased significantly. This increase is essentially due to the rise in mortality and the diversification of services provided by funeral homes. Since these trends are continuing, the number of funeral directors and embalmers should continue to rise significantly over the next few years.

Sources of employment

Jobs will result primarily from the need to replace funeral directors and embalmers who will be retiring. Some opportunities will also result from employment increase and the need to replace people who are promoted to senior positions in funeral services. People can also advance their careers somewhat within the occupation, from apprentice embalmer to embalmer, for example. Although their tasks are quite different, a number of embalmers are also promoted to positions as funeral directors.

Turnover appears to be very low in this occupation, as illustrated by the relatively high number of people aged 45 and over (50% compared with 35% for all occupations), according to 2001 census data. In addition, this occupation ranks eighth among the 520 occupations inventoried in Job Futures Quebec with respect to the percentage of workers aged 65 and over (12.4% compared with 2.0% for all occupations). Besides the low turnover in this occupation, this data also illustrates the devotion of thanatologists to their occupation, and possibly also a lack of new recruits.

Labour pool

Jobs will be available primarily for people with a diploma of collegial studies (DEC) in thanatology. Few jobs will be filled by unemployed or immigrants funeral directors and embalmers with experience, because the unemployment rate and the proportion of immigrants are very low (about 4% in 2006 compared with 12% for all occupaitons, according to census data).

This occupation attracts a fair number of candidates, considering the limited number of job opportunities that arise every year. Fortunately, the DEC in thanatology has a quota. The Rosemont CEGEP, the only institution to offer this program, accepts between one third and half of the applications it receive. The size of the quota appears to match the labour market demand very well. In fact, the placement rate for graduates with a DEC in thanatology is usually excellent and their unemployment rate is very low, according to data from the Quebec Department of Education, Recreation and Sport's Relance survey. Furthermore, these graduates most often find jobs related to their field of study compared with the average for DEC graduates.


According to census data, in 2006 almost all funeral directors and embalmers (94%) worked in the funeral services industry.


Changes in employment in this occupation depend primarily on the number of deaths and the diversification in demand and services provided by funeral homes.

Number of deaths

The number of deaths rose by an average annual 1.1% between 1992 and 2012. This relatively weak growth, given the population aging, is attributed to a higher life expectancy. Despite this levelling off in the rise in the number of deaths, over the next few years, the impact of population aging will inevitably overcome the effect of increased life expectancy. In fact, theInstitut de la statistique du Québec foresees that the number of deaths will increase annually by 1.6% during our forecast period (2013-2017). Naturally, this should help employment growth in this occupation more than in the past.

Diversification of demand and services provided by funeral homes

In the past, the tasks performed by funeral directors and embalmers were limited to organizing the viewing and funerals and the technical aspects of: washing, injecting products to conserve the body, makeup, repair of damaged skin, application of wax to cover wounds, etc. More or less the same rites were used for everyone, and there was a strong focus on those in the Catholic religion.

For the past few years, the services provided by funeral homes have greatly diversified, and are more tailored to the particular needs of individual clients in terms of: location of the ceremony, customs, décor, music, audio-visual presentations, etc. This diversification means that funeral directors also serve as advisors to the families to ensure that the choices match their needs, always with an eye to preserving the paramountcy of respect and dignity. Similarly, embalmers-who are today sometimes called thanatologists-play an increasingly large part in welcoming and guiding families and visitors. In fact, the Diploma of College Studies (DEC) in thanatology was adapted accordingly a few years ago, with the addition of courses on assisting and welcoming grieving families and offering services in accordance with the funeral rites that they choose.

While some aspects of this diversification in services are benefitting employment growth in this occupation, others are having the opposite effect. TheCorporation des thanatologues du Québec has noted a sharp drop in the practice of laying out the deceased for viewing. A growing proportion of families are choosing to forego this step, as well as any ceremonies or burials. At the same time, the rate of cremation has skyrocketed over the past 30 years.

This having been said, the final word on these changes was somewhat mixed for funeral homes and the members of this occupation since the turn of the century. In fact, in Quebec, incomes in funeral services rose by approximately 0.6% (counting inflation) between 2000 and 2009 according to Statistics Canada Data.

Other factors

New technologies are having little effect on the tasks of funeral directors and embalmers. The existence of many blood-transmitted diseases (AIDS, viral hepatitis, etc) has led to the introduction of strict occupational health and safety rules.

In light of these factors, the number of funeral directors and embalmers should increase significantly over the next few years.

Employment characteristics

According to census data, women held about 27% of the jobs in this occupation in 2006, a percentage that has been rising sharply since 1991 (15%). This proportion should increase over the next few years, since in average about three quarters of the graduates of the DEC in thanatology are women. Work during the weekends, evenings and holidays is frequent. Some of the work is done with irritant products in an environment often marked by unpleasant odours.


In addition to mastering the techniques in this occupation, candidates must be able to show respect for the deceased and the deceased's family, and have good manual dexterity. Good powers of observation, a sense of what is visually pleasing, emotional strength, and the ability to communicate and work on a team are the main qualities desired. Bilingualism is sometimes required and is an asset in any case. To become a funeral director, management knowledge and skills are essential.

Education and Training

To work in this occupation, an embalmer licence issued by the Quebec Department of Health and Social Services (see References) is required. This requires a Diploma of College Studies (DEC) in thanatology or some other program deemed equivalent by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.

Only the Rosemont CEGEP offers a program in thanatology. Internships with funeral homes complete the training. There is a quota for the program.

Membership in the Corporation des thanatologues is not mandatory to practice this occupation, but it is an asset.

Useful References

Important Considerations

Given the rise in mortality and the diversification of services provided by funeral homes, the number of funeral directors and embalmers should rise significantly over the next few years.

The number of graduates with a DEC in thanatology appears to match the labour market demand very well. In fact, their placement rate is usually excellent and their unemployment rate is very low.

Statistics 6272 - Funeral Directors and Embalmers

Main Labour Market Indicators

In the following table, indicators such as the growth rate, yearly variation in employment, yearly attrition and total annual requirements are forecasts generated by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source for employment is Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The volumes of unemployment insurance beneficiaries come from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s administrative data. All of the data are rounded.

  Unit Group 6272 All occupations
Employment, average 2010-2012 1,550 3,951,050
Employment Insurance claimants in 2012 5 87,600
Average Annual Growth Rate 2013-2017 1.7% 0.8%
Annual Employment Variation 2013-2017 25 33,400
Annual Attrition 2013-2017 60 73,500
Total Annual Needs 2013-2017 85 106,900

Employment Distribution

The data from the following employment distribution tables come from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

  Unit Group 6272 All occupations
Employment by Gender
Males 65.6% 51.9%
Females 34.4% 48.1%
Employment by Age
15 - 24 years 3.3% 13.3%
25 - 44 years 31.8% 42.7%
45 - 64 years 51.7% 41.1%
65 years and over 13.2% 2.8%
Employment by Status
Full-time 80.6% 81.2%
Part-time 19.4% 18.8%
Employment by Annual Income
Full-time, full-year 61.9% 54.8%
Annual Average Income $48,200 $50,300
$0 - $19,999 0.0% 13.3%
$20,000 - $49,999 73.1% 48.0%
$50,000 and over 26.9% 38.8%
Employment by Highest Level of Schooling
Less than high-school 7.9% 12.1%
High-school 25.0% 20.3%
Post-secondary 63.2% 44.2%
Bachelors 3.9% 23.4%
Others Employment Distribution
Self-employment 7.8% 10.7%
Immigration 2.0% 13.7%
Employment by Region
RegionUnit Group 6272 All occupations
Abitibi-Témiscamingue 8.4% 1.8%
Bas-Saint-Laurent 3.2% 2.3%
Capitale-Nationale 5.2% 9.4%
Centre-du-Québec 6.5% 2.9%
Chaudière-Appalaches 9.7% 5.5%
Côte-Nord / Nord-du-Québec 5.8% 1.6%
Estrie 2.6% 3.8%
Gaspésie-îles-de-la-Madeleine 3.2% 0.9%
Lanaudière 7.1% 6.1%
Laurentides 9.0% 7.3%
Laval 6.5% 5.2%
Mauricie 1.9% 3.0%
Montérégie 9.7% 19.2%
Montréal 12.3% 22.9%
Outaouais 4.5% 4.9%
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean 4.5% 3.3%

Main Sectors of Employment

The data of the following table were prepared by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source is Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

SectorUnit Group 6272
Funeral Services 98.0%