The Best Degrees For Careers Involving The Deceased

Published on: September 26, 2023

There are many careers that are lucrative because of the working conditions, high compensation, and other perks. However, other career choices are much less popular due to the physical or emotional toll that they can take. Many jobs involving the deceased fall into this category as it takes a special type of person to work in these industries. It also doesn’t help that popular media has created an image of people working with the deceased as being creepy or anti-social. In reality, these are vital jobs that require a special kind of people. 

If you are considering a career involving the deceased then the following degrees can help you to get started.

What Character Traits Are Essential For Working With The Deceased?

**Empathy** - Many jobs involving the deceased also involve dealing with their loved ones, so empathy is essential to provide comfort to the bereaved.

**Humility** - Working with the deceased requires humility especially as many of the careers are either misunderstood or continually misrepresented in films or television shows.

**Emotional Fortitude** - Some jobs that involve working with the deceased can be very traumatic and it requires a lot of emotional fortitude.

**Courage** - People working with the deceased are often called upon to face the type of horrific tragedies that most people would shy away from which takes a lot of courage.

**Sense of Humor** -  A good sense of humor can help when working in an industry that is often portrayed as creepy or morose in movies or television.

**Reliability** - It takes a reliable person to work with the deceased as it’s the kind of job that often doesn’t have normal office hours and can’t easily be put on hold.

Associate Degree in Mortuary Service

An Associate degree in Mortuary Service is a good stepping stone towards many careers in the funeral service industry. This type of degree typically involves coursework along with laboratory training and internships in the field. In addition, the core classes are often available online for students who enjoy the freedom and flexibility of this format.  In addition to a  general education core, a degree in mortuary service may include courses such as Funeral Service Management and Communication, Funeral Service Law and Socio-Eithics, Funeral Service History and Merchandising, and Psychology of Death and Dying. Completing this degree can prepare students to sit for the American Board of Funeral Service Education’s National Board Exams which is usually followed by an apprenticeship and then the state board exam. Students can then go on to work as embalmers, funeral service directors, morticians, mortuary transporters, funeral service practitioners, and more.

Bachelor of Science in Entomology

Students who are not averse to working with insects can opt for a Bachelor of Science in Entomology degree with the goal of becoming a forensic entomologist. This involves the study of insects in criminal investigations to determine factors such as the time, place, and manner of a person’s death. Unlike forensic biologists who examine all types of physical evidence at a crime sine, forensic entomologists focus exclusively on the presence or absence of insects. Some entomology degree programs offer an elective in forensic entomology, but students interested in working in this profession must also become certified as a technician with the American Board of Forensic Entomology.

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

Students with an interest in biology, chemistry, and math can use their skills to earn a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science degree. In turn, this can lead to a career where they can apply these skills to investigate crime scenes. It is a career where investigators analyze DNA, blood patterns, and other types of evidence found at crime scenes while working with law enforcement agencies. This degree can also be combined with additional training for careers ranging from trace evidence analyst and DNA analyst to toxicology analyst and serologist. Some students also attend medical school after obtaining this degree if they are interested in becoming forensic pathologists or medical examiners.

Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science

A Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science degree is useful for students who are interested in becoming embalmers. Embalmers can sometimes also act as funeral directors, but their primary tasks involve the handling and preparation of the deceased for display in funeral services. The curriculum for this degree usually includes courses such as Embalming, Restorative Art, Thanatochemistry, Preparation for Disposition, and Funeral Service Law & Ethics. The degree should also meet the educational requirements for licensure in all U.S. jurisdictions.

Associate in Applied Science Degree in Cosmetology

While most people associate a cosmetology degree with the beauty industry there is also a need for funeral cosmetology, which is often referred to as mortuary makeup or desairology. This is necessary for open-casked funerals or if families of the deceased request a viewing. Often a reference photo of the deceased is used to give them the appearance that they had in life. While there’s no specific degree or certification to work in funeral cosmetology, the person doing so must be a licensed cosmetologist, funeral director, or embalmer. A cosmetology license is required for cosmetologists in all U.S. states and some schools offer mortuary services classes as part of the curriculum.


It goes without saying that working with the deceased is not a career path for those who are squeamish. However, these careers are vital for society and the dead should be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Most of the jobs involving the deceased can test people on many levels, but some of these jobs can also help bring peace to the living after they have lost a loved one, which can be very rewarding. The degrees listed above are not the only ones that can lead to jobs involving the deceased, but they are some of the most common and useful for getting started in the industry.

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