There are many jobs working with dead bodies, some will involve having to come in direct contact with them. These jobs include mortician, embalmer, forensic pathologist, coroner, and funeral cosmetologist.
These jobs require a certain level of knowledge and in most cases, you will need a license to be employed.
Although most careers working with the dead are in the field of medicine or criminal justice, there are still many careers out there that involve some form of interaction with dead bodies in one way or another.
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Best jobs working with dead bodies
Although there are many jobs in the death care industry, we will ONLY highlight jobs that involve directly working with or handling dead bodies. For this reason, we will exclude administrative jobs because in most cases they rarely come in contact with dead bodies.
1. Forensic pathologist
A forensic pathologist is a medical doctor that performs autopsies to determine the cause of death. Autopsies help solve problems like murder, suicide, and accidental deaths.
To become a forensic pathologist, you have to graduate from medical school and pass the board exams necessary for licensure. You will also need to be certified by the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners.
The average annual salary for forensic pathologists in the United States is $103,062. The highest-paid experts in this field earn more than $295,000 a year, making it one of the best-paying jobs working with dead bodies.
Morticians prepare dead bodies for burial or cremation after they are first prepared by an embalmer. They can do makeup on the face of the deceased using cosmetics and sometimes wax! Morticians also ensure the final wishes of the deceased and family members are respected.
Most of the work done by morticians is preparation work, which can be very delicate. But it is not all about working with the dead. Some other tasks include contacting family members, making arrangements, and preparing the final bill. They can also assist in the embalming process too!
Becoming a mortician in the United States requires either a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in funeral services or mortuary science. You should also be licensed in your state. Keep in mind that requirements differ by region.
According to BLS, morticians in the United States earn an average annual salary of $56,360. With salaries as high as $83,550 a year, being a mortician is one of the best jobs working with dead bodies.
3. Sepulcher worker
Sepulcher workers make coffins, urns, and other decorations used in preparing the dead for burial. This job is important because it allows families to prepare a loved one’s body for their funeral.
A sepulcher worker might be required to lay out the fabric, attach handles, or sew on buttons. They may also have to cut out shapes from fabric to make decorative boxes for caskets.
Unlike most other careers that require specific skills and training, there are no formal requirements for becoming a worker in this field; anyone who is willing to learn can do so through online tutorials or hands-on training courses that often come with discounts.
4. Funeral cosmetologist
Also called mortuary makeup artists or desairologist, funeral cosmetologists offer hair, nail, and makeup services before a cremation or burial to make a deceased look as close to the way they were when alive as possible.
Most of these makeup artists are employed at funeral homes though some work on a freelance basis.
Funeral cosmetology is not regulated in most states because it is generally done outside of the funeral home and out of public view.
Although most states have no legislation requiring licensing, a few states require a license but don’t have any educational requirements.
The average annual income of funeral cosmetologists is $37,739 and can earn as high as $53,000 a year.
5. Crematorium technician
Crematorium technicians operate and clean the incinerators in which dead bodies are cremated. This is a highly specialized job that requires careful handling of dead bodies during cremation. They work mostly in crematoria and are required to be licensed by the state.
Cremation is a process of reducing human remains to their component parts, including bone fragments. It is carried out at high temperatures in a furnace called a crematorium and takes two to three hours.
Crematorium technicians are responsible for performing this procedure with professionalism, respect, and dignity for the deceased persons who have entrusted them with the task of final disposition.
They must meet mandated standards of cleanliness and safety. This includes wearing hot protective clothing and respirators (face masks) for protection from inhalation hazards such as hydrogen chloride gas created by boiling water during the cremating process.
The job is one of the highest-paying careers working with dead bodies. Crematorium technicians earn an average annual salary of $41,067 and as high as $83,000 a year.
6. Mortuary attendant
Mortuary attendants work in funeral homes and help prepare bodies for burial or cremation. They may also perform some embalming, set up and dress coffins, open caskets, urns, etc.
A mortuary attendant must have a high school diploma or GED, and have completed the licensing requirements. The downside of this career path is the lack of sufficient opportunities for advancement.
Mortuary attendants earn an average annual salary of $41,056 and as high as $60,300 a year.
An embalmer prepares dead bodies for burial. They do this by making the body look lifelike and more natural by restoring blood, fluids, and gases to the body. Embalmers can work with social service agencies and also in funeral homes as professional death care practitioners.
Education requirements to become an embalmer include a high school diploma, and a science-based college degree, such as a bachelor’s degree in anatomy or one in funeral service.
An embalmer can also be trained on the job by a licensed embalmer which takes about one year to complete. There is an alternative to taking courses at a school that would take between 2 to 3 years to complete.
Although being an embalmer is among many jobs most people do not want, these professionals are paid well.
The average annual salary for embalmers in the United States is $48,203 with the highest earners getting more than $67,000 a year.
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8. Embalmer’s apprentice
An embalmer’s apprentice performs minor tasks under the supervision of an experienced embalmer. They may set up the table, arrange equipment and instruments, prepare linens and garments, operate the embalming machine, etc. in preparation for embalming.
To serve as an apprentice embalmer, the applicant must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, be at least 18 years old, and pass an oral/written exam.
The average annual salary of an apprentice embalmer is $37,071 and can earn as high as $61,000 a year.
Coroners perform autopsies on dead bodies and work with law enforcement agencies in order to solve crimes. Coroners help determine the manner of death, while pathologists seek to identify the cause of death.
Coroners often work in conjunction with law enforcement officials and medical examiners or the official who performs the final autopsy in a case. Although Coroners are largely independent, they are required to notify the medical examiner when they suspect a felony death has occurred.
Since each state has regulations and laws governing coroners, one must first understand each state’s legislation before participating in coronial work.
Coroners in the United States earn an average annual salary of $71,650 and the highest-paid get more than $117,000 a year.
10. Cemetery caretaker
The role of a caretaker is to maintain and protect the cemetery from damage, maintain its appearance, and ensure it is presentable for family members.
In order to do this, they shovel snow in wintertime, mow the grass during summer, and weed-out shrubs and weeds around headstones and monuments during springtime and autumn.
They also remove fallen leaves each fall to prevent the spread of disease or damage. This includes removing any natural tree nests that may have been constructed by birds or other animals.
Cemetery caretakers are also responsible for ensuring that new burials are provided with all necessary funerary fixtures (i.e., grave markers) upon request by nearby families.
Cemetery caretaking is among the best-paying jobs working with dead bodies, and you can earn as high as $93,650 a year. According to FederalPay, cemetery caretakers earn an average annual salary of $50,975.
11. Forensic entomologist
Forensic entomologists are specialists responsible for the examination of insects and other arthropods found at crime scenes. They examine evidence to determine what species are found, where on the body they were found as well as any other distinguishing features that may have been left behind by the insects.
Forensic entomologists often work collaboratively with forensic anthropologists and biologists to provide insight into how an individual died.
While forensic entomologists use their knowledge of bugs and arthropods to help solve crimes and identify individuals, they are also responsible for documenting the devastating effects certain insects may have on populations.
The average annual salary for forensic entomologists in the United States is $78,365. The highest-paid specialists earn more than $96,000 a year.
12. Funeral home driver
A funeral home driver is a professional driver who transports the deceased from a funeral home to their final resting place. Many funeral homes use their own staff to transport the deceased and only require an outside driver in cases of out-of-state travel.
Some funeral homes hire drivers who are licensed morticians, or who have completed mortuary science courses. Either way, most funeral homes require the drivers to be specially trained for the job.
Apart from transporting the deceased to their final resting place, the drivers also ensure any needed repairs or adjustments are made on the hearse or ambulance to prevent inconveniences during transportation.
The average annual salary for a funeral home driver is $38,669. The highest-paid drivers enjoy more than $75,00 a year and is an ideal option for people comfortable working with the dead.
A gravedigger is someone who digs graves in a cemetery to bury the dead. Gravediggers are usually required to be on-call for a certain number of hours each week.
If someone dies, they will be paged and must report to the cemetery as quickly as possible. In some cases, a gravedigger might have to cut short whatever they are doing in the event their services are urgently needed.
The work can vary in difficulty depending on the type of ground being dug. Gravediggers earn an average
The average annual salary of a gravedigger in the United States is $46,849 or an equivalent hourly rate of $23.
14. Crime scene cleaners
Crime scene cleaners are professionals trained to deal with gruesome environments. They are responsible for cleaning a scene of a crime to make it as it was before the incident.
Every cleanup is different, but crime scenes can include anything from blood and bodily fluids to human bodies and even hazardous materials.
Crime scene cleaners earn an average annual salary of $30,500.
15. Crime scene investigator
Crime scene investigators, also called forensic scientists, are specialists in law enforcement who collect and analyze evidence to solve crimes by linking it back to specific crime scenes. Forensic investigators often work closely with other investigators and the police, specifically criminal investigators.
The jobs can be physically demanding, time-consuming, and particularly hazardous due to bloodborne pathogens or disease hazards that may be present at the crime scene.
A job as a crime scene investigator requires training and education beyond high school. Most CSIs work with law enforcement agencies.
The average annual salary for crime scene investigators in the United States is $49,277. With the highest-paid getting more than $81,000 a year, this career is one of the best jobs for anyone comfortable working with dead bodies.
This lists highlights jobs that involve dead bodies. As you can see, most of these jobs pay more than $60k a year, which makes them ideal if you’re looking for well-paying jobs.