Embalmers use chemicals and medical instruments to prepare the bodies of deceased people prior to their funeral (either burial or cremation). Embalming is done for three reasons: preservation, presentation and sanitation.
Video: - Dianne: Embalmer
Embalmers use chemicals and medical instruments to prepare the body of someone who's died for burial or cremation. This is done for three main reasons.
- To keep the body preserved until the funeral.
- For presentation - relatives and friends might want to view their loved one in a peaceful and natural state.
- Sanitation - embalming ensures that there are no health risks to those who come into contact with the body.
Embalmers inject chemicals, sometimes using electric pumps, into the arteries, and these chemicals preserve the body. Waste body fluids are then drained and removed. It might be necessary to do some cosmetic work, such as hairdressing and application of make-up.
In some circumstances, perhaps if the deceased has been involved in an accident, the embalmer will need to do some restorative work (such as covering up marks on the face). While embalmers are trained in all aspects of the job, some specialise in restorative work.
After the embalming is finished, the deceased person is dressed in clothes selected by their family or friends.
Some embalmers are employed by funeral directors and combine the work with other duties, such as funeral administration. Others specialise in embalming.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As an embalmer, you need:
- Knowledge of human anatomy and the bacteria that can act on it.
- To deal effectively with distressing situations, especially if the deceased hasn't died of natural causes.
- To keep information confidential.
- A caring and sensitive manner.
- Good hand skills for using tools and surgical instruments.
- To follow strict health and safety procedures.
- A clean, neat and smart appearance.
- To be respectful and diplomatic towards the family and friends of the deceased.
- Fitness and stamina - you'll be bending, lifting and on your feet a lot.
- To pay attention to detail.
A driving licence might be required, as you might have to travel to different funeral parlours.
A knowledge of different religions and their understanding of death could be useful.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Employed embalmers earn in the range of £17,500 - £22,500 a year, rising to £26,000 - £27,000 a year. Earnings for self-employed embalmers vary depending on the number of cases they deal with; however, some established embalmers can earn in excess of £40,000 a year.
Hours of work
Embalmers work a basic 39-hour week, Monday to Friday. Some weekend or evening work might be required.
Where could I work?
Employers are funeral service companies. Small firms might have a funeral director that does the embalming as part of their job. Larger organisations are more likely to employ embalmers on a full-time basis or to use a self-employed contractor.
Opportunities for embalmers occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Opportunities occur for experienced embalmers to work as self-employed contractors, working for several funeral companies.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, in trade industry magazines, on employers' websites, on Universal Jobmatch and at Jobcentre Plus.
Entry Routes and Training
No formal entry routes are required for this career.
The British Institute of Embalmers (BIE) provides details of courses that can be studied at various schools of embalming, or through personal tutors. Distance learning courses are available.
Most embalmers work for qualifications awarded by the International Examinations Board of Embalmers (IEBE).
The length of time it takes to complete courses depends on the amount of experience you already have.
Some people are trained in-house, working under a qualified embalmer.
Embalmers might need to have certain vaccinations before they can start this work.
Some embalmers progress to work as a funeral director. Others become self-employed and set up their own business.
No qualifications are required to become an embalmer, although GCSEs in English, Maths, Religious Studies or a science subject might be useful.
A relevant work-related qualification, such as an Edexcel (BTEC) Level 2 First qualification, might be accepted for entry.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have gained relevant practical skills and abilities using their hands.
Trainees can work towards qualifications awarded by the International Examinations Board of Embalmers (IEBE). The British Institute of Embalmers provides a list of accredited tutors on its website. Flexible study and distance learning is available covering embalming theory.
- 18% of people in occupations such as embalmer work part-time.
Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.
British Institute of Embalmers (BIE)
Address: 21c Station Road, Knowle, Solihull, West Midlands B93 0HL
Tel: 01564 778991
National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
Address: 618 Warwick Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 1AA
Tel: 0845 2301343