Embalmer


Also known as:

  • Funeral director's assistant

What they do

Embalmers preserve, sanitise and prepare the bodies of deceased people for presentation and burial. Usually a member of a funeral firm, an embalmer is responsible for preserving the appearance of the person from the time of death until the funeral. This work involves washing and disinfecting the body, replacing bodily fluids and gases with preservatives, washing and arranging hair, and if required applying cosmetics. Depending on the case, the embalmer may be required to reconstruct the appearance of the person. In some instances, embalming work is part of the work of the funeral director. Embalmers are also expected to help keep the mortuary clean, adhere to strict health and safety regulations and complete any necessary paperwork.

Working conditions

Embalmers work in mortuaries in hospitals, funeral parlours and universities. These workers come into direct contact with deceased persons and are exposed to bodily fluids and infectious diseases. Embalmers tend to work normal business hours but can also be expected to be on-call as embalming work needs to be carried out soon after death. Embalmers carry out most of their work standing up.

Tools and technologies

Embalmers work with chemicals such as formaldehyde, which is used to preserve and disinfect the body. These workers sometimes use injection machines to pump chemicals through the body to replace blood and interstitial fluids. Embalmers also use surgical instruments to carry out reconstructive work. These workers need to wear protective clothing such as gloves, chemical-resistant boots and masks to protect themselves from body fluids and chemicals.

How do I become one?

Education and training

It is possible to work as an embalmer without any formal qualifications and get training on the job.

You may improve your employment prospects if you complete a traineeship in funeral services (embalmer). The course usually takes 24 months to complete.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

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