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.
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 can also undertake a traineeship in funeral services (embalmer) (level 4). The traineeship 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.