The Job Macabre: Careers Working With the Dead These 13 Jobs Are Anything but a Dead End

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Become Team
November 9, 2020

Maybe you were one of those kids who fried ants under a magnifying glass for kicks. Maybe you couldn’t wait to dissect a frog in biology class. Maybe you think Faces of Death is light entertainment and Six Feet Under was your all-time favorite show. Whatever the case, you’re not squeamish about death and your dark humor helps you cope with situations that other people may find repulsive—which makes you the perfect candidate for these 13 jobs that will make death and dying a regular part of your workday. Continue reading for information on jobs that are directly and indirectly related to death, as well as scholarships for those who are brave enough pursue these professions.

13 Creepy Jobs and Their Salaries

People fascinated with death can find several jobs that allow them to tickle their morbid curiosity as they earn a living—and in some cases, make a killing financially. Below is information on how these professionals use their strong stomach to do their work, the salaries they make, and the education needed to land these positions.

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Forensic Entomologist If you loved playing with bugs as a child or smiled during the death’s head moth scene in The Silence of the Lambs while your friends all cringed, forensic entomology may be the field for you. Just as in the film, these professionals are responsible for contributing to a murder investigation by examining the clues that insects leave behind on, or near, a dead body. By studying insect activity on decomposing bodies, forensic entomologists are able to determine when and where someone died, as well as whether or not a victim and suspect were in the same location at the same time. And in those cases where crafty criminals think they can evade capture by refrigerating or freezing a body before dumping it somewhere, forensic entomologists are brought in to determine that too.
Job outlook:8%
Entry-level educational requirements:Master’s or doctoral degree
Median annual pay:$62,290 per year
Mortician This job requires not only a reverence for the dead, but for the living they leave behind. Morticians, also known as funeral directors, work directly with the dead by embalming bodies and preparing them for funerals based on legal requirements and the wishes of the families. Much of the work, however, entails compassionately helping families with the details of a death—such as filing the death certificate, organizing the funeral service, and working with the cemetery to arrange when a grave is opened and closed. Also, people in this position often help to console those who are grieving, so they should be as strong in empathy as they are in detail orientation.
Job outlook:4%
Entry-level educational requirements:Associate’s degree
Median annual pay:$51,850 per year
Forensic Science Technician If you want to get knee deep into the evidence of an investigation, forensic science technician careers will allow you to not only collect the evidence at a crime scene, but examine it in a lab to help law enforcement understand what that evidence means. These professionals work with biological materials like blood, urine, tissues, and vitreous fluid, as well as fibers, fingerprints, and weapons. Once the evidence is collected, forensic science technicians perform biological and chemical testing and work with those who have specialized knowledge—such as toxicologists and odontologists—to get even further information about how the evidence fits into the crime. In addition, these professionals must create reports about their findings and testify in court.
Job outlook:17%
Entry-level educational requirements:Bachelor’s degree
Median annual pay:$57,850 per year
Funeral Service Manager If you want to combine your interest in the dead with managerial skills, you may want to pursue this career to supervise the operations of a funeral home. In this position, you will hire and supervise staff; sell products and services; organize funerals, burials, and cremations; and create company policies. Also, people in this job work closely with the families of those who have passed, so they often help to console their clients and deal with any problems that may arise throughout the process of planning a funeral.
Job outlook:7%
Entry-level educational requirements:Associate’s degree
Median annual pay:$78,040 per year
Forensic Pathologist If you really enjoyed dissecting that frog in biology class and you’re interested in a medical career, this may be the perfect path for you. When someone dies a sudden or unnatural death, forensic pathologists are responsible for solving the medical mystery by performing an autopsy to determine the cause, manner, and mechanism of death. In addition, these doctors of death may collect evidence that they find during an autopsy, identify a disease that a deceased person may have been suffering from, and provide testimony during court proceedings.
Job outlook:14%
Entry-level educational requirements:Doctoral degree
Median annual pay:$211,390 per year
Gravedigger If you were one of those kids in high school that loved sneaking into graveyards at night to have a good old-fashioned séance, you may want to get down and dirty with the dead on a regular basis through this job. Gravediggers are responsible for preparing graves—so being strong enough to use a shovel or backhoe for long periods of time is a must—as well as maintaining graves and headstones, gardening, and setting grave markers. But even though you’re around the dead all day doesn’t mean you don’t need people skills to do this job: Gravediggers are also regularly around grieving family members, so they need to also be as respectful to the living as they are to the dead.
Job outlook:11%
Entry-level educational requirements:High school diploma
Median annual pay:$28,110 per year
Funeral Service Worker Funeral service workers assist funeral home directors and managers by performing many of the behind-the-scenes tasks related to funerals. Their job duties include activities such as setting up the funeral venue, maintaining funeral vehicles, greeting mourners, and picking up floral arrangements.
Job outlook:5%
Entry-level educational requirements:Associate’s degree
Median annual pay:$56,850 per year
Mortuary Makeup Artist Mortuary makeup artists come up with looks to die for as they use their cosmetology training to make a deceased person look as close to the way they looked when they were alive as possible. These professionals, also known as desairologists, are responsible for coloring and styling a deceased person’s hair, or a wig if necessary; applying their makeup; and manicuring their nails. Desairologists may be employed by a funeral home, though many of them work on a freelance basis.
Job outlook:13%
Entry-level educational requirements:Cosmetology certificate
Median annual pay:$24,900 per year
Hospice Aide Hospice aides deal with the realities of death every day on the job—the only difference is, they help people while they’re still alive. These professionals work in facilities that cater to those who have a terminal illness with six months or less left to live. They’re responsible for providing physical comfort to their patients—through activities such as helping patients get into and out of wheelchairs, bathing them, and preparing their meals—as well as emotional, psychological, and spiritual comfort as people face the reality of their mortality. They also work closely with the families of their patients, so an excellent bedside manner and a lot of empathy are required to do this job.
Job outlook:41%
Entry-level educational requirements:High school diploma
Median annual pay:$23,130 per year
Floral Designer Although floral designers do not work directly with the dead like many of the other professionals on this list, their work is an integral part of funeral services and they can provide a lot of comfort to people who are grieving through their beautiful flower arrangements. By using their knowledge of floral design techniques—such as how to choose the right flowers and arrange them in an attractive way, cut stems to the proper lengths, and determine how many flowers will be needed for an arrangement—these professionals create funeral baskets, casket sprays, and wreaths that are used at services, as well as sympathy bouquets that are sent to grieving loved ones.
Job outlook:-6%
Entry-level educational requirements:High school diploma
Median annual pay:$26,350 per year
Mental Health Counselor Are you interested in death, but want to help the living? Mental health counselors deal with the aftermath of a death by providing therapy to those who are grieving. The pain of losing a loved one can be unbearable, and grief counselors are tasked with helping individuals or families work through their feelings in a healthy way. In addition, these professionals may refer patients to other health care professionals as needed, as well as connect them with services related to housing, financial assistance, and legal help.
Job outlook:23%
Entry-level educational requirements:Bachelor’s degree
Median annual pay:$43,300 per year
Obituary Writer Are you good at turning a phrase and enjoy writing compelling stories about people? Obituary writers are responsible for using basic reportorial skills to write a summary of someone’s life in a way that celebrates the contributions they made and how they touched the people they knew. In some cases, such as with political figures and famous performers, these writers compose obituaries long before someone dies—and makes adjustments as needed when they pass away—because the public interest in their death demands that the obituary be published right away.
Job outlook:8%
Entry-level educational requirements:Bachelor’s degree
Median annual pay:$61,820 per year
Sales Manager At first blush, it may sound surprising that sales managers have anything to do with the death industry, however, funeral supply companies need these professionals to sell their products to funeral homes. From caskets to embalming fluid to crematoriums, sales managers help companies move their merchandise as they would in any other sector. To do that, these professionals attend industry trade shows to meet potential customers, work with funeral homes to identify their needs and provide the products that will meet them, and make decisions about product pricing.
Job outlook:7%
Entry-level educational requirements:Bachelor’s degree
Median annual pay:$121,060 per year

Scary Scholarships

Just because you want to work with the dead doesn’t mean you have to be buried by student loan debt after you earn your degree. Just like with other academic disciplines, students can find a variety of scholarships to help them pay for their education in funeral services. The following are 13 scholarships for people who want to pursue macabre jobs.

National Scholarship Program
  • Award amount: $500 to $2,500
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: March 1; September 1
Contact:
Scholarship Committee
American Board of Funeral Service Education
992 Mantua Pike, Suite 108
Woodbury Heights, NJ 08097
(816) 233-3747
scholarships@abfse.org

The American Board of Funeral Service Education provides this award to students who has completed at least one semester of an accredited mortuary science or funeral service program. Scholarships are awarded based on academic excellence, financial need, community involvement, and extracurricular activities. Students can apply for this award once a year.

Funeral Service Foundation
  • Award amount: $1,000 to $5,000
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: March 30; November 30
Contact:
Funeral Service Foundation
13625 Bishop’s Drive
Brookfield, WI 53005
(877) 402-5900

The Funeral Service Foundation offers several scholarships to people enrolled in accredited mortuary science and funeral service degree programs on a full- or part-time basis. To be considered for an award, students are required to draft an essay of 750 to 1,000 words detailing why they want to join the profession, as well as a video of no more than five minutes explaining the skills they have that would make them an asset to the funeral service field.

Awards of Excellence Scholarship Program
  • Award amount: $2,000 and $3,500
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: March 1
Contact:
International Order of the Golden Rule
9101 Burnet Road, Suite 120
Austin, TX 78758
jsmith@ogr.org
(512) 334-5504

This scholarship program provided by the International Order of the Golden Rule gives awards to students enrolled in an accredited mortuary science degree program. Applicants should have at least a 3.0 grade point average, demonstrate participation in school activities and community service, and commit to working for an independent funeral home after graduation. Two winners are chosen each year, with one receiving $2,000 and the other receiving $3,500.

Gary Boccia Memorial Scholarship
  • Award amount: $500
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: April 30
Contact:
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
524 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 237-8000
scholarships@jjay.cuny.edu

John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers this scholarship to full- or part-time forensic science majors at the school. Students must be enrolled in an internship at a forensic lab in order to be considered for the award. In addition, applicants must have at least 60 credit hours of coursework completed and a minimum 3.0 grade point average. A 500 word essay discussing students’ career goals should accompany the application form.

Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists Scholarship
  • Award amount: $1,000
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: April 1
Contact:
SWAFS Scholarship Committee Chair
Christina Coucke-Garza
Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office
200 Feliks Gwozdz Place
Fort Worth, TX 76104

The Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists Scholarship is available to juniors and seniors who intend to pursue a forensic science career. Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 grade point average and include information on their career goals with their application form.

Bill Martin Scholarship Award
  • Award amount: $500
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: April 1
Contact:
Wallin Funeral Home
ATTN: Bryan Stucky
1811 Ne 16th Ave #A
Oak Harbor, WA 98277
Bryan@wallinfuneralhome.com

Provided by the Washington State Funeral Directors Association, this scholarship is available to students enrolled in an accredited mortuary science program in the state. Applicants must submit an essay describing why they’re interested in a funeral service career and what their goals are after graduation.

Daniel T. Mulheran Memorial Scholarship
  • Award amount: $1,000
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: October 31
Contact:
Maryland State Funeral Directors Association
Attention: Daniel T. Mulheran Memorial Scholarship
311 Crain Hwy. SE
Glen Burnie, MD 21061

The Maryland State Funeral Directors Association provides this award to licensed apprentices who have completed two-thirds of their funeral service education program. In addition, applicants should have at least a 2.50 grade point average and have no “D” grades. Each application must include an essay describing why students decided to pursue the funeral service industry and what they plan to contribute to the field.

Danny Carroll Memorial Scholarship Program
  • Award amount: $750
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: March 31
Contact:
North Carolina Funeral Director’s Association
5860 Faringdon Place Suite 2
Raleigh, NC 27609
(919) 876-7886
info@ncfda.org

This scholarship is provided to mortuary science students attending programs in North Carolina. Applicants must submit a three- to five-minute video describing what contributions they will make to the field and a 750 to 1,000 word essay explaining why they decided to pursue funeral service work.

FCCFA Academic Scholarship
  • Award amount: $1,250
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: April 1
Contact:
Florida Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association
325 John Knox Road, Suite L103
Tallahassee, FL 32303
(800) 226-3332
elane@executiveoffice.org

The Florida Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association offers this scholarship to students in the state who plan to enter a death care profession. Applicants must be a child or spouse of a member of the association. In addition, the organization has funding opportunities for students who want to attend a cemetery-related education event.

Evelyn J. Davis Memorial Scholarship Fund
  • Award amount: Varies
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: April 1; October 1
Contact:
Executive Office of the South Carolina Funeral Directors Association
P.O. Box 1350
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29465
(800) 445-3427
rion@scfda.org

Full-time students enrolled in an accredited mortuary science program in South Carolina can receive this award. To be eligible, students must be in the third quarter of their degree program, demonstrate good attendance and professionalism, and have financial need. Preference is given to people who have work experience at a funeral home.

Frank W. Moore Scholarship
  • Award amount: $1,000
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: Varies
Contact:
Indiana Funeral Directors Association
Attn: Frank W. Moore Award Committee
1305 W. 96th St.
Suite A
Indianapolis, IN 46260
(317) 846-2448

Offered by the Indiana Funeral Directors Association, this scholarship is for people who are student members of the organization enrolled in a funeral service education program. Applicants must write an essay discussing why they chose the funeral service business and what their early experiences with the field have been.

Gerald M. Robbins Sr. Scholarship Program
  • Award amount: Varies
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: March 15th
Contact:
Gerald M. Robbins Sr., Scholarship Committee
c/o LFDA
P.O. Box 82531
Baton Rouge, LA 70884
(225) 767-7640
LFDA@tatmangroup.com

This scholarship is for Louisiana residents enrolled in a mortuary science program. Students must prove financial need, as well as community involvement. In addition, applicants must have earned at least a 2.50 grade point average in high school and college.

Herbert W. Mayes Memorial Scholarship
  • Award amount: Varies
  • Awarded: Yearly
  • Application Deadline: Varies
Contact:
Tennessee Funeral Directors Association
Scholarship Committee
1616 Church Street, Suite A
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 321-8792
office@tnfda.org

People who have completed one semester of a program accredited by the AmericanBoard of Funeral Service Education are eligible for this scholarship. Students must intend to pursue a funeral service job when they complete their degree. Applications should include income tax information, letters of recommendation, and a handwritten two-page essay providing information about themselves and why they want to work in the funeral service field.

Related Careers at a Glance

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