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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Funeral Directors and Embalmers(6346)

Funeral directors co-ordinate and arrange all aspects of funeral services. Embalmers prepare the remains of deceased persons for public visitation and burial. Funeral directors and embalmers are employed by funeral homes.

Reading Help - Reading
Funeral Directors
  • Read text entries in forms. For example, they may read brief descriptions of funeral arrangements in service contracts. They may read criticisms and suggestions in clients' evaluation forms. (1)
  • Read e-mail messages and letters. For example, they may read order confirmations in e-mail messages from caterers. They may also read thank-you letters from grateful clients. (2)
  • Read commemorative texts, prayers and poems. For example, they may skim commemorative texts to determine their suitability for families grieving the deaths of young children. They may read prayers and poems aloud during memorial services. (2)
Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Read product labels. For example, they may read safety precautions and instructions for use on new embalming product labels. (2)
  • May read magazines, on-line newsletters and trade publications to learn about business trends, new products and procedures. For example, funeral directors may read articles about the effects of aging baby boomers on the death care industry in publications such as Consumer's Funeral Alliance, Funeral Wire, Canadian Funeral News and Dodge Magazine. They may read about proposals to improve consumer safeguards in the industry in newsletters from professional associations. Embalmers may read articles in trade publications to learn about new procedures for the prevention of formaldehyde greying of the skin and other new methods for the preservation, sanitization and preparation of human remains for funeral services. (2)
  • Read procedures and guidelines in manuals and on-line help files. For example, funeral directors may read survivor benefit application procedures and conditions of entitlement on government websites in order to provide accurate information to their clients. They may read procedures in computer manuals to upload details about current funerals onto company websites. Embalmers may interpret guidelines in the Canada Diseases Weekly Report to apply safety procedures when embalming remains which harbour infectious diseases. (3)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Locate data on signs and labels. For example, funeral directors may scan signs at room entrances in funeral salons to locate family names. They may also locate names of deceased persons and senders on flower cards. Embalmers may scan labels on chemical product containers to identify product names, concentration levels and hazard icons. (1)
  • Locate data in lists, schedules and tables. For example, funeral directors may locate contact information for religious institutions in lists of service providers. They may locate names of employees and hours they work in weekly schedules. Embalmers may scan dilution tables for disinfectants to locate the correct dilutions for bodies of given weights. (2)
  • Locate data in entry forms. For example, funeral directors locate dates of death, signatures of physicians and names of deceased persons in death certificates before removing bodies from private homes. They scan service contracts prior to funerals to verify funeral preparations. Embalmers locate instructions for items of clothing, jewellery, hair style and cosmetics on forms to prepare bodies as requested by the next of kin. (2)
  • Enter data into lists, tables and schedules. For example, funeral directors may place checkmarks beside items on to-do lists when preparing funerals. Embalmers may enter quantities of preservative chemicals, water conditioners and dyes on hand into inventory sheets. Funeral directors may enter the names of co-workers and their clients into daily schedules. (2)
  • Complete a variety of forms. For example, funeral directors fill out funeral arrangement forms. They enter data such as the names of deceased persons, instructions for the preparation of bodies, choices of flowers, music, prayers, caskets and limousines and dates of viewings and funerals. They may enter data such as the names of clients and the deceased, the prices of caskets, urns and gravestones and terms of payment into funeral service invoices. Embalmers may enter data such as permit numbers and the names, dates of death and death certificate numbers of the deceased into embalming registers. (3)
Writing Help - Writing Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Write notes and short text entries in forms. For example, funeral directors may write notes to clients in condolence cards. They may write text entries in funeral service forms to outline funeral arrangement requests such as candles, incense and prayer mats in viewing rooms. Embalmers may write notes about the condition of bodies in forms for shipment to outside locations. (2)
Funeral Directors
  • Write e-mail messages to co-workers, clients and service providers. For example, they may write e-mail messages to funeral service general managers to submit reports and acknowledge meeting preparations. They may write e-mail messages to clients to list the documents they should bring to meetings for funeral pre-arrangements. (2)
  • Write and edit obituaries. They include details such as names of surviving family members, their relationships to the deceased and funeral service dates and locations. They may add brief descriptions of events, suggest donations, thank caregivers and include poems to honour the deceased. They may edit clients' writing to ensure correct spelling and grammar. (3)
  • May write memos. For example, they may write disciplinary memos to describe incidents with employees and make recommendations for changes to policy and procedures. (3)
  • May write text for advertisements and promotions. For example, funeral directors may write promotional letters to inform clients of memorial services to be held at their establishments. (3)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy

Money Math

Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Count cash and make change. For example, funeral directors may take cash deposits from clients for funeral home services. They may pay cash to service providers such as clergy, organists and soloists for services rendered. Embalmers may pay for miscellaneous supplies at local stores. (1)
Funeral Directors
  • Calculate and verify dollar amounts on invoices and quotations for clients. For example, funeral directors itemize prices of caskets, urns, commemorative products, flowers and headstones. They include amounts for funeral home services such as visitation facilities, embalming, cremation and documentation fees. They add disbursements paid to third parties such as caterers, organists, police escorts, newspapers, clergy and rabbis. They calculate variables fees such as transportation and vault fees. They add all charges and calculate sales taxes to determine invoice totals. They may calculate quotations for prepaid funeral arrangements and contract amounts for funerals services prior to funerals. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting and Accounting Math

Funeral Directors
  • Generate statements for clients showing sales amounts, payments and interest charges on funeral service accounts. (2)
  • Prepare and revise work schedules and timetables for visitations and funeral services. For example, funeral directors may set work schedules to ensure at least two workers are available around the clock every day including holidays. They make frequent adjustments to timetables for chapels, viewing rooms and reception halls to adapt to clients' needs. (3)
  • May create and manage budgets for funeral homes. For example, funeral directors who manage funeral homes may prepare yearly budgets. They may compare actual labour costs with budgeted amounts and make adjustments to overtime hours to reduce variances. (3)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Measure times, distances and volumes using common measuring tools such as watches, tapes and graduated containers. For example, funeral directors track time spent with clients and measure spaces on tombstones for additional text. Embalmers measure volumes of formaldehyde and water to prepare embalming fluids. (1)
  • Calculate quantities of materials and supplies for funeral home services using estimates, formulas and ratios. For example, undertakers may calculate volumes of chemicals and water for embalming fluid using ratios of solution to estimated body weight. Funeral directors calculate numbers of commemorative items to order using clients' estimates of funeral attendance. (2)

Data Analysis Math

Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • May manage small inventories of materials and supplies. For example, they may manage inventories of caskets, urns and embalming supplies. They identify rates of use, typical delivery times and optimum inventory numbers. (2)
Funeral Directors
  • May collect and analyze data on the use of their services to improve performance and margins. For example, funeral directors may collect data monthly on numbers of funerals provided and average costs per service so that they can improve team performance, focus training efforts and budget future revenues. They may collect and analyze data on methods of advertising services to new clients. (3)

Numerical Estimation

Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Make numerous estimates of time, distance, quantities and weights. For example, funeral directors estimate the arrival times of funeral corteges at cemeteries and funeral homes given distances to drive and the likelihood of traffic. They may visually appraise bodies to estimate their weight for transportation cost estimates. Embalmers estimate quantities of embalming fluids to prepare using past experience and available data on the time and cause of death, approximate body weight and skin texture. (1)
Funeral Directors
  • Estimate costs of third party services using past experience and published rates as guides. For example, funeral directors may estimate obituary publishing costs for funeral service contracts. They consider the lengths of obituaries and the numbers of insertions in different publications requested by clients. (1)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Discuss details of ongoing work with co-workers, clients, suppliers and service providers. For example, funeral directors may talk to funeral attendants to arrange for the transfer of bodies from places of death to funeral homes. They may give limousine drivers and funeral guests directions to chapels and cemeteries and specify alternate routes in cases of heavy traffic. They may request volume discounts from florists and call church secretaries to specify funeral dates and times. Embalmers may call workers at morgues to inquire about release times for bodies. (1)
  • Discuss funeral home services and exchange technical information with co-workers, peers, service providers and suppliers. For example, funeral directors may discuss improvements to receptions and memorial events with co-workers. Embalmers may talk to co-workers and colleagues about new methods to rebuild the faces of accident victims. Funeral directors may discuss the advantages and disadvantages of new product lines with suppliers at tradeshows. (2)
  • Exchange emotional support with co-workers. For example, they may speak to co-workers about their emotional reactions after funerals for young people. (2)
  • Give directions, explanations, praise, constructive criticism and support to funeral home workers under their supervision. They may speak to these workers during interviews, training sessions, evaluations and dismissals. For example, funeral directors may make suggestions for improvements to apprentices following their first meetings with clients. Embalmers may explain reporting procedures to new assistants. (2)
Funeral Directors
  • Inform clients about services, prices, administrative processes and laws. For example, funeral directors inform prospective clients about the options available to preplan their funerals and present the costs and benefits of pre-arrangements. They explain to next of kin how to complete legal documents to signify the death of family members and provide information about survivor benefits for which they may be eligible. They inform clients about the legal time limits for bodies that are not embalmed. (2)
  • Greet and respond to bereaved families and friends of deceased during viewings, funerals and memorial services. They use calm and supportive voice tones to maintain decorum, create hospitable environments and remain unobtrusive yet helpful. For example, they may make special efforts to welcome children and young people to funerals for their friends. They may tactfully refuse to answer questions which compromise the privacy of families of the deceased. (2)
  • Counsel families of the deceased about the preparation of bodies, funerals, memorial services, choices of caskets and commemorative products, burials and cremations. They interact with clients with respect and empathy in order to establish trust. They may suggest psychological support for clients who are distraught with grief. They may mediate highly emotional discussions among next of kin on topics such as whether to cremate or bury deceased family members. (3)
  • Lead funeral rites and memorial services for clients. For example, they may lead prayers before closing caskets for the last time. They may read poems aloud at grave sites. They may conduct rituals at non-denominational memorial services for the families of the deceased. (4)
Thinking Help - Thinking

Problem Solving

Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Find that unexpected events disrupt funerals, memorial services and viewings. For example, they may discover graves that have not been dug wide enough to accommodate oversized coffins, learn caterers will be late for receptions and realize funeral home entrances are blocked by municipal repair vehicles. They give explanations to the families, apologize for inconveniences and ask for their patience while they search for immediate solutions. (2)
  • Experience staff shortages which compromise the quality of services to clients. They call other workers to find temporary replacements. They may fill the shifts themselves if necessary. (2)
  • Are unable to comply with the wishes of clients for practical, ethical and legal reasons. For example, funeral directors may counsel families against public viewing when the heads and upper bodies of the deceased are badly damaged due to violent deaths. They may explain carefully the challenges of rebuilding heads and faces and suggest that final decisions about viewing be reserved until cosmetic and restorative work has been attempted by embalmers. (2)
Funeral Directors
  • Encounter conflicts among clients which impede and disrupt funeral arrangements and funerals. For example, funeral directors may leave during meetings for funeral arrangements to compel adult siblings to work out their strong disagreements about open caskets and cremations for deceased parents. They may draw up schedules for separate viewing hours for dueling family factions. They may alert police forces when guests at funerals behave too aggressively. (2)

Decision Making

Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Assign job tasks to funeral home workers. For example, funeral directors may ask funeral attendants to set up chairs, flowers, donation cards and photographs in viewing rooms. They may assign their most experienced funeral attendants to funerals for celebrities and civic leaders. Funeral directors serving diverse ethnic neighbourhoods may assign funeral directors familiar with Buddhist funeral rites to conduct initial meetings with Buddhist families. Embalmers may assign initial disinfection of bodies to apprentices. (2)
Funeral Directors
  • Choose suppliers and service providers. For example, they choose non-traditional ministers of religion for clients who want non-denominational funeral services. They may choose florists willing to accommodate special requests and jewellers open to adapting celebratory products for commemorative purposes. (2)
  • May choose caskets, urns, monuments and commemorative articles to offer their clients. For example, funeral directors may choose several unadorned models of granite and bronze funeral urns to match the preferences of clients who are looking for simple designs and affordable prices. (2)
  • Select products and procedures to prepare human remains for funerals. For example, embalmers may select tinted fluids to offset skin discolouration when mixing embalming fluids. They may choose to apply light layers of makeup over facial bruising to achieve a natural look. (2)
Critical Thinking
  • Evaluate the quality of services they deliver. For example, funeral directors compare published obituaries and commemorative cards to original drafts. They double check government application forms to ensure completeness and accuracy of spelling and dates. They check that flowers and chairs in viewing rooms are prepared as requested. They consider the punctuality and execution of duties of limousine drivers, ministers of religion, soloists and caterers. Embalmers observe the lifelike appearances of bodies after embalming and compare the appearance of faces and hair to photographs provided by families of the deceased. Funeral directors and embalmers attend to clients' reactions and comments and analyze the results of satisfaction questionnaires. (2)
  • Evaluate the suitability of funeral arrangements chosen by clients. For example, funeral directors may question the suitability of clients' preferences for hasty and simple burials when clients appear to be too emotional to face the process of funeral planning. Embalmers may evaluate the advisability of exposing bodies which are in poor condition. They may recommend alternative funeral options as a result of these evaluations. (2)
  • Evaluate the performance of the funeral home workers they supervise. For example, embalmers evaluate the choices of embalming chemicals made by their apprentices, the precautions they use to protect themselves, the appearance of bodies they embalm and the cleanliness of laboratories at the end of their shifts. They consider workers' interactions with clients and co-workers, their application of standards and safety practices, their degree of work satisfaction and their work attendance. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Funeral directors must organize job tasks to achieve business goals. They coordinate the delivery of products and services provided by suppliers such as ministers of religion, printers, florists, caterers, drivers and cemetery and crematorium workers. They resolve difficulties such as late deliveries and mistakes in products and services. They may experience conflicting demands on their time when the need to provide service competes with the need to carry out administrative tasks. Embalmers have limited latitude for job task planning and organization. Funeral directors typically set the priority of bodies to embalm by order of funeral and dates of death. Embalmers may make adjustments to schedules depending on the condition of bodies which need to be processed. (3)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Funeral directors prepare schedules and delegate tasks to other funeral directors, embalmers and funeral home attendants under their supervision. Embalmers may assign tasks to apprentices and helpers.

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember the faces and names of clients, suppliers and service providers to personalize their interactions.
  • Remember the details of administrative procedures for government, banks and insurance companies in order to guide clients.

Finding Information

Funeral Directors
  • Find information about burial arrangements and funerals. For example, they may look for information about the shipment of bodies to other countries by speaking to embassy personnel and airline representatives. They may search government and legal reference websites for information about exhuming bodies. They may find information about media relations and security to prepare for highly publicized funerals for victims of murders, organized crime and police shootings. They may read military codes and contact military spokespeople and professional associations to learn about staging funerals for fallen soldiers. (3)
Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Find information about products and procedures. For example, funeral directors find information about new products and trends such as green funerals by consulting colleagues, meeting suppliers, reading trade publications and attending death care industry tradeshows and professional conferences. Embalmers find information about special products and techniques to embalm bodies by speaking to peers, reading trade publications and contacting suppliers. (3)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology Funeral Directors
  • Use word processing. For example, funeral directors enter text to templates for obituaries, death certificates and form letters using word processing programs such as Word. They may also create, edit and format documents such as price lists, schedules and promotional texts. (3)
Funeral Directors and Embalmers
  • Use databases. For example, funeral directors may enter information about clients into databases such as Mortware and generate forms such as funeral service contracts, invoices, burial permits and cremation certificates. They may produce reports such as monthly casket sales and commissions. Embalmers may search database records for release times for bodies at morgues and clients' instructions for the preparation of bodies. They may access and print death certificates using databases. (2)
  • May use spreadsheets. For example, funeral directors in small funeral homes may use programs such as Excel to track postdated cheques for burial plots and compare revenues and expenses to budgets. Embalmers may create and print out supply inventory lists using spreadsheets. (2)
  • Use communication software. For example, funeral directors exchange e-mail messages and file attachments such as photographs and obituaries with clients and newspaper editors. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, funeral directors access the websites of governments, suppliers and professional associations to read help files on benefits, access suppliers' catalogues, find legislation and read on-line newsletters. They may use browser programs such as Internet Explorer to search for service providers' telephone numbers and to locate commemorative texts. Embalmers use Internet browsers to access suppliers' catalogues and to search for information on restorative techniques. Funeral directors and embalmers may access intranet sites to download forms and participate in forums with colleagues. (2)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Funeral directors and embalmers coordinate job tasks with other funeral directors, funeral attendants, undertaker assistants, limousine drivers, cemetery and crematorium managers and various service providers. Funeral directors and embalmers may supervise apprentices and assistants.

Continuous Learning

Funeral directors and embalmers participate in ongoing learning to maintain current knowledge of practices, legislation and trends in the death care industry and to improve their knowledge of embalming and restorative techniques. They learn through discussions with co-workers, peers, suppliers and service providers. They read newsletters, trade magazines, manuals and articles and help files on websites. They also attend workshops, courses, trade shows and conferences sponsored by suppliers and professional associations.

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