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What Is an Embalmer and How to Become One

What Do Embalmers Do?

An embalmer prepares deceased bodies for funerals and public viewings through the use of chemicals and cosmetics. The process begins with a thorough cleansing of the deceased with an aseptic soap. The embalmer must then remove waste material and drain the body. The blood that is drained is replaced with an embalming fluid that acts as a preservative. The embalmer will then stitch the incisions and apply make-up to make the body appear as normal as possible.

How Do You Become an Embalmer?

To become an embalmer, you will need to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree in the mortuary sciences. This degree should come from an institution that is accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Institutions that offer associate degrees are more common and will focus on core topics such as anatomy, restoration, embalming theory, and pathology. Bachelor's degree programs will typically add subjects such as biology, sociology, and community health. Both degrees should offer courses in business, finance, and funeral service management.

Where Do Embalmers Work?

Typically embalmers are employed by funeral parlors and other funeral service agencies. You will also find employment opportunities for embalmers at hospitals, mortuaries, and universities. The embalmer will typically work in an embalming lab furnished with medical equipment for operating on the deceased body and fluid injection machines that are used to pump embalming chemicals in the body. These labs should remain sterile as embalmers will come in to contact with deceased bodies, bodily fluids, and potentially infectious diseases.

What Do Embalmers Wear?

The embalming fluid contains toxic levels of the chemical formaldehyde. To protect themselves from the harmful effects of the formaldehyde, embalmers must wear full body protection. This includes the use of a respirator to allow the embalmer to be able to breathe clean air during the process. The protective clothing is typically made of a polyethylene or poly laminated material to keep materials from the body, such as blood or waste, away from the embalmer. Rubber gloves and boots are used to protect hands and feet.