Are you using the right term? Undertaker, Funeral Director, Mortician, and Embalmer

Funeral DirectorWhen the topic of funerals or cremations comes up, do you refer to the person coordinating your services an undertaker, mortician, funeral director or embalmer? The terms funeral director, mortician, and undertaker are typically used interchangeably. An embalmer has a significantly different role.

The most modern and common term is funeral director. The name is self-explanatory. They are licensed professionals in California that can arrange and coordinate funeral services and memorials. According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, a funeral director “(1) prepares for the transportation, burial, or disposal of human remains; (2) directs and supervises others who perform those functions; (3) maintains an establishment for the transportation, disposition, or care of human remains; (4) may use, in connection with his or her name, the words “funeral director,” “undertaker,” “mortician,” or similar title; and (5) must be employed by, or be the proprietor of, a licensed funeral establishment.” The main limitation is not being able to embalm a body.

Although mortician and undertaker are more dated terms, they are still synonymous with funeral director. According to an article from Mental Floss, “How Morticians Reinvented Their Job Title”, the term mortician started in 1895. The story goes that a trade magazine called The Embalmers’ Monthly held a contest looking for names that were less grim sounding than undertaker. The term Mortician was the winning entry. (The root word “mort” is Latin for death.)

Embalmers have a very different and unique role in the industry. They prepare the body for burial or public viewing. As most people know, this is done by replacing the fluids in the body with embalming fluids. This process helps slow down the body’s natural decomposition process. Embalmers have their own special license that includes passing a licensing test.

In California, you can choose to become an embalmer, funeral director, or both based on the educational path you choose and then what licenses you hold. For instance, I am both. Before I chose to specialize in helping families with the cremation process, I worked in a full-service, traditional funeral home and having both licenses was beneficial because I could do all the roles needed to manage a funeral home. Ultimately, the important thing, regardless of what you call them, is that the person ultimately responsible taking care of your loved one is licensed, professional, and caring.

About Best Cremation Care

Best Cremation Care provides affordable cremation services throughout the Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland / Alameda, and San Jose / Santa Clara) and Southern California (Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and San Diego County). We are a licensed funeral establishment and have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Call us at 877-878-7988.

David Finch

About David Finch

David Finch is a Licensed Funeral Director, Embalmer, Crematory Manager and Funeral Insurance Consultant in the State of California with 30 years experience. Other professional accomplishments include Founding the Professional Fellowship of Hospice Chaplains, managing a public cemetery, volunteering as a Sheriff's Chaplain, Board Member of the Orange Belt Funeral Director's Association, consulting with the State of California as Subject Matter Expert for the Department of Consumer Affairs Licensing Exam, and has the privilege of overseeing the tutelage of many great apprentice embalmers. David has overseen the Southern California operations of Best Cremation Care since January of 2015 and has enjoyed seeing the company grow and client families receive compassion and a great value during what can be a difficult time in their lives.

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