How To Become A California Funeral Director

Have you decided that the death care industry is for you? Congratulations! A career in the mortuary field is fulfilling and can be lucrative. But it’s not for the faint of heart.

Just becoming a licensed mortician/funeral director in California is going to take some serious effort as a student, a minimum $400 – $500 investment, and several months of “hurry up and wait”. Also, you’ll need to have a pretty clean criminal record (no crimes like Fraud, Embezzlement, etc) and 60 credits from an accredited college or university. If you’re genuinely ready to take the plunge… here’s how to do it:

  1. Get your paperwork in order. Here in California you’ll be dealing with the California Funeral Bureau aka CFB at   You need a couple forms from here, the application to take the funeral director exam and the LiveScan application. You can also get yourself a copy of the examination outline (it’s vague but helpful). You should probably start studying now too, I studied HARD for 4+ months and passed the exam first attempt.
  2. Contact your college/university and get your transcripts sent to the CFB. You CANNOT send your own copy, transcripts must go from the institution directly to the CFB.  I imagine every school is different, but it cost me about $15 to get my transcripts sent from UoP.
  3. Get your LiveScan done. You MUST take the CFB LiveScan form with you. Here is a list of California LiveScan locations. It cost me about $80, I had to drive the hour away to the Kern County Sheriff’s office in Bakersfield, CA. You’ll need valid ID. They’ll fingerprint you and start your official FBI background check, and send your CFB form off with your fingerprints. The CFB says it takes anywhere from 1 to 6 months for your FBI check to come back. Mine took about 3 months!
  4. Once your FBI background check comes back clean, send your application to take the exam to the CFB. The exam costs $100. You can also send your licensing fees and license application of $200 to the CFB, or wait until you pass the exam. Obviously you want to send a check or money order, not cash.
  5. Take the exam. You’ll have to go to a testing center managed by PSI, mine required another drive to sunny Bakersfield, CA. The exam is multiple choice, and done on a computer. Pretty straightforward. Each exam is different, and the passing score varies based on the difficulty of the exam. You’ll know within a few minutes of taking the exam if you pass or not. The staff at the exam center will print you a copy of your results.
  6. Send off your licensing fees if you haven’t, and wait for your license to arrive. It takes another month after passing the exam.

When I started the licensing process I really didn’t know the amount of time and cash that would be involved, but I’m thrilled that I did it. There weren’t really any resources to walk me through the process other than the CFB web site. I hope this post helps someone on their way to becoming a licensed California funeral director!



Inspiration & Tone

The inspiration for a funeral business blog came to me about six months ago when I was studying for the California funeral director exam. I was researching cremation technology and stumbled onto some really excellent blogs and articles. I decided a blog would be a super addition to my own professional development in the death care industry. More importantly I hope to address some of the common questions I get as a budding funeral director in Lake Isabella, CA. This way everyone can get answers to questions about the funeral business and funeral situations.

Most folks have some of the same general questions regarding final wishes, whether discussing their own or the final wishes of a loved one. People have questions about costs, payment methods, insurance situations and paperwork to name a few. Others want to know about unique memorial service ideas, and a rare few (myself included) are very interested in the details of  death care. “Like, what exactly is in embalming fluid anyways?” I plan on addressing these sorts of topics and many others with this publication.

I pondered this blog for a long time before launching it. I searched and researched, I read and re-read content of all kinds; especially funeral industry blogs written by other directors (like Confessions of a Funeral Director by Caleb Wilde  and Little Miss Funeral) and other funeral home staff. I’m hoping to address some common issues faced by grieving families and to present some fascinating historical funeral topics. Readers are welcome to leave comments and questions. Due to the nature of my business comments must be respectful towards individuals and towards death itself. Name calling, spamming, disrespect for deceased individuals just won’t be tolerated.

Oh, and one last thing. The nature of this blog is largely entertaining and just a bit educational. You should note that mortuary science is indeed a science, like any other. Over time research changes, technology adapts and scientific information I post today might not be valid in 5 years. The same goes for legal information, like contract law, which is a daily topic in the mortuary field. Laws change all the time. So if you’re using this blog and find a law cited or a study cited, please do your own “due diligence” regarding research. I make no claims that information I publish will be forever “legal” or ” scientifically accurate”, this blog is strictly for entertainment. Did I just sneak a disclaimer in here? Nice!