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Embalmer

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Summary of occupation

Embalmers preserve, sanitise and prepare the bodies of deceased people for presentation and burial. Usually a member of a funeral firm, an embalmer is responsible for preserving the appearance of the person from the time of death until the funeral. This work involves washing and disinfecting the body, replacing bodily fluids and gases with preservatives, washing and arranging hair, and if required applying cosmetics. Depending on the case, the embalmer may be required to reconstruct the appearance of the person. In some instances, embalming work is part of the work of the funeral director. Embalmers are also expected to help keep the mortuary clean, adhere to strict health and safety regulations and complete any necessary paperwork.

ANZSCO description: Embalmers preserve, sanitise and prepare the bodies of deceased people for presentation and burial.
Alternative names:
Specialisations:
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An embalmer needs:

  • to be comfortable working closely with deceased persons
  • to be sensitive to people's feelings
  • an ability to provide support to people experiencing grief and loss
  • good hand-eye coordination
  • an interest in chemistry and anatomy
  • physical strength and stamina to lift bodies and stand for long periods.
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Working conditions

Embalmers work in mortuaries in hospitals, funeral parlours and universities. These workers come into direct contact with deceased persons and are exposed to bodily fluids and infectious diseases. Embalmers tend to work normal business hours but can also be expected to be on-call as embalming work needs to be carried out soon after death. Embalmers carry out most of their work standing up.

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Salary details

Embalmers, classified under funeral workers, can expect to earn between $800 and $999 per week on average ($41 600 and $51 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience. As an embalmer develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.​

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Tools and technologies

Embalmers work with chemicals such as formaldehyde, which is used to preserve and disinfect the body. These workers sometimes use injection machines to pump chemicals through the body to replace blood and interstitial fluids. Embalmers also use surgical instruments to carry out reconstructive work. These workers need to wear protective clothing such as gloves, chemical-resistant boots and masks to protect themselves from body fluids and chemicals.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

It is possible to work as an embalmer without any formal qualifications and get training on the job. 

You may improve your employment prospects if you complete a traineeship in funeral services (embalmer). The course usually takes 24 months to complete.​

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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