Funeral Director/Embalmer Kaihautū/Kaiwhakapaipai Tūpāpaku

Funeral directors/embalmers organise and direct funerals, register deaths, and prepare human bodies for visits by families, and for burial or cremation.

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Funeral directors/embalmers may do some or all of the following:

  • transport bodies from homes, hospitals or accident scenes
  • advise bereaved people on funeral arrangements 
  • prepare and casket bodies for viewing, and for burial or cremation
  • organise the funeral service and reception afterwards
  • transport the casket from the service to the burial or cremation site
  • assist with legal details such as registering the death and dealing with ACC claims.

Physical Requirements

Funeral directors/embalmers need to:

  • have a tidy appearance
  • be reasonably fit as they often have to transport bodies and caskets
  • be able to work with formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde – the two chemicals used in embalming.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for funeral directors includes:

  • work dealing with the public, such as in hospitality 
  • counselling, nursing or rest home work.

Work in make-up or cosmetics, and/or work in a hospital or laboratory is useful for embalmers.

Personal Qualities

Funeral directors/embalmers need to be:

  • good communicators
  • patient
  • tactful and able to keep information private
  • mature, responsible and concerned for others
  • able to relate to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds
  • organised and good at planning
  • accurate, with an eye for detail.

Funeral directors/embalmers must also be comfortable working around dead bodies.



Funeral directors/embalmers need to have knowledge of:

  • legal and health issues relating to death 
  • human anatomy
  • embalming, and preparing a body for burial 
  • various religious ceremonies, and differences in cultural and religious beliefs about the human body and funerals
  • the legal obligations of working with, and taking care of bodies.


Funeral directors/embalmers:

  • work regular business hours, but often have to work evenings or weekends and be on call
  • work in offices, funeral homes, workshops and mortuaries attached to funeral homes
  • travel to hospitals, homes, places of worship, cemeteries, graveyards and crematoriums, and may need to travel to accident sites to transport bodies.

Funeral Director/Embalmers can earn around $50K-$60K per year.

Pay for funeral directors/embalmers varies, but they usually earn between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.

Those running their own business can earn up to $110,000.

Source: Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand, 2020.

Funeral directors/embalmers may progress to work in managerial roles at funeral homes, or establish their own funeral home businesses.

Funeral directors/embalmers may specialise in either funeral directing or embalming. 

Years Of Training

1-2 years of training usually required.

There are no specific requirements to become a funeral director/embalmer.

However, you can complete a New Zealand Diploma in Funeral Directing (Level 5). 

To be accepted into a funeral directing and embalming course, you must:

  • be at least 20 years old
  • be employed in the industry and sponsored by your employer
  • have done at least one year's work in a funeral home.
Funeral Director/Embalmer