Mortuary cosmetologists are rarely employed directly by funeral homes, particularly on a full-time basis. Since this area of cosmetology is relatively new, there generally is not yet a strong enough demand for these services to support full-time mortuary cosmetologists. Most are cosmetologists—either self-employed or employed by a salon—who provide mortuary services on a freelance basis. Many provide services to several funeral homes, especially in more rural areas, where there are fewer people who specialize in this work. In larger cities, one or two large funeral homes that see a high volume may provide enough business for a mortuary cosmetologist to make a part-time or even full-time income. 766,100 barbers, cosmetologists, and hairstylists are employed in the United States.
Few workers are directly involved in preparing the deceased for funerals: directors, embalmers, and cosmetologists. These professionals are the only people who can legally perform these services. Those interested in mortuary cosmetology should consider which aspects of the field appeal to them most in deciding whether to pursue funeral home or cosmetology training. Funeral home training takes longer than cosmetology training. Embalmers generally are required to complete two years of preprofessional college work—often resulting in an associate's degree. Funeral home directors are required to complete two years of college and then enroll in mortuary school for another year or two.
Those who have completed cosmetology training and are interested in this work should begin by aggressively marketing themselves to local funeral homes. Once the funeral homes know of a cosmetologist in the area who provides these services, they will be able to recommend the cosmetologist for work.
Mortuary cosmetology, or desairology, may not hold the glamour of other cosmetology specialties, such as a stage or film artist, but it offers other attractions, such as the opportunity to perform humanitarian services. Mortuary cosmetologists who make funeral homes, salons, and the general public aware of the valuable service they provide can help their businesses grow. Mortuary cosmetologists who build a reputation for providing a valuable service can carve a niche for themselves in their area. Becoming a funeral home's or salon's designated desairologist can lead to steady work, which because of its specialized nature, generally pays more than regular cosmetology services.
Tips for Entry
Land an entry-level job as a cosmetologist to develop your skills. You might also consider getting a part-time job as a receptionist or office clerk at a funeral home to learn about the funeral industry and get your foot in the door.
Conduct information interviews with mortuary cosmetologists and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.
Be willing to relocate. It may open more job opportunities.