A mortuary cosmetologist -- also known as a mortuary or funeral home beautician -- is responsible for the appearance of a deceased person prior to burial or cremation. They dress the body, apply make-up, style hair and arrange the body in the casket to be viewed by relatives. They may use prosthetic appendages, such as cotton or foam rubber, to reconfigure the face of someone who has been disfigured and may arrange floral displays on the casket.
In May 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average annual salary for a cosmetologist working in death care services was £21,034. This was one of the highest-paying sectors of the personal appearance industry. By contrast, cosmetologists working in personal care services received an average of £17,394, those employed by nursing care facilities took home £17,433 per year, and practitioners working within department stores earned just £13,676.
Wage comparison website SalaryExpert.com conducted a survey of mortuary cosmetologists in some major U.S. cities in May 2011. Of the cities analysed, it found that New York, New York, had the highest average pay -- £29,283 per annum. Phoenix and Chicago completed the top three, with average salaries of £25,283 and £24,183, respectively. Houston and Miami had comparable averages -- £22,837 and £23,362 -- while among the locations with the lowest rates were Los Angeles -- £20,704 -- and Charlotte, North Carolina -- £20,465.
The BLS predicts that across the cosmetology and personal appearance industries, employment opportunities will grow by around 20 per cent over the period from 2008 to 2018. As a small niche within the industry, mortuary cosmetology is unlikely to experience quite such significant growth. However, with the population of America ageing, particularly with the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, prospects within the profession should be reasonable and wage levels should, therefore remain competitive.
Typically a cosmetologist gets into mortuary and funeral home work one of two ways: from studying traditional cosmetology or through training at a mortuary college. The first requires the individual to attend a training course lasting from six months to two years, complete a certain amount of practical experience and attain a cosmetology license from her state board.She must then apprentice under a mortuary cosmetologist to learn the specific requirements of the trade. Students at mortuary college are taught the fundamentals of physiognomy (the study of the facial muscles), re-creative artistry and chemistry. Often students at mortuary college study cosmetology procedures as part of a broader course training them to become embalmers or funeral directors.