Funeral Industry News

New Vermont Regs Fast-Track Path to Funeral Director License

September 9, 2019

New Vermont Regs Fast-Track Path to Funeral Director License

New rules finalized in late August by Vermont legislators will eliminate the requirement of an associate’s degree to become a licensed funeral director. Instead, students can become licensed after completing a two-semester community college certificate and apprenticeship program.

Vermont’s funeral industry worked with the Community College of Vermont (CCV) and the state’s Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) to draft the changes last year. The goal of the new program is to make it easier for anyone interested in the profession to become licensed.

No school for you, Vermont

Currently, Vermont is one of about 16 states with no accredited college or university funeral director programs. Neither the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) nor the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards (CFSEB) directories lists any Vermont schools.

This meant that under the previous rule, which required an associate’s degree to apply for licensure, students had to enroll in programs in New York or Boston. Online programs were also an option, but most programs require at least some hands-on or on-site classwork. 

In addition to the inconvenience of traveling to another state, Vermont students also had to pay around $64,000 in tuition. Vermont Funeral Director Association (VFDA) president Chris Palermo believed this was a deterrent not only for Vermonters, but for directors looking to relocate.  

“Finding people who want to come and work in Vermont after they spent $64,000 is really difficult,” Palermo told VT Digger in December. “This would allow home-grown people to become qualified to become a funeral director in Vermont.”

According to an August 2019 article in the same publication, there are 104 licensed funeral directors licensed in Vermont, serving about 31 funeral homes. However, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists only 70 people working as “morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors” in the state as of May 2018.

Just two semesters

The discrepancy in those numbers probably lies with embalmers, which the BLS counts separately from directors. Vermont’s new education program does not include embalming. Palermo says the rules team excluded embalming from the plan due to the state’s increasing cremation rates.

Another missing component is the CFSEB exam for licensure. According to the new rules, an applicant may qualify for a funeral director’s license in Vermont after completing the certificate program at CCV and passing the final examination. 

The program includes three distinct elements: 26 hours of coursework, 10 hours of networking and continuing education, and an apprenticeship with a Vermont-licensed funeral director. The apprenticeship must include documentation the student worked with 50 dispositions. 

The cost of the entire program will be around $8000 for in-state students. The certification wouldn’t allow graduates to work as funeral directors in any other state. The community college reports that 15 students have already enrolled in the program.

Not surprisingly, some long-time directors initially opposed the vastly streamlined education path. Palermo told the VT Digger that some VFDA members felt “they had to put in their dues to get the full qualifications.”