Virginia’s First Funeral Directing Degree Program is Open for Enrollment

Funeral Industry News GROW Human Resources July 27, 2021
Virginia degree program
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Virginia’s First Funeral Directing Degree Program is Open for Enrollment

Beginning this fall semester, Tidewater Community College in Virginia offers a new nationally-accredited Funeral Directing degree.  The two-year program, offered through its Virginia Beach campus, will be the State of Virginia’s first program of its kind.  The new Associate’s degree was developed following Virginia’s April 2020 General Assembly bill which approved separate licenses for the roles of Funeral Director and Embalmer.

Not Their First Rodeo

TCC, no newcomer to death care industry training, has offered a “Funeral Services” degree since 2013, but that program has a different focus.  The new Funeral Director program is structured around the business side of the industry.  Curriculum requirements include coursework on supporting the bereaved and the psychology of grieving, alongside procurement of required legal documentation, matters of management and the business operations of a funeral home, and legal requirements for final dispensation. 

Basic technical educational framework of body preparation is there, as well — anatomy and embalming — but to a lesser degree, as the focus on restorative arts is found in the college’s other two-year program, Funeral Services.

“Services” vs. “Director”

The main difference between TCC’s – and, more widely, “Funeral Director” programs versus the already established “Funeral Services” degrees are mainly the absence of intensity of focus on mortuary science (with its focus on body preparation in anatomy, restorative arts, and embalming) in favor of the business side of things.

Requirements for TCC’s Funeral Director degree include funeral service law, business law, public speaking, and additional business courses on a framework of math and science. A 2,000 hour externship is also required following the completion of the curriculum (compare to Funeral Services requirement of a 3,000 hour externship).

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing: Death Care Training

There are many excellent, high-quality programs for preparation for careers in the death care industry. Here’s an excellent overview from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).

Licensures and regulations vary by state, so if you’re thinking of training in another state from the place you eventually hope to ply your trade, keep that in mind. Check with the licensing board of your state of practice to ensure its requirements will be met by the program you plan to attend.

Standards of the Pros

As of 2018, there were 57 nationally accredited mortuary/funeral director/service programs recognized by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). The directory includes 4-year (Bachelor’s) degrees and 2 year programs, including fully online/remote programs. But what does it mean to be “accredited?”

According to the American Board of Funeral Service Education, “‘Accreditation’ is a process through which a program or institution voluntarily submits to evaluation by its peers against an established set of standards.”

Accreditation, like other licensure, isn’t permanent; first an institution must earn it, and thereafter, must re-establish its worthiness of the credential at regular intervals.

“Schools” do exist without accreditation; referred to as “degree mills”, they lack the prestige of accredited programs.

Can You Attend an Unaccredited Funeral Director Degree Program?

Unaccredited programs certainly exist, but your state may not license you – even if you pass any required examinations — if the program you attend is not recognized. Check first.

Want to know more?

TCC’s new Funeral Director program is open for enrollment and is available fully remote beginning August 23.

Thanks to Connecting Directors contributing author Jennifer Trudeau for this piece!