Funeral Director

Funeral director and arrangement officers take care of all the arrangements for a funeral on behalf of the deceased's family. At the offices of funeral directors or undertakers, all the tasks concerning a funeral are divided between two persons, namely, the funeral director or undertaker and an arrangement officer.

The tasks of funeral directors and arrangement officers include:

A complete service is offered to the public with regard to all arrangements that have to be made regarding a person’s death. The next of kin first contacts the funeral directors and informs them of the death. The funeral directors then collect the body, in the case of death as a result of natural causes such as illness or heart failure, and take it to the undertaker’s premises where it is placed in a cooling unit. The arrangement officer then makes arrangements with the next of kin for the funeral or cremation.

The day, place and time of the funeral, as well as all other arrangements such as the flowers, organist, seating of guests, funeral leaflets, contacting the parish clerk, organising the grave, the booking of the church or crematorium and the minister, as well as the hearse and traffic arrangements, can all be done by the arrangement officer.

Arrangement officers have to support the next of kin throughout and offer them assistance, as it is often difficult for them to make decisions about the funeral in their grief. They will also arrange the obituary notices about the death and funeral or cremation service.

The funeral director has to see that all the procedures that are prescribed by the authorities are adhered to, such as the obtaining of a medical certificate, registration of the death, post mortem, etc. They also prepare the coffin and the body for the funeral.

On the day of the cremation or funeral, the funeral director takes the body to the church or chapel for the service. If requested by the family of the deceased, the people attending the funeral or cremation service can look at the deceased in the coffin for the last time to bid farewell. The coffin is usually carried into the church or chapel, if the family prefers it and if the church allows it.

After the service the funeral director is responsible for transporting the body to the cemetery and for the ceremony at the grave. In case of a cremation service, the funeral director has to take the body to the crematorium and carry out the necessary administrative duties there. The funeral director as well as the arrangement officer, have to have knowledge of the customs of different cultural groups on the death of a loved one.

Personal Requirements

  • knowledge of the customs of different cultural groups when a death occurs
  • empathetic, kind and tactful
  • able to remain emotionally uninvolved
  • excellent communication skills
  • able to support and comfort grieving people
  • able to act sympathetically, gently but firmly
  • deep respect for the dignity of the deceased
  • able to handle the dead in a worthy manner

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • at least a Grade 10 Certificate for a Technisa course and older than 25 years of age
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Diploma: UNISA offers a 2-year correspondence course for funeral directors. Those who already have a National Senior Certificate, can get exemption for some subjects.

A funeral director receives in-service training and can progress to the level of an arrangement officer. A person with previous experience could be appointed as an arrangement officer.


  • a funeral director’s business
  • self-employment - it is possible to start one’s own funeral service business with a lot of capital and knowledge of the industry

Further Information

National Funeral Directors’ Association
PO Box 251 Germiston 1401
Tel: (021) 825-4404

Funeral Academy for Africa
10 Jorissen Street
Braamfontein, 2001
Tel: (012) 447-3100

Getting Started

  • try to get part-time or a holiday job with a funeral director to see whether you like this type of work
  • speak to a funeral director about this career and seek permission to observe the work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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