Career as a Funeral Director

A career in funeral directing in Wellington

A funeral director provides an essential service to bereaved families, guiding the family through the funeral process and advising them of their options.

For most families this may be their first experience of arranging a funeral.

The role involves caring for the deceased from transfer from the place of death through to burial or cremation. On behalf of the family the funeral director will manage all bookings, complete and process required administration, co-ordinate and attend the funeral service.

Historically, many funeral directors in New Zealand have joined a funeral company directly from school; initially washing cars, trimming caskets and assisting on transfers before progressing to embalming (optional) and funeral direction.

Now, more people are joining the profession later in life, bringing valuable skills and life experience.

Attributes & skills

A funeral director must have people skills, be well organised, communicate clearly and work confidently both independently and as part of a team. The role is varied and situations can be emotionally charged. You need to be well presented, practical and unflappable.

Administration

Administration is a major part of the role of the funeral director, processing information and forms required by law and local authorities, booking venues, celebrants, musicians, technical services and caterers.

Aptitude for figures

The role requires preparing estimates and accurate final funeral accounts.

Time & Project Management

Effective time management is critical. A funeral service may be public event attended by hundreds of friends, colleagues, affiliates and family. Usually organised within a week, a funeral requires co-ordination and collaboration with families and service providers.

Driving & navigation

Competent driving skills (especially reversing) and a clean, full licence are necessary. Local knowledge of greater Wellington’s suburbs would be advantageous as often you transfer from various rest homes and private residences or meet with families at their homes.

Computer literacy & technology

As the industry adopts more technological capabilities, proficient computer skills are expected, including knowledge of Microsoft, database, accounting, photo editing and design packages. You need to be able to communicate clearly with families and service providers by telephone, email, text or written correspondence.

At funeral venues you may be solely responsible for the set-up and operation of the audiovisual equipment and presentations.

Physically fit

Physical fitness and strength is essential as the role involves heavy lifting.

Culture & values

New Zealand is a multicultural society. Knowledge and understanding of others’ beliefs, rituals and ceremonies associated with death is vital.

Be aware

  • You will be part of a 24/7 on-call roster.
  • Career progression is limited, especially working for a smaller company unless you move into a management role within a larger funeral company.

Do your research

  • Wellington library is a good resource for publications on death, funerals, ceremonies and grief.
  • Research on-line the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 and Health Burial Regulations 1946.
  • Familiarise yourself with Wellington’s funeral venues, cemeteries and crematoria.
  • Arrange to meet with a funeral director to discuss the industry.

Training & Organisations

Careers NZ

An overview of career paths in New Zealand, including the funeral industry. Details expected remuneration.
www.careers.govt.nz

Wellington Institute of Technology – WelTec

WelTec is the national provider of funeral services training in New Zealand.
To be eligible for the course you must:

  • be at least 20 years of age before commencing the programme
  • be employed by a funeral company
  • have at least 12 months relevant experience as a funeral director before commencement
  • nominate an approved clinical supervisor

www.weltec.ac.nz

Funeral Services and Training Trust – FSTT

FSTT is the recognised Industry Training Organisation (ITO) for the funeral industry in New Zealand and is responsible for overseeing the national qualifications in Funeral Services.
www.fstt.org.nz

Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand – FDANZ

The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand (FDANZ) is an association of funeral directing companies.
www.fdanz.org.nz

New Zealand Independent Funeral Homes – NZIFH

The NZIFH is “an association of funeral homes throughout New Zealand, formed to promote amongst its members the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and service”.
www.nzifh.org.nz

New Zealand Embalmers Association – NZEA

The NZEA is “a group of like-minded, professional, qualified embalmers dedicated to the maintenance of the highest standards of professional conduct and ability”
www.nzembalmers.org.nz

Opportunities

Positions are occasionally advertised on SEEK and TradeMe websites or in industry publications. Contact the funeral companies in Wellington with your curriculum vitae and a covering letter outlining your relevant skills. You could offer to work voluntarily to gain relevant experience to decide if this career is for you.