Benjamin Franklin famously once said that “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” So it’s no surprise that in a time when layoffs are imminent and people are worried about where their next paycheck is coming from, the funeral services industry seems to be a secure place to work. That’s exactly what Alan Willoughby thought when he struggled to make ends meet from his job at the used car lot.
Even though he was 50 years old, Willoughby decided to go back to college to study the science and business of death. He isn’t alone, either. There has been a surge of students interested in this field in recent years as more people are looking for a field that will always be needed in the community.
The salaries for funeral directors are not particularly lucrative, but they are secure and decent. According to the latest estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, funeral directors made an average of nearly $60,000. Even if that’s a cut in pay for some people, the security of the industry makes up for it.
Of course, becoming a funeral professional isn’t for everyone. It’s a demanding job, both physically and mentally. The emotional demands the industry makes results in a high burn out rate for those who simply can’t deal with dealing with grieving people day in and day out. But, for those with the ability to compartmentalize successfully, the funeral industry offers job security and a chance to help others.
The surge in interest in the funeral industry is nothing new, though. This seems to happen every time there is a financial dip. According to Stephanie Kann, the program director at Worsham College’s Mortuary Science program in Illinois, interest in this field historically spikes when the unemployment rate hits eight percent. There was a 20 percent increase this year over last year. Will there be an even larger surge if the unemployment rate doesn’t get better? We’ll have to wait and see.