I received an interesting email today.  At first, I thought it was a joke.  But the writer is serious.  Here’s the email:

Hello Tim,
I am very glad to find you and your posts on the internet and your website. I am writing to ask you for help in finding employment. I am a licensed Estetician and am interested in the position of Corpse Beautician. I have been working with the public and applying make up for over 5 years and now find I am interested in this aspect of Estetics. However I have been researching online and not finding anything. Looking at online funderaljobs.com and places like that I have used their search windows and not found anything remotely called ‘corpse beautician’. I have also not found anything like this job description in the long list of funeral jobs in existance.
What I mean to express is that not for looking can I find even on the internet the job of corpse beautician or related position. Do I just not know the official name of this job? Do I just not know the category under which this job is listed? Is it that there is just no listings for this position at this time and my timing is bad?
I live in Houston Texas and I would like to transfer my skills in Estetics to the funeral industry. I don’t know if my serach criteria is bad or if the market is non-existant at this time. Is this position in funeral homes so rare and should I make a point of calling each individually and ask if they employ such persons? Do I need to sell myself and my skills as a new service to a unexposed area?
I simply can’t ascertain the market in my area nor online as I get no results from google searching.
If you have any advice how to approach the market or funeral homes directly and/or how I should go about getting experience on some corpses first before seeking employment I would appreciate it.
 
Sincerely,
Jil W.

After thoughtful consideration, here’s what I sent back to the writer:

Jil:

Thank you for your kind words about my website.  And yes, I can tell you a little more about the job you’re seeking and why there’s not much on the internet about it.

 
First, I’ve never heard the phrase “corpse beautician” before.  Frankly, it sounds in poor taste, which may be why no one uses the title.
 
You would do better to talk to funeral homes about cosmetologist positions or ask about employments as a dressing room attendant.
 
But the more likely reason that you can’t find job listings for the position is that few funeral homes employ someone who only does makeup.  Most funeral homes know that putting makeup on the deceased is such a tiny percentage of the workday, making it a job done by the same person who embalms the body, dresses the deceased and puts them in the casket.
In smaller funeral homes, that person might also empty the ashtrays on the smoking porch, vacuum the chapel, typeset the memorial folder, run the death certificate and stand for the visitation.
 
In fact, some firms that handle 60-80 funerals a year (near the national average, actually) might only have two full-time employees.  That means the licensed funeral director is doing all the preparation and the secretary/assistant does all the jobs the funeral director doesn’t want to do.
 
What I’ve just described is analogous with my experience working in a small, family funeral home.  However, you might be more interested in what I saw at the large corporate firm where I worked.
 
There are several large corporations that own groups or “clusters” of funeral homes across the country.  These clusters operate at their most efficient when they utilize a central prepartion facility to handle the embalming, dressing, cosmetizing and casketing of the deceased for several funeral home locations.
 
In this arrangement, there are folks whose full-time jobs are to embalm and prepare the deceased.  In the large central facility where I worked in the 1990’s, there was a person whose sole job was to dress and cosmetize the deceased clients.
 
Before you get your hopes up, you should know what that job required:
 
Lifiting 100 pounds or more (to lift bodies into caskets)
Manipulating remains for dressing
Making a windsor knot in a tie on a person who’s lying down (harder than you’d think)
Dealing with purge (bodies that leak after embalming)
Lifting, stacking, pushing heavy caskets
Any other thing the funeral directors ask you to do
Still want this job?
 
Seriously, if this is something that you’re interested in, you should call some funeral homes.  But don’t be surprised if they don’t give you the warmest reception.
 
When I worked in the funeral home, I could always tell when a beauty school had just graduated a class because I would get ten calls in a week from freshly-minted cosmetologists who thought they were the first ones ever to look for a job in a funeral home.  And it was sad to have to tell them that my boss handled all the cosmetic work and was actually really good at it.  Besides, how would they make a living coming in once or twice a week for an hour to makeup a few bodies?
 
I hope I haven’t upset you terribly.  I think you will be able to make better decisions about your future with the information I’ve offered.
 
Once last bit of advice:  don’t try to sell yourself as a “corpse beautician.”  Sounds kinda creepy.
 
TIM
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