What is the difference between funeral director, mortician, and undertaker?

Nowadays, the terms funeral director, mortician, and undertaker all mean the same thing. They refer to a person who supervises or conducts the preparation of the dead for burial and directs or arranges funerals.

However, while the three terms are generally synonymous, there can be slight differences.

Who Is in Charge of the Funeral?

A funeral director can refer to someone who owns or operates a funeral home. Typically a funeral home will have one or more funeral directors who will oversee the funeral service and other arrangements.

Who Embalms Bodies?

Mortician specifically means the person who handles the body in preparation for a funeral.

Since most funeral homes are small, local operations, the person who embalms and beautifies the body is also often the funeral director. If the decedent is not embalmed, the mortician will still dress the body and care for the deceased’s overall appearance.

Commonly the mortician is also the owner of the funeral home. This is why funeral director and mortician are generally interchangeable.

Undertaker is actually a euphemism which refers to the person in charge of (i.e., someone who undertakes the responsibility for) the body and burial service. The term is out of vogue; instead, mortician or funeral director is preferable.

Funeral director, mortician, or undertaker?

Did you know: You can purchase caskets or cremation urns online for much less than in the funeral home. There are no laws which require you to purchase from the funeral home. In fact, the laws that exist protect your right to purchase a casket or urn from anyone you choose.

So what is the difference between funeral director, mortician, and undertaker?

All things considered, not much. Funeral Director just sounds so much more pleasant than the other two (or three, if you include “embalmer”) so most professionals prefer the term “funeral director.”

Funeral Director
1: a person whose job is to arrange and manage funerals

1: a person whose job is to prepare dead people to be buried and to arrange and manage funerals

1: one that undertakes: one that takes the risk and management of business;
2: one whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals

Ultimately, it depends on the specific job of each funeral professional. In larger funeral homes these roles may be spread out among several different team members; in smaller businesses and/or areas, one or two people may run the whole show and therefore do everything.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s have some fun.

Fun stuff for funeral directors, morticians, and undertakers

Mortician Humor

Mortician humor t-shirt available here.

Difference between funeral director and mortician
Photo of author


Daniel Szczesniak

Daniel has been working in the funeral industry since 2010, speaking directly to grieving families as they made funeral arrangements. He began researching and publishing funeral articles on this website as part of his role as product and marketing manager...

10 thoughts on “What is the difference between funeral director, mortician, and undertaker?”

  1. I work at a funeral home.I transport remains to the crematory,remove accident victims from crash-sites.prepare bodies for funerals by dressing them and putting them in caskets.remove deceased from homes and retirement homes.Always dressed appropriately and assist with funeral ,driving family,or hearse,or flower car .What would my title be?Funeral assistant? Paul

  2. Hi Paul,

    I’d ask your employer what your title is or should be, but “Funeral Assistant” sounds pretty good to me. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I would say either a funeral attendant or a removal technician I work for a mortuary service and do the same type of removals and my title is a removal technician.

  4. Don’t ask why but since a young age I’ve always been interested in preparing dead bodies for the afterlife, also for when loved ones of the deceased person chooses to see them before the funeral, maybe it comes from when I was 8 & my nan passed away, I was concerned that nobody made her look pretty which I knew she would of waited.

  5. What do you call the person who covers the grave up after the funeral? I’m not sure what his/her job title would be.

    Thank you!

  6. What do you call the person who covers the grave up after the funeral? I’m not sure what his/her job title would be.

    Thank you!

  7. Gravedigger, though some might find that macabre-sounding. You might also hear “cemetery caretaker” or “cemetery sexton”.

  8. I have really enjoyed the collection of quotes, photos and poems you have posted. My baby brother passed away July 2,1972💜😇💛August 27,1989 creating my Grief Back To Life Journey. Reaching the point in life that our age and health has deteriorated it’s now got me working on our own funeral plans. Thanks for the information and inspirational guidelines to get me started.

  9. What would be the specific name and title for a person who beautifies and dresses the deceased ready for their funeral but does not take part in the messing around with the insides

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