Most beauticians – also referred to as cosmetologists – provide personal appearance services to living clients. A few in the profession perform the same function for the deceased. This is done so the deceased has as natural an appearance as possible for mourners to view him prior to interment or cremation. Pay levels for mortuary beauticians compare favorably with other areas of the cosmetology industry.
Mortuary beauticians shampoo, brush and style the hair, manicure the nails, remove body hair, pluck eyebrows and apply makeup to cadavers. In instances where the deceased person has been disfigured, mortuary beauticians use materials such as foam and cotton to reconstruct features and restore as natural an appearance as possible. Practitioners may also dress the body, arrange it in the coffin and display floral tributes around it.
In May 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that across the personal appearance industry, the average annual salary for cosmetologists of all types, as well as for hairdressers and hairstylists, was $26,510. Within the analysis, it listed the average yearly wage for a cosmetologist working within the death care services sector of the industry as $32,360. This is a higher average than that listed for cosmetologists working in personal care services ($26,760), health and personal care stores ($27,170), technical and trade schools ($27,390) and department stores ($21,040).
Pay by Location
Mortuary beautician salaries are influenced by the location in which a practitioner works. In May 2011, the Economic Research Institute detailed the average wages for the occupation in some large cities. New York City had the highest average rates, at $39,983, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago at $37,052 and $36,097, respectively. At the other end of the scale, pay levels were very similar between Houston ($32,861), Charlotte, North Carolina ($32,571) and Miami ($32,191).
Some mortuary beauticians enter the trade having attended mortuary college. Here, often as part of a broader program that includes embalming, students learn about the muscular structure of the human face, color scale, chemistry and reconstructive arts. Other practitioners move into the field from traditional cosmetology, having attended cosmetology school and obtained a license from their state board and completed a required amount of practical experience. The precise demands of a license board vary from state to state.