Why Should You Attend an Accredited College for a Funeral Services Career?

Get a diploma from an accredited institution for better job opportunities.

Get a diploma from an accredited institution for better job opportunities.

Many jobs in the funeral industry seek candidates who have a college education. While seeking a higher degree is commendable for any student, the choice of attending an accredited college, especially for the funeral industry, is imperative in your path to find a job or to build a career. Why should you seek an accredited college for your funeral career, and why is it so important?

First, an accredited college is a college that seeks confirmation from an accrediting agency to approve a program, its components, and the degree or certification. The United States has no Federal Ministry of Education or other centralized authority exercising single national control over post-secondary educational institutions in this country. The States assume varying degrees of control over education, but, in general, institutions of higher education are permitted to operate with considerable independence and autonomy. As a consequence, American educational institutions can vary widely in the character and quality of their programs.

While the U.S. Department of Education does not accredit educational institutions and/or programs, the Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the Secretary determines to be reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training provided by the institutions of higher education and the higher education programs they accredit. This accreditation in the U.S. serves the purpose of helping students find a reliable and recognized college as well as help to avoid “diploma mills.”

There are two basic types of educational accreditation, one identified as “institutional” and one referred to as “specialized” or “programmatic.” Institutional accreditation normally applies to an entire institution, indicating that each of an institution’s parts is contributing to the achievement of the institution’s objectives, although not necessarily all at the same level of quality. Specialized or programmatic accreditation normally applies to programs, departments, or schools that are parts of an institution. The accredited unit may be as large as a college or school within a university or as small as a curriculum within a discipline.

Most of the specialized or programmatic accrediting agencies review units within an institution of higher education that is accredited by one of the regional accrediting commissions. However, certain accrediting agencies also accredit professional schools and other specialized or vocational institutions of higher education that are free-standing in their operations. Thus, a “specialized ” or “programmatic ” accrediting agency may also function in the capacity of an “institutional ” accrediting agency. In addition, a number of specialized accrediting agencies accredit educational programs within non-educational settings, such as hospitals.

In the funeral industry, the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) is the only organization in the United States which represents faculty and administrators in the field of funeral service education. Additionally, ABFSE is the sole accrediting agency for funeral service education in the U.S. recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

The ABFSE’s origins reach back to 1946 when its predecessor organization was founded as the Joint Committee on Mortuary Education by joint resolutions of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards of the United States (ICFSEB [renamed the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards in 1998]), and with the concurrence of the several associations of schools and colleges involved with funeral service/mortuary science education. The original authority of the Joint Committee included “setting up standards concerning the schools and colleges teaching mortuary science” and accrediting “schools and colleges of Mortuary Science…”

In 1959, the name of the Joint Committee on Mortuary Education was changed to its current name — the American Board of Funeral Service Education. In 1962, authority for the accreditation of all funeral service programs and institutions was assigned to ABFSE. A Commission on Schools was established within ABFSE in 1970 to deal exclusively with the accreditation of member institutions. Soon thereafter, in 1978, the Commission on Schools was changed to an autonomous, self-perpetuating committee of the ABFSE designated as the Committee on Accreditation (COA).

The COA is responsible for granting candidacy, initial accreditation, or re-accreditation to institutions of funeral service education. The minimum requirements for accreditation are that a program offer at least an associate degree, or its equivalent (i.e., 60 semester credits of a prescribed curriculum) and meet the required standards of the ABFSE. The Standards and associated policies are available on the ABFSE website (www.abfse.org). They may be accessed and downloaded by clicking on “About ABFSE” and “ABFSE Standards.”

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