Salary: How much does an embalmer make?

It's a job that will make even the most sensitive people swoon, and not just because of the unpronounceable name. From the Greek “thanatos”, death and “praxein”, to heal, a thanatopractitioner is one who takes care of embalming and presenting the bodies of the deceased in hospitals, morgues or funeral homes. She undresses, cleans, disinfects the body, punctures physiological fluids, then dresses it, makes it up, does its hair, bathes it and places it in the coffin.

Far from morbid clichés, the embalmer knows that his job goes beyond the technical aspect and that the care he provides to the deceased to make him presentable helps families to reflect and accept the death of their loved ones. While experiencing the loss of her own great-grandfather at the age of 15, Manon, an independent embalmer in Île-de-France, decided to pursue this profession. “It was so beautiful, it helped me so much that I immediately thought that I want to let other families experience this,” she tells us. More pragmatically, the embalmer's work also enables better preservation of the body by delaying its decomposition.

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A close cousin of the undertaker

In the past, they were called “undertakers”. A somewhat catch-all word that encompasses all funeral professions: undertaker, gravedigger, pallbearer, embalmer… You probably know the legend about the origin of the term. When doctors feared they were wrong about the body's condition, the body wraps were tasked with biting the person's toe to confirm the absence of stimulation and therefore that the person was indeed dead. In reality, the word most likely comes from a tool used – a “fang”, a large pole with a hook – to move the body without touching during periods of epidemics.

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Of all funeral professions, the embalmer is the one that most closely resembles the idea we have of an undertaker. Today, his services are sought for almost all deaths. Except when the hospital itself takes care of the toilet and preparation, “which is increasingly rare because families are often cheated by undertakers who charge them for embalming even though the hospital took care of it,” says Manon.

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The myth of an extremely rich embalmer

As a general rule, embalmers are employed as service providers by funeral homes, but may leave the private sector to join a specialist municipal service. They can also be independent, like Manon.

When he is an employee of a small structure, the embalmer earns between 2000 and 2500 euros net per month. In the largest companies, numerous bonuses are added to the basic salary depending on the number of treatments provided. When he is a service provider, he earns between 1,900 and 2,200 euros net per month. Better-paid self-employed people can earn between 2,500 and 3,000 euros net per month. Not forgetting mileage allowances for expenses incurred during the trip. On the Internet, salaries of 4,500 euros are mentioned on many sites. “It's completely crazy, even for an independent person who works like crazy,” comments Manon. This is confirmed by CGT Funéraire, which “has never seen such a fee”.

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“There are many taboos surrounding my work. I am not ashamed to say that I make good money”, explains the young “thanato”. Despite an aging population, the sector offers stable employment prospects as demand for funeral services continues to grow. But even with these attractive salaries, the French still avoid this profession. Of the 30 million workers in France, only 25,000 are engaged in this profession. For the sake of comparison, there are 314,000 road freight drivers and almost 700,000 nurses for equally or even more demanding occupations.

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