How to Get a Job As a Mortuary Makeup Artist

Mortuary makeup artists apply makeup to the deceased for public viewings. This line of work is also known as “desairology.” To begin a career in mortuary makeup, you’ll need to attend Mortuary Science School or Cosmetology school. Since you must either be a licensed mortician or cosmetologist to work with dead bodies, you’ll then need to apply for and pass your state’s licensing exam. Start finding jobs by offering your services at local funeral homes and salons. At the end of the day, this job can be unusual and difficult, but it can also incredibly rewarding to bring some peace to a grieving family.


EditCompleting Your Education

  1. Take science and cosmetology-related classes in high school. Classes like biology, chemistry, and physics will give you a background in chemicals and scientific processes. You should also complete a high school cosmetology course if one is available at your school. Some schools offer this as a vocational program.[1]
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    • Other classes that may be helpful include communications and psychology, for learning how to respectfully communicate with families, as well as art, for understanding color and design.
  2. Graduate from high school or obtain your GED. Graduating high school is crucial to continuing your education as a mortuary makeup artist. Make sure to get your diploma or GED in order to apply to Mortuary Science School or Cosmetology school.[2]
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  3. Complete your Cosmetology associate’s degree. Cosmetology school requires 1,000-1,500 hours of training in makeup, hair, and nails, which you can complete at a college or 2-year school.[3] You’ll be trained on mannequins and watch live demonstrations before advancing to live subjects. Many schools also offer specific courses in desairology.[4]
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    • Associate’s degrees generally take 2 years and often include a professional certification as well.
    • This training can also give you more options and experience. Even if the funeral home isn’t hiring for makeup artists, they oftentimes hire hair stylists or nail artists.
    • Many mortuary makeup artists use their cosmetology license to work in salons while freelancing for funeral homes.
  4. Attend Mortuary Science School for an emphasis on funeral home work. This path will give you more experienced and diverse training across a wide range of mortuary jobs. Mortuary makeup training will focus on mixing and injecting chemicals in order to make the deceased look more alive. This step isn’t necessary, though, so only do this if you want to have multiple roles as a mortuary employee![5]
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    • Having extra mortuary qualifications can also make you a more attractive prospect when you start looking for jobs.
    • However, many mortuary programs don’t offer extensive makeup training—the emphasis is on mortuary science instead.

EditObtaining Your License

  1. Check your state’s requirements for the license exam. Most states only require a written test, but some require an additional physical exam or a certain number of apprenticeship hours before you can take the written test. Find your state’s requirements through their .gov page and make sure to complete any necessary extra requirements.[6]
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    • For example, states like Michigan require you to complete a hairstyle in front of a board of licensed cosmetologists.
  2. Sign up and pay the required fee to apply online. On the your state’s website, sign up for a test date and choose a location near you. Generally, you’ll also have to pay a fee, which can vary depending on location. On average, you’ll need to pay between $125.
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  3. Take an online course for an extra review before the exam. Typically, beauty school will include courses specifically about the written exam, but an online course is a great option if you feel like you need a fresh run-through of the information. The course will especially help prepare you for the multiple choice section of the exam.[7]
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    • You can find review courses on some college websites or from independent course review companies.
  4. Take the written exam at your chosen location. Arrive at the location on time and be prepared for the exam to last anywhere between 90 minutes to 2 hours. It covers a wide range subjects, including product chemistry, sanitary rules and regulations, anatomy of the skin, state requirements, and knowledge of labor and compensation laws.[8]
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  5. Pass the exam in order to receive your license. After the test, you’ll hear back within 2 weeks whether you passed or not. If you pass, you’ll receive your license in the mail. If you don’t pass, don’t worry! You can sign up and pay to take the test again on the next available exam date.[9]
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EditFinding Work

  1. Create a portfolio of your work to show potential clients and employers. Include clear, well-lit pictures of different makeup looks that you’ve completed, along with some before and after pictures. Your portfolio should only include pictures of living clients, but it can still show potential employers your skills and strengths.
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    • Your portfolio can either be online or in a physical binder, with the pages tucked into transparent sleeves.
    • Include a variety of looks for different age groups to show your versatility.
  2. Have all your paperwork and requirements in order before you apply. Make sure to have a copy of your cosmetology or mortuary science license, paperwork showing that your immunizations are up-to-date, and a portfolio of your previous work. Bring these with you to any job interviews or funeral home director meetings.[10]
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  3. Reach out to funeral homes in your area. Contact your local funeral home director and ask if they need a contract makeup artist or could use your services on a contract basis.[11] Having a connection with the funeral home could lead to more referrals, individual freelance jobs, or even a rare full-time position.
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    • If the director is interested in your work, you should both reach an agreement on pricing and how often you can come in to work.[12]
    • Larger funeral homes will often hire a full-time makeup artist and smaller homes may hire local cosmetologists on an on-call or contract basis.[13]
  4. Spread the word about your services among local business. List your services online and leave business cards at salons that don’t have a mortuary makeup artist on staff. The more you grow your list of contacts, the more experience you’ll be able to have.
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  5. Search for jobs in highly populated areas. Mortuary makeup artists tend to find more job opportunities and higher, steadier salaries in metropolitan areas rather than rural areas. Focus your job search on closeby cities or towns with a higher population.[14]
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  6. Freelance by agreeing with someone to do their funeral makeup. This may sound like a strange transaction, but it’s actually one of the most common ways to get additional freelance work in mortuary makeup.[15] Pre-arrange everything with the client, including makeup preferences and choosing a reference photo to work from.
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    • For a respectful, subtle way to find clients, you can let your family and friends know that you’re pursuing this career, and ask them to pass your name on to anyone who may need your services.
    • Many mortuary makeup artists rely on freelance work to keep their salaries steady, even if they have an on-call job at a funeral home.
  7. Expect to get training on the job. If you can’t find a mentor or a way to get lots of experience, don’t worry. Many mortuary makeup artists get their first experience with working on a deceased person after they’ve gotten their first job. As long as you have your training and license, you are still a viable candidate for a mortuary makeup artist position.[16]
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EditSources and Citations

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