University of Iowa

Pre-Mortuary Science

A career in funeral service calls for varied skills such as counseling, understanding basic science, and business.  It calls for caring skills at a time of greatest need for persons in your community.  While funeral service is not for everyone, it can be a great field for persons who combine interest in science with the desire to help people on a personal level.

Mortuary Science is not a degree-earning program at Iowa.  Students can do foundational coursework to apply to a mortuary school whether seeking a four-year degree or simply taking the minimum coursework needed to move to mortuary school.


Many UI students wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree in an area of interest ahead of pursuing professional education in mortuary science.  Others wish to fill the minimum hours noted above.  In either case, the courses areas below are suggested as preparation for study in mortuary science.  Students may wish to check requirements for specific mortuary school programs to discover what course areas are needed for admission to those programs.

  • Communication:  rhetoric and literature
  • Natural Sciences:  biology, microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, physiology
  • Social Sciences:  psychology
  • Business:  statistics, management, business law, basic computing
  • Humanities:  art history, music history, religious studies

Licensure in Iowa requires completion of:

  • 60 semester hours, not including vocational courses, at an accredited college with a Grade-Point Average of 2.00 or higher. (Des Moines Area Community College, the state of Iowa’s only mortuary science program, requires 64 semester hours of work.)
  • A mortuary education course of 12 months or longer
  • A 12-month internship under the supervision of a board-approved mortician
  • Registration with the Iowa State Board of Mortuary Science.

If you would like to obtain licensure in the state of Iowa, contact the Iowa Board of Mortuary Science and register with the board before enrolling in a mortuary education program.

If you are interested in practicing in another state, visit the American Board of Funeral Service Education and the National Funeral Directors Association websites or contact the board in the state where you would like to practice to learn more about that state's regulations.

Gain familiarity with the career by talking to funeral directors at local funeral homes.  Ask if you may job shadow at a funeral home or attend funerals.  Study the education and life commitment of those who work in the field.  You will need letters of reference from professionals who know you well and can attest to your interest in this career. The experiences you gain at a funeral home will be valuable for both applying to mortuary school and licensing.