More women entering mortuary science profession

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SALT LAKE CITY -- There's a growing trend nationwide and also here in Utah; more women than men are now entering the field of mortuary science, which is an industry mainly dominated by men.

In Utah, there is only one mortuary school in the state, and it's a part of Salt Lake Community College.

They started the program two years ago, and Program Director David Hess said there were more women than men who graduated in their first class, and more women than men applying to the program.

Female mortuary science graduates from Salt Lake Community College had a variety of reasons for entering the program.

Laurie Thomas said, "What really drew me in was the service that you provide to the families."

Madison VanDenBerghe said it was more technical for her.

"Really the initial draw was the science," she said.

Kristal Hyde adds, "Just the thought of helping families."

ShelLee Hansen states, "It's most important for the grieving process I think to have that goodbye."

Some may not see the natural fit of women working with the deceased and their family members, but Hess said women bring different strengths to the industry than men do.

"The skills they bring, the talents they bring to this profession fit right in with the caring, the service, and taking care of people," he said.

Thomas agreed.

"We have the natural empathy, we know how to do makeup, and we just, I think, are more relatable,” she said.

For the past century, or even longer, mortuary science has been dominated by men, but if you look further into history, it used to be a woman's job to work with the deceased.

"In ancient history, even where it was mostly a woman's job to take care of the deceased, individuals in the family, and for whatever reason society phases in and out of these things, and I think we're in that phase right now,” VanDenBerghe said.

Hess said about 65 percent of students enrolled in mortuary science programs nationally are women. In Utah, after students graduate, they are required pass state board exams and then put in 2,000 hours and do at least 50 embalmings during a licensed internship before getting a full-time position.