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A Growing Career that's a Real "Undertaking"

May 17, 2010

NEW YORK - Looking for a career with both an upside and a "down" side? Studying to become a funeral director might be a worthy undertaking. The state's first bachelor's degree in funeral services administration is being offered at the State University of New York (SUNY) Canton campus. It'll be only the fifth such program in the U.S.

Booneville, New York funeral home owner Carl Trainor, who got a two-year associate degree at the college in 1977, is going back to school.

"A four-year degree affords people that might not want to work directly in funeral service to get employment or a career with a major casket company or allied business to the funeral home business."

He says that, with baby boomers reaching retirement, funeral services will be a growth industry, and one that's changing rapidly. So, he says, the more schooling the better.

Trainor says the green movement is beginning to affect the funeral business. Popping up are "green cemeteries," with no rows of monuments, no burial vaults, just modest markers in a natural, somewhat wild landscape.

"You're generally not embalmed if you're buried in a green cemetery, although that might not always be true. But the people must be buried in a wooden casket that is more or less biodegradable."

Carl Trainor represents the third generation of his family to run Trainor Funeral Home, founded in 1906.

SUNY Canton, which has on-site embalming labs and a practice funeral chapel, has been one of only a handful of New York campuses offering associate degrees in funeral services. The director of the new four-year program, Dr. Richard Klicker, says online courses will be included, and working funeral directors can get credits for their experience.

"Having a bachelor's degree gives a funeral director, or any person who gets a degree, more options."

SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy says nearly everyone who graduates from the program will step directly into their chosen career undertaking.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY