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Embalming & Mortuary Science

Gain a Professional Diploma in the Art & Science of Modern Embalming

The ‘gold standard’ professional diploma in embalming education, internationally recognised and the complete course for introducing a new generation of effective, problem solving embalmers into the funeral profession.

Course Length

Approx. Eighteen Months




Five Written & Two Practical



Course Structure

What Will You Learn?

By the end of the course you should know:

  • The requirements of setting up an embalming theatre and all that this entails
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and how it relates to the embalmer
  • The anatomy and physiology of the human body from the cell to the fully developed individual
  • Common human pathology
  • About changes to the tissue after death and how these must be considered during the embalming process
  • The embalming process itself from preparation prior to embalming to the completion
  • Managing expectations and embalming ‘special’ cases
  • Precautions and infection control

The overall aim of the course is to provide you with the necessary skills to become a confident and effective, problem solving embalmer.

This will be achieved through academic study and supervised practical embalming experience.

Module 1

Fundamentals of Embalming

Unit 1

  • Gain an understanding of the history of embalming
  • Understand the Code of Ethics of the British institute of Embalmers
  • Administration procedures to be carried out before embalming
  • Sociological and psychological effects of death
  • Define death and recognise presence of death
  • Recognise signs of life
  • Develop a working knowledge and understanding of Health and Safety as it applies to embalming, in particular the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
  • Registration Evaluation Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
  • First aid, immunity and infection control
  • Basic mathamatical application in regard to: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, also simple algebra in relation to mixing formaldehyde solutions – understand ratios and percentages when mixing disinfectants
Module 2

Reasons for Modern Embalming

Unit 1

  • Define and correctly use anatomical, directional and regional terms in regard to the human body, understand a basic map or diagram of the body.
  • Basic histology appropriate to embalming
  • Rigor-mortis, onset, duration and effects on embalming

Unit 2

  • Embalming chemistry: Embalming fluids, pH scale, diffusion and osmosis, basic chemical descriptors

Unit 3

  • Basic classification of micro-organisms, protozoa and metazoan
  • Sterilisation and disinfection in relation to embalming
  • Requirements for setting up an embalming theatre



Module 3

Fundamentals of Human Anatomy and Physiology

Unit 1

  • Basic knowledge of the musculo-skeletal system

Unit 2

  • Gain a simple, introductory knowledge of the components of blood

Unit 3

  • Understand the circulatory system: Major blood vessels, positions, function and branches
Module 4

Systemic Human Anatomy and Physiology

Unit 1

  • Develop an effective understanding of the respiratory system
  • Develop an effective understanding of the digestive system
  • Develop an effective understanding of the urinary system
  • Develop an effective understanding of the nervous system

Unit 2

  • Understand and utilise topographical surface anatomy
  • Identify associated internal structures

Unit 3

  • Recognise and carry out effective and appropriate embalming treatments of specific conditions
Module 5

The Embalming Operation

Unit 1

  • Effectively complete embalming pre-assessments
  • Develop a working knowledge for a range of embalming chemicals and suitable applications
  • Recognise and effectively remove a variety of medical implants including: intra-venous canulae, catheters, stoma bags, pacemaker devices and cardiac defibrillators.

Unit 2

  • Choice and techniques for raising vessels in the non-autopsy case
  • Choices available for multiple injection sites
  • Trocar guides for the aspiration of organs
  • Management of the autopsied case

Unit 3

  • Embalming management of ‘special’ conditions from pre-analysis, through the operation itself and post-embalming treatment

Unit 4

  • Incision closure and suitable suture techniques
  • Final setting of features and shaving
  • Surface restoration techniques
  • Final presentation and introduction to mortuary cosmetics

Professional Diploma

Successful completion of the five modular theory examinations and the requisite two practical embalming assessments will result in the award of an internationally recognised professional diploma in embalming.

Privileged Membership

Holding the professional diploma in embalming allows application for membership to the world’s oldest and most respected embalming institute: The British Institute of Embalmers (B.I.E.)

Secure Professional Future

In light of ever increasing pressure for funeral industry regulation, professional diploma holding embalmers will be safeguarding their careers and ensuring professional practice for years to come.

Platform for Personal Development

Qualified embalmers can take advantage of their achievements and apply for development opportunities in the fields of forensics, disaster management and advanced facial/cranial reconstruction.


A Few Requirements

To be considered for La Calavera College, prior qualifications are not essential, though a minimum C grade for G.C.S.E. Maths, English & Science (Biology/Chemistry), or their equivalents, are preferred.
The college provides an entry test prior to students being accepted onto the course. All prospective students are invited to attend the college for an afternoon session and conclude by completing a short test of competency in English, Maths and basic Science ahead of final selections.

Attitude and Aptitude

A successful embalming student will want to learn, develop and improve, know that the mortuary environment is for them and above all be passionate about making a positive difference through their contribution.

Professionalism and manner

A successful embalming student will be creative and dynamic but understand the ‘appropriateness’ of their creativity, they will understand their responsibilities in meeting with and talking to the bereaved and will act and present themselves accordingly.

Social responsibility and mindfulness

A successful embalming student will be aware of the ‘nature’ of today’s social media, be mindful of the propriety and accessibility of engagement in such activity and only discuss embalming practices and experiences with fellow students and Institute members in private secure and dedicated forums.

Dignity and respect

A successful embalming student will recognise that dignity and respect for the deceased and the confidentiality of both the deceased and bereaved is complete and non-negotiable.

Names, situation and/or circumstance do not leave the embalming theatre.

The Final Outcome

How Will You Benefit?

By completing the Embalming & Mortuary Science Course at La Calavera College and satisfying, through examination, the International Examinations Board of Embalmers, you will be conferred a professional diploma that allows application for membership into the British Institute of Embalmers.

The B.I.E is the only recognised Embalming Institute in the UK and its membership is highly regarded at both national and international level.

“The inspiration for naming the college is derived from the Mexican ‘Dia de Muertos’, day of the dead. This occasion is marked as a cultural celebration and an act of remembrance for deceased relatives and friends. Mexican culture celebrates the occasion by creating skulls (calaveras) through art and craft and decorating them to re-capture the beauty of those being remembered. I want this college and all who form its collegiate to be inspired by this concept, to respect every deceased person entrusted into their care, to treasure the skills they will gain to restore beauty and dignity to the dead and to never lose sight of how important final appearance can be to the family and friends that remain.”

— ANDREW C. FLOYD B.Sc.(Hons), M.B.I.E., M.E.A.E.


How Much Is It?

Academic fees for La Calavera College’s 2024/25 Embalming & Mortuary Science course commencing January 2024 have been set at the rate of £8,500.

The fee shall be paid over the course of one initial payment and a series of four further instalments:

  • Payment 1 | £4,200 | Paid on Enrolment 49% 49%
  • Payment 2 | £1,075 | 62% paid by start of Module 2 62% 62%
  • Payment 3 | £1,075 | 75% paid by start of Module 3 75% 75%
  • Payment 4 | £1,075 | 87% paid by start of Module 4 87% 87%
  • Payment 5 | £1,075| 100% paid by start of Module 5 100% 100%
Included in your Course Fees
  • Full theoretical & theory focused practical tuition
  • Full vaccination program for clinical passport
  • Provision of x1 set of Personal Protective Equipment** (PPE)
    includes: Embalming scrubs & surgical gown, appropriate safety footwear & eye protection.
  • Disposable items provided as necessary: nitrile gloves, arm-sleeves, aprons and hair covering (where necessary).
Not Included in your Course Fees
  • Fee payable to the British Institute of Embalmers (B.I.E.) at the course outset to become registered as a student member.
  • Fees payable to the International Examinations Board of Embalmers (I.E.B.E.) for required examinations (and any subsequent re-sits).
  • Travel, accommodation or carpark expenses incurred by the student.
  • Practical tuition to compile a portfolio of case reports in preparation for final practical embalming examinations.
Further Considerations

Please be aware of the following financial considerations:

  • Student Registration Fee @ £245 (payable to the British Institute of Embalmers  after college enrolment and prior to commencement of Module 1).
  • Examinations Pack @ £550 (payable to the International Examinations Board of Embalmers prior to application for the Module 1 Exam, this pack includes one sitting for each of the five modular theory examinations).
  • Travel expenses to and from college each week inc. car parking
  • Personal refreshments during comfort breaks
    (Tea, Coffee, Fruit & biscuits will be provided)
  • Suggested texts for developmental reading
  • Personal Stationery
  • Practical Tuition @ £995* (payable to La Calavera College and includes access to and professional guidance for up to 40 practical cases to fulfill the 25 non-autopsied and 15 autopsied cases required before putting in for the final practical examinations).
    *This is an optional fee and students who find working placements with current B.I.E. members may compile their own case reports outside the college and simply pay the college a £150 practical assessment fee before being put forward for the final practical examinations.


Common Questions

Will I be eligible for any grants or help towards course fees?

As a private college currently offering a ‘niche’ core subject we are not listed for any government approved subsidy or loan schemes at this time.

Do I have to be within the funeral profession to apply?

It is not essential to be a part of the profession before applying for a course but it is encouraged that you are pro-active in affiliating yourself with a service provider so that you may develop a greater appreciation for the role during your course of study.

How often do the courses run?

The flagship embalming and mortuary science course runs annually with assessment/selection sessions scheduled for Autumn and course commencement in January.

What age do I have to be to enrol on the course?

The minimum age at enrolment is 17 years but the applicant must be sure to have attained their 18th birthday before the commencement of practical classes.

The practical sessions start during Module 2, approx. 3 months into the course.

How long does the course last?

Students are registered to the British Institute of Embalmers for a 3 year term. Approximately 18 months of this time is given over to theory tuition and theory focused practical classes.

The remaining term is for the student to complete their practical portfolio’s and pass the two practical assessments.

It is possible for a dedicated student with an approved B.I.E. mentor to complete the course in a 2 year period.


Do I have to take a preliminary assessment before being accepted?

The college hosts assessment/selection sessions in the Autumn. These sessions are designed for applicants who have not moved into higher education beyond GCSE/NVQ level. Applicants who can provide evidence of higher education beyond academic level 3 will be invited for a personal interview and may be exempted from prior assessment.

Will I be guaranteed a career in the field on successful completion of the course?

In life there are no guarantees, the college cannot guarantee employment after succesful completion of the course. It is true to say, however, that a qualified applicant with a good work ethic has a significantly greater chance of securing a position within the profession.

Does the college offer distance learning options?

Yes, the college offers distance learning via the virtual learning environment BUT only applicants with a B.I.E. mentor and regular commitment to attend practical tuition will be considered for this mode of course delivery.

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