Southwest announces launch of Funeral Service Education program

For Mid-South individuals interested in pursuing a career as a funeral services director or embalmer in Tennessee, the nearest drive to obtain an associate degree is in Nashville. That changes January 2019 with the launch of the first publically-funded funeral service program in Tennessee at Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Whitehaven Center.

As a Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) institution, Tennessee residents who qualify may pursue the Associate of Applied Science degree in Funeral Service Education tuition-free at Southwest with Tennessee Promise and Reconnect scholarships. This new program is an outstanding example of our mission as a community college and role as a workforce engine and pipeline in the Mid-South, President Tracy D. Hall said. Right now, those who seek credentials in funeral service must travel outside West Tennessee and in some cases pay private school rates, she said. We saw the industry need and are filling a major gap in our city with this new program nestled in a wonderful neighborhood at our Whitehaven Center.

Ron Johnson, Funeral Service Education Chair

The program curriculum is designed to educate students in the fundamental skills, knowledge and practice of funeral services. The curriculum was developed to equip graduates with the knowledge required of this profession and experience with the best practices of the industry, Southwest’s new Funeral Service Department Chair Ron Johnson said. Students will develop or improve their ability to communicate with families on a caring, personal level.

Johnson brings extensive experience to the role as a dual licensed funeral director and embalmer for 19 years in Mississippi and Tennessee. He has a Master of Science in Natural Sciences from Delta State University and Bachelor of Science in Biology from Mississippi Valley State University.

The local funeral service industry has embraced Southwest’s new program and says it is a welcome addition to their community. This is a very worthy program needed in our community, said Karl Bond, President of Bond Funeral Home and Advisory Board member. This program will ensure students are highly qualified and trained for a rewarding professional career in funeral service and will prepare them to take the national board exam.

Students will perform their apprenticeships at area funeral homes as required by the state of Tennessee and will be eligible to seek licensure as a funeral director or embalmer.

The participation by the owners of these funeral homes will provide our students with hands-on experience and a knowledge of business operations, said Johnson. We welcome businesses interested in contributing to the educational welfare of our students.

Although the funeral industry sees a steady demand, consumers have a new perception toward burials. According to the National Directors Funeral Directors Association, some of the more popular trends today include personalized celebrations, green funerals and the use of new technologies such as memorial videos.

Students will complete 63 semester hours of coursework to earn the Associate of Applied Science degree in Funeral Service Education at Southwest. The curriculum encompasses aspects of the funeral business, operations and marketing. Course content includes:


  • Funeral Home Management
  • Funeral Directing
  • Accounting
  • Communications
  • Computer Applications

Law and Ethics

  • Business Law
  • Funeral Service Law
  • Funeral Service Ethics


  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy
  • Embalming
  • Restorative Art

Social Sciences

  • History and Sociology of Funeral Services
  • Funeral Service Psychology and Counseling

Aside from the convenient location in the Whitehaven neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee, students stand to save significantly in tuition per semester. At Southwest, tuition per semester is $2,077.50.

Graduates of an accredited funeral service program are eligible to complete the National Board Examination and must successfully complete an apprenticeship and the State of Tennessee funeral service law exam to become a licensed funeral duirector or embalmer.

The program is awaiting approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and will seek candidacy for accreditation by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE).

Prospective students may apply online at or call (901) 333-5000 for more information.