Sarah Dent's decision to pursue mortuary science was not a straightforward one. 

Initially, Dent had aspirations to become a forensic pathologist, but faced with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the responsibilities of becoming a new mother, she discovered a newfound calling in caring for the departed. 

"Mortuary science felt like the next best thing that I could study and get done quicker than going to a four-year school so I could still work and care for my household," Dent explained. 

Dent, of Martinsville, chose to study at Ivy Tech because of her desire for hands-on learning, appreciation for the diverse classroom environment, and the opportunity to engage directly with her peers and instructors. 

The mortuary science program at Ivy Tech is accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), which is an essential consideration because most states, Indiana included, require that you attend a mortuary science program that carries this accreditation. The program, designed to prepare students for the national board exam – necessary for becoming a licensed funeral director in Indiana – prepares students to learn a wide array of skills, such as embalming, restorative art, and funeral directing, under the guidance of experienced professionals.

"This is a hands-on job, so I knew I didn’t want to do an online course," Dent emphasized. "It's not just meeting with families; it's taking care of the deceased. I wanted to be able to talk to my classmates." 

Dent found herself among a diverse group of students, each with unique motivations for entering the field. She says it gave her a renewed sense of perception as she sought a career in funeral directing. 

“It was nice seeing other people’s perspectives on why they were entering this field. Some people came into the field saying, ‘I lost my dad; I lost my husband … ‘and that’s why I want to do this.’ Or, ‘I was a labor and delivery nurse, and that’s why I want to do this,’” Dent shared about her classroom experience, which enriched her learning experience. “We had students of Muslim faith, of Hispanic culture, so it was nice getting to see everyone’s different perspectives.”

Dent's professors played a significant role in her education. Jonathan DeHart, the program director, was particularly impactful.

 "He was very understanding that we have lives outside of class," Dent said. "It wasn't like a teacher-student relationship; it was more like your uncle supporting you." 

Another key mentor was Carrie Harris, who taught restorative art. "She put a lot of passion in teaching us, showing that we can always make people look as they did in life with time and patience," Dent noted.

Clinical experiences were vital to Dent's training, preparing her for real-world situations. "We had required clinical hours, where we would sit in on arrangements, help dress the deceased, and even perform home removals," she explains. 

These hands-on experiences were invaluable, allowing Dent to enter the workforce confidently.

“Being able to see firsthand before going out into the field kept us from being blindsided by what was to come after we graduated,” Dent said. 

Looking back, Dent says she is immensely proud of her accomplishments, especially balancing school, work, and family. 

Dent’s dedication has already paid off; she has passed the National Board Exam, is currently working as an intern funeral director and plans to stay with her current employer, Costin Funeral Chapel in Martinsville, until retirement. 

"They gave me a chance when others wouldn't," Dent said with gratitude.

For those considering a career in mortuary science: "Don't procrastinate and ask questions, even if they seem weird or dark. It's important to know what you're getting into." 

She also recommends gaining firsthand experience, such as observing an autopsy, to ensure you're prepared for the realities of the job.

“I know a lot of people that came into the program that had never seen a dead body, and that’s a shock to a lot of people. Some people change their mind about the field because they can not take this part of it,” Dent explained.

Dent's journey through Ivy Tech's Mortuary Science program has equipped her with technical skills and deepened her empathy and understanding of life's final rites. 

"Studying mortuary science has changed my perspective on funerals and cremation," she reflects. "It's about understanding different values and serving families in their time of need."

About Ivy Tech's Mortuary Science Program – An In-Demand Career

Job growth will be faster than average for funeral service workers between 2021 and 2031, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. Nationally, the agency projects as much as 9% growth, or about 7,900 new jobs, for these professionals each year.

Ivy Tech's Mortuary Science program prepares students for careers as funeral directors and embalmers. The Indianapolis campus is the only campus to offer this program, accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), and focuses on providing comprehensive, hands-on training. Students learn about embalming, funeral directing, restorative art, and business management, among other skills. Graduates are well-prepared to take the National Board Exam and pursue licensure in their state. The program emphasizes both the technical and compassionate aspects of funeral service, preparing students to serve their communities with professionalism and empathy.

For more information about Ivy Tech's Mortuary Science program, visit Ivy Tech Mortuary Science.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.