SUNY Canton Unveils New Four-Year Funeral Service Administration Degree

SUNY Canton has created the first four-year funeral services administration degree in the SUNY System.

The bachelor of technology program recently received approval from SUNY and the New York State Education Department. It is one of only five comprehensive four-year programs of this type in the United States. Applications are now being accepted for first-year, transfer, and returning students to begin the new major for the Fall 2010 semester.

Ralph L. Klicker, director of the new four-year funeral services administration program in SUNY Canton’s practice funeral chapel.

“Nearly everyone who graduates from this program will step directly into their chosen career,” noted SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy. “A bachelor’s degree is rapidly becoming the minimum level of education necessary to pursue a career in this field. By expanding from a two-year program, we’ll give students greater access to emerging technology, more opportunities for advancement, and the appropriate level of training for immediate success upon graduation.”

During the first two years, students will be taking general education requirements pertaining to their advanced subjects of study, in addition to curriculum specific courses. In the final two years, students take advanced courses within their major while utilizing the College’s on-site embalming labs and practice funeral chapel. Students research, plan and implement all stages of a funeral as part of their studies. The final two years of study also allow for flexibility. Students can opt to specialize in management, take coroner preparatory courses, or study grief counseling, among other options.

“In our four-year program, students will be able to participate in job shadowing, a clinical practicum, and on-the-job internships,” said Ralph L. Klicker, director of the funeral services administration program. “The program is designed with flexibility for incoming freshman as well as working funeral directors desiring a bachelor’s degree. Several of the courses, particularly the 300 and 400-level courses, are available online, and we are offering experiential credits for working directors.”

SUNY Canton allows up to 30 credits for prior learning or life experiences for this major. “We’re one of only a few schools in the country to be able to do that,” Klicker added.

At least six working licensed funeral directors have already approached the College expressing interest in the new four-year degree, among those was Carl Trainor, who earned an associate degree at the College in 1977. Trainor is the owner and president of Trainor Funeral Home in Boonville. “The entire death care industry has changed in the last ten years,” he said. “Everything from societal and religious changes to the green movement has impacted the service oriented profession.”

Trainor said the College has done an excellent job integrating the changes with the newly created program. He expects to learn more about technology and its role in the industry by earning his bachelor’s degree.

The program prepares students to become a funeral director or an embalmer in any state. About a dozen first-year students have already expressed interest in the new program.

The career outlook for funeral directors is expected to increase through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary for funeral directors was approximately $52,000 in 2008, and the top 10 percent earned approximately $93,000.

The four-year funeral services administration degree will be replacing the College’s renowned associate degree in mortuary science.

Media inquiries should be directed to Gregory Kie, Media Relations Coordinator, or call 315/386-7528.


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