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Funeral Service Program Comes to Life at BTC

October 6, 2020

For many people, the idea of merely attending a funeral makes them uncomfortable, but a career in deathcare offers many opportunities. Blackhawk Technical College has joined with Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) to prepare creative, passionate, service-oriented students for a career in funeral services. Students take their general education credits at Blackhawk and then transition to MATC for their core funeral service classes.

Officials from BTC, MATC, and area funeral homes pose for a photo

Pictured left to right: Alex Simplot (Daley-Murphy-Wisch Funeral Home), Ann-Margaret Young (BTC), Moira Lafayette (BTC), Gabriel Schauf (MATC), Gerald Lynch (Whitcomb-Lynch Funeral Home), and Neil Schneider (Schneider Funeral Home & Crematory) at the agreement signing last spring.

Each year, the demand for funeral professionals continues to grow nationwide. The field seeks individuals with a desire to help honor and memorialize the deceased while developing new and innovative ways to do so. Among other things, funeral directors work as: embalmers and reconstructive artists - preparing the deceased and creating an opportunity for loved ones to say goodbye, grief counselors - hearing about the family’s challenges and supporting them in their grief journey, and event planners - creating unique and personalized funeral and memorial services for families.

Deathcare requires people who are both artistically and scientifically minded. In the arts field, students study psychology, grief, ethics, marketing, and management. In the scientific field, students study funeral chemistry, pathology, microbiology, embalming, and restorative art.

At MATC, the program is overseen by Funeral Service Program Coordinator Gabriel Schauf who has been a licensed funeral director in Wisconsin and Minnesota since 2006. Gabriel was led to the funeral service industry in college where he was studying acting. A friend convinced him to give funeral service a try and he never looked back.

“Since the start of my career,” he said, “I have found a high level of passion for this profession and am always seeking new ways to connect, learn, and do more within it.” Outside of school he owns his own motorcycle urn company, EtURNal Ride (, and hosts a funeral podcast for the National Funeral Directors Association called ‘A Brush with Death’ (

The benefit of a shared program like this is that students can stay close to home and work as apprentices at local Green and Rock County funeral homes while preparing to join MATC for their year of technical funeral courses. Furthermore, the guesswork that would typically take place when a student transfers is resolved with the pipeline between Blackhawk and MATC. This will help students move more efficiently from their general coursework to their program coursework. 

Funeral Service courses are a blend of lecture, hands-on, labs, and field experience work that provides a well-rounded experience. “Beyond our required curriculum,” Gabriel explained, “we also include advanced learning opportunities to develop specialized skills sought out by employers including cremation, arranger, and celebrant training. We also collaborate with local funeral professionals to provide further insight into the profession through tours, demonstrations, guest speakers, and professional education and networking events.” 

Every accredited funeral service program across the country teaches the same curriculum and the students have to successfully pass the same National Board Exam regardless of what school they attended. At MATC, the combination of smaller class sizes, dedicated faculty, a constantly developing curriculum and program, and local professional support provides students with a great learning experience that includes everything they need to be prepared for a successful career in funeral service pending completion of the National Board Exam and State Board Exam.

For those interested in seeing if funeral services might be right for them, anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent can work as a funeral director’s apprentice in the state of Wisconsin. To do so, students take a 16-hour apprentice course that covers all of the things a funeral director’s apprentice would have to be aware of/responsible for during their time of employment. This course is offered multiple times throughout the year at MATC. Now, students trying to determine their future after graduating high school or individuals who might be investigating a second career can get the experience they need to determine if this is the career for them.

Learn more about the shared Funeral Service Program here.

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