What is the Role of a Thanatologist? 

Thanatology, the holistic study of death, is a very niche area for a career, and those who are kind, caring, level headed, and logical may often be drawn to a role in this area. That said, there are many career areas that thanatology can be applied to, which means that even though you’re studying something quite specific, you won’t be boxed into one or two career paths.

This piece will take a look at the role of a thanatologist and what you can expect if you choose to go down this route. Read on to find out more.

What Exactly is Involved in Thanatology?

First off, let’s take a look at exactly what is involved in thanatology and how this will be reflected in a role. A thanatologist can study and aid the experience of family members who have lived through the death of a loved one. They can help assist with someone’s relationship with death. 

Thanatologists can work as part of a hospice team, counsel those who are going through grief, and will also understand the changes that the body goes through during the dying process. On top of this, they can also be well acquainted with ceremonies and rituals that are a part of death and the dying process. 

For those who are interested in this path, it’s important to obtain a thanatology degree from a trusted source. 

Different Types of Thanatology 

There are different areas of thanatology, so it’s important that you find an area that suits you before you embark on obtaining any qualifications. Some of these areas include:

  • Music thanatologist – a qualified thanatologist who uses music therapy to soothe those who are in the process of dying. 
  • Pastoral thanatologist – a qualified thanatologist who provides pastoral care and attends to any religious needs of those who are in the process of dying. 
  • Death doula thanatologist – a qualified thanatologist who provides emotional support and help to someone who is in the process of dying.
  • Forensic thanatologist – a qualified thanatologist who investigates post-mortem bodies and the changes that take place. 

Different Roles for a Thanatologist 

As with all career sectors, people will have different specialties and it will be up to you to decide which route you would like to go down. Some of the options include, but are not limited to:

  • A hospice bereavement counsellor or doctor
  • A hospice chaplain
  • A licensed nurse for crisis care
  • Nurse practitioner with a qualification in thanatology 
  • A bereavement coordinator 
  • A focus on medical ethics (assisted suicide)


Thanatology is a relatively unique area of study that isn’t for the faint hearted. It requires compassion, understanding, logical and critical thinking, and perhaps a strong stomach. 

Whichever path you choose to go down, you’ll be making a significant difference to someone experiencing death or grief, two of the most difficult things we can experience. 

Take your time to choose the right specialty for you based on your skills and interests so that you can help others. 

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