Certificate in Thanatology – Online

MPath – Marian’s engaging online education platform

Add care, support, and compassion to your skillset with an online Certificate in Thanatology.

Supporting individuals and families as they contend with issues related to death, dying, loss, and bereavement takes a special understanding, compassion and knowledge of the processes, psychological, and social issues involved with death and grieving. Marian’s graduate Certificate in Thanatology is designed to deliver that in-depth knowledge and comprehensive training, so you’ll be ready to positively impact lives.  

The Certificate in Thanatology prepares working professionals with additional education that adds to their existing skillset. Students will learn about delivery of care for individuals and families confronting end-of-life healthcare, bereavement issues, suicide, and more. Graduates of the certificate program may pursue or enhance their careers in churches, funeral homes, hospices, hospitals, and non-profit organizations.  

Marian University’s accomplished thanatology faculty are leaders in the field, regularly publishing in respected journals and trade books and speaking at national conferences. They bring years of experience working in professional settings and use that experience to provide students with invaluable professional feedback and guidance.  

Give Hope and Healing. Earn Your Certificate in Thanatology – 100% Online

Our Partners in Thanatology Education

In order to provide you the best curriculum for the professional Certificate in Thanatology, Marian University has partnered with national and international organizations, making those important connections that mean your thanatology education is aligned with the body of knowledge of these important organizations. Marian has educational partnerships with the National Alliance for Children’s Grief (NACG), the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance, and the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC).

Members of these organizations, plus members of the National Funeral Directors Association, are eligible for tuition discounts.

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MPath Online – Marian University’s Online 7-Week Course Format

The online Certificate in Thanatology is designed to prepare students to provide support for those facing end-of-life and bereavement issues. The certificate courses are offered in a concise 7-week format (MPath), specially tailored for busy individuals who wish to learn to provide compassionate care to people facing grief, loss, and death.

A graduate degree is not required for enrollment in this certificate, but students who do hold an advanced degree in a caregiving or a healthcare field, such as counseling, nursing, or faith and community leadership, are welcome and may benefit from adding to their skill set through education in thanatology.

In addition to small class sizes, faculty feedback, and engaging discussions on in-depth topics, you will:

  • Have Ultimate Flexibility
    100% online courses

  • Choose Your Start Date
    Start dates every seven weeks allow busy students to choose their best time to start.

  • Stay on Track
    Focus on one course at a time, without increasing time to completion.

Online Certificate in Thanatology Curriculum

Students in the 18-credit Certificate in Thanatology program will complete their coursework entirely online supported by expert faculty highly accomplished in their field. The courses can be completed in one academic year if the student takes one course each 7-week term including the summer. Personalized instruction helps students form connections and professional networks through hospitals, hospices, nonprofit organizations, and other employers.

The Thanatology Certificate can be completed in about one year.  Students may start at six different times each year.  Courses include a 12-credit core curriculum with 6 credits of electives with topics across the spectrum of end-of-life studies.

Thanatology Certificate students could take courses covering topics such as:

  • Palliative and hospice care
  • Ethics
  • Spirituality and religion
  • Suicide and prevention
  • Traumatic death
  • End-of-life decision making
  • Communication with service providers and families
  • Program development and assessment
  • Social justice in thanatology
  • Death education
  • Contemporary topics including death doula support, green burial practices, and pediatric palliative and hospice care

Students enrolling in certificate programs do not qualify for federal financial aid but should check with their employer for programs that may help pay for certificate tuition and expenses.

Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize and articulate the foundational assumptions, central ideas, and dominant criticisms of contemporary thanatology theory and practice,
  • Demonstrate competence in applying thanatology evidence-based best practices in needs assessment and support services/program development, delivery and assessment for individuals and families confronting the end of life, death, loss and bereavement including bereavement after natural death, traumatic death, in various cultural contexts, and across the life span;
  • Design and implement educational programs on death, the dying process, end-of-life decision making, and bereavement topics for communities and professional audiences,
  • Analyze, synthesize and evaluate the relationship between religious and spiritual belief systems and the reaction to and coping with death, and incorporate these elements appropriately into service delivery,
  • Conduct and evaluate thanatology action research critically and reflectively,
  • Participate effectively in the academic and professional community, and
  • Identify and discuss common ethical issues with individuals and families.


The mission of the Edwin S. Shneidman Program in Thanatology is to educate students from diverse backgrounds in the fundamental concepts, knowledge, research, techniques and skills of thanatology in order to (1) prepare them for employment in a wide variety of thanatology-related positions and (2) prepare them to contribute to the discipline of thanatology academically and professionally.

The Program is committed to the education of the whole person, integrating professional preparation with a liberal arts foundation and embracing justice, compassion, and service to the local and global community. The five core values of Marian University of community, learning, service, social justice and spiritual traditions inspire and inform the curricula within this Program.

Professional Standards

The Master of Science and Graduate Certificate in Thanatology programs offer a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and scientific study of the dying and grieving process; cultural attitudes towards death and loss; spirituality and ethical standards; suicide prevention education; applied research; and the spiritual, social, psychological and medical aspects of dying, death, loss and grief. Our curriculum is aligned with the Association for Death Education and Counseling’s (ADEC) Body of Knowledge, and prepares students to take the ADEC certification examination. As a graduate, you’ll be prepared to find employment in areas like churches, funeral homes, hospices, hospitals and non-profit organizations, among others.

Graduates of our certificate program find that the added knowledge and applied practice skills deepen and expand their existing practice. Many who graduate from the certificate program are already in their chosen field such as clinical psychologists, funeral directors, child life specialists, and other allied health care professionals. Some alumni have found that completing the certificate provides them with the opportunity to move up the career ladder or into new positions such

  • a volunteer director transitioned to the bereavement coordinator at their hospice
  • a child life specialist transitioned to a full-time role on the palliative care team from starting as a part time per-diem float position
  • a CEO of a grief center expanded their programming and offerings based on the knowledge and skills obtained in the certificate program

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission into the Graduate Certificate in Thanatology, the applicant must submit the following:

  • A completed Marian University application form
  • A $50 non-refundable application fee
  • An official transcript from each college or university attended; applicants must have an undergraduate or graduate degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Students may be considered for admission on a probationary status with less than a 3.0 GPA
  • Career goal statement

To apply for the Certificate in Thanatology, use the Admissions Checklist. This document will guide you through the process and ensure that you have submitted all of the necessary materials.