The status of funeral directors, including whether or not the industry can be considered a legitimate ‘profession’, has long been a topic of interest in this journal. Contributing to this ongoing debate, this paper considers opportunities and barriers to professional development in the UK funeral industry. In so doing, the paper makes particular reference to ‘communities of practice’ (CP), a model of situated learning. Previous research in comparable sectors has indicated that CP enhances individual and organisational performance through emphasising commitment to sharing and developing best practice within an area of common interest. Drawing on interviews with and presentations given by funeral directors/arrangers, the paper examines perceptions of performance, alongside issues of mistrust and resistance to change. Data will show that participants conveyed a situation of competing forces in terms of a hierarchical structure within the industry that perpetuates a lack of incentive to invest in education and training. At the same time, a new generation of staff is developing an alternative vision of funeral directing, which includes wider public recognition of their skills. In view of the industry’s long-standing drive for professional standing, the paper identifies the potential of CP as a means of negotiating such competing forces to provide a medium through which issues associated with regulation can be addressed.