Michelle Tabencki

Research Specialist–Osteologist

(Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style)

What is your current job field?

Private-sector commercial manufacturing.

What degree(s) do you have and in what discipline(s)?

I have a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Physical Anthropology with an emphasis in forensics.

What is your current salary or salary range?


What can someone with a BA/MA/PhD expect to earn in this job?

A minimum of a master’s degree is required for work as a research specialist. Fresh out of graduate school, one can expect to start their career at $45,000/year. A PhD is not necessary for this position, however relevant experience would be a great asset. Salaries range, depending on the industry and your combination of skills, from $50,000 to $80,000.

What type of benefits are typically provided in your job field?

For a salaried position, you are eligible for health insurance, paid time off, paid holidays, and profit sharing. There are also great work travel opportunities.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My typical workday begins with research for a particular specimen. This research includes literature review and communicating with professors with expert knowledge of the subject matter. Once a specimen is obtained, I inventory the item. This process includes photography and osteological measurements. As the specimen goes through the replication/casting process, I oversee procedures to ensure all important osteological details are evident in the cast. While this is a workday that involves a new specimen to cast, most of my days are spent reading and staying up to date on new discoveries and research.

What do you like the most about your job?

While the daily task of research and reading is exciting, I really like when I can travel to conferences and chat with other anthropologists. This is where I can hear firsthand about research and how instructors are teaching anthropological concepts, allowing me to understand how our products can be valuable and more innovative to help with this endeavor. I especially like when I can collaborate on a new product with a professor to fill a particular niche in a particular field. While my focus is on anthropology, there are many other fields that need innovative casts. I work with many other types of scientists to create our products, including medical school instructors, therapists, wildlife conservationists, veterinarians, and K-12 teachers.

What do you like the least about your job?

 I spend most of my time at a desk in front of a computer and it can get monotonous.