Initial Publication Date: April 13, 2015

Joe Kopera

Contractor & consultant, Office of the Massachusetts State Geologist

Carol Ormand interviewed Joe Kopera for the 2007 workshop on the Role of Departments in Preparing Future Geoscience Professionals. This interview is one in a collection intended to provide insights into the hiring needs of various geoscience employment sectors. We hope that knowing these needs will guide geoscience departments in preparing students for their future careers. For additional perspectives, please see the other interviews in the collection. The opinions expressed on this page are those of Joe Kopera, not of the Office of the Massachusetts State Geologist.

Jump Down To: Involvement in Hiring | Desirable Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities | How to Stand Out from the Competition

Involvement in Hiring

Joe Kopera is one of three senior staff members for the Office of the Massachusetts State Geologist (Massachusetts' equivalent of a state geological survey). Although he is not directly responsible for hiring, he is usually involved in hiring decisions.

The Office of the Massachusetts State Geologist hires primarily for two levels of positions: field geologists, who are hired to map the state's geology, and field assistants and GIS specialists, who are hired to assist the field geologists. Field geologist positions require a Masters degree or higher, while the other positions may go to those with Bachelors degrees or undergraduate students.

Desirable Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Geoscience knowledge

Some basic geoscience knowledge is essential for a field geologist in Massachusetts, who will be mapping fractured bedrock:
  • rock and mineral identification
  • sedimentology and stratigraphy
  • structural geology, including the ability to envision three-dimensional structures
  • field geology: knowing what to look for and being able to synthesize data from geographically separate outcrops

In addition, anyone mapping in Massachusetts needs to be able to deal with the complexity resulting from multiple episodes of folding and fracturing.

Other skills and abilities

Geoscience knowledge, while essential, is not sufficient by itself. To be a successful field geologist, one also needs to be able to
  • manage a project independently
  • communicate, both orally and in writing (for example, to keep the state geologist informed about what one is doing, and to prepare maps and written reports)
  • be self-motivated
  • conduct oneself professionally: meet deadlines with high quality work

How to Stand Out from the Competition

Joe reports that in his and his colleagues' experience, many job candidates experience difficulty dealing with complex geological problems. In addition, a surprising number of applicants with environmental science degrees, and some with degrees in geoscience, exhibit a lack of basic geosicence knowledge and field experience. A hard working candidate with a sophisticated understanding of geoscience stands out from the competition.