Jennifer Vilbig

Jennifer Vilbig

Vilbig & Associates
Dallas, TX
Jennifer Vilbig
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Jennifer is a 3rd generation engineer and native of Dallas, Texas. She graduated in 2007 from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. After spending several years working for large, multi-discipline, international consulting and design firms, Jennifer joined her family's company, Vilbig & Associates. Jennifer decided on civil engineering as a career because the projects she designs impact peoples lives. The road, buildings, sidewalks, water, sewer and storm networks that you use on a daily basis are all designed by civil engineers! Jennifer is an active volunteer with the Society of Women Engineers in Dallas. She has served as the Southern Methodist University SWE Counselor, mentoring and guiding college students for the past five years. Jennifer enjoys traveling, especially to places where she can visit with her college friends! Most recently, Jennifer spent two weeks in Dubai, U.A.E. & Bombay, India for a friends wedding.

2007 B.S. in Civil Engineering - Georgia Institute of Technology
Answers by Jennifer Vilbig

Hi Julie!

A good place to start would be to look for local chapters of the US Green Building Council or Engineers without Borders (EWB). The US GBC is the body that determines the criteria for the most utilized green building standard measurement, Leadership in Energy & Engineering Design (LEED). EWB's mission is to provide students with hands on experience bringing necessary upgrades to infrastructure in third world countries. My understanding is that the projects are mostly related to clean water & sanitation because those are critical needs for many rural villages. You may also take a look at the research interests of some of your professors to see if they're doing research in the area you are interested in. Don't be afraid to look beyond the engineering school, as a professor with an architectural or building construction background may also be able to provide you with some resources too.

As for skills to learn, many civil engineers need to be comfortable working in AutoCad or Microstation or GIS. If you're able to get free versions of the programs, I recommend taking some time to work through tutorials so you are somewhat familiar with the program & their capabilities. I also recommend that you attend any American Society of Civil Engineers meetings on campus where a company is presenting to learn more about the projects they're working on.


Hi Katherine! It is fantastic that you are considering this before the summer starts! You may want to check with an advisor at your university, but math typically tends to be a prerequisite for many of the engineering core classes. I'd highly recommend that you take calculus this summer (or even pre-cal if you think your high school class didn't prepare you). Look into a community college, they'll tend to have more inexpensive classes and will hopefully transfer! Don't worry about being behind, there are all types of students and it takes some people long than others to find their passion. You CAN do anything you set you mind to! I got mostly got B's (and a few C's) in math in high school, so don't worry! The thing about engineering is that no one really knows what to expect coming from school into the workforce. The engineering curriculum really only prepares you to solve problems and you'll get a bunch of on the job training after you graduate! As for learning more about civil engineering, the American Society of Civil Engineers is a great resource. Student membership is free, and I just found this great brochure that'll give you a little bit of an idea about the different career paths available to someone with an civil degree! Careers/Content_Pieces/career-path-brochure.pdf.  You can also read industry news, like Engineering News Record (ENR) or sign up for this daily e-mail Talk to some students at your university about their experience in civil engineering and what they want to do with their degree, contact your university ASCE section officers! They've probably had internships, so could help you understand more about working as a civil engineer. You could also go to an ASCE meeting if there is a professional section in you area, many include technical speakers (but it won't be too technical for you because the industry is so diverse) and you could ask around to see if anyone was willing to let you job shadow them for a day! Hope this helps and good luck with finals!


Hi Erin!

First off, would you be more interested in ensuring the building would be able to support the garden, selecting the right plants or designing a rainwater filtration system & cistern? A civil engineer would be involved with the calculations to determine if the roof and building structure could support the garden. Soil is VERY heavy, plus the plants would need water which adds to the weight that the building would need to support. If you'd be more interested in the layout of the garden and selecting plants based on what grows well in the area then a program in landscape architecture may be what you should look into. Landscape Architects select the types of plants and where they would be located to ensure the garden functions ascetically and biodiversity. Almost all projects that I work on involve a landscape architect. A rainwater filtration system and cistern would probably need to be designed by an engineer, but not necessarily a civil engineer as some mechanical engineers design these types of systems. Calculations for the volume of rainwater the system would need to store as well as the design of an emergency overflow would be done by an engineer. I am not familiar with a degree in environmental studies, but I would recommend that you speak with someone who has completed this degree to determine the types of job opportunities that would be available to you once you graduate. I'd also like to point out that the salary of engineers tend to be much higher than someone with an environmental science degree and sometimes the entry level positions would be basically the same!

I would highly suggest that you reach out to local urban gardeners before you begin your degree program as they may know of resources that would be highly beneficial to you. Plus, ask about their background you may learn that a degree isn't even needed to reach your dream! Have you heard of UpGarden or Seattle Urban Farm Company? A quick google search led me to those two organizations! A plethora of start-up incubators exist that may be a good route for you to explore as well. Such as UnLtd USA that is based in Austin, TX specifically for social entrepreneurs. Are there any in Seattle that would fit your dream?

Hope this helps!

Hi Mika, 

I would highly suggest starting with the engineering undergraduate degree. Yes, you will be able to get an engineering masters degree later and could also still possibly find a job in the environmental field with only a biology degree, but your pay would be significantly less and your career advancement would progress slower. Plus, most biology programs are probably geared towards medial or research, which have nothing to do with environmental engineering or environmental science. 

Typically, most engineers in the environmental field do have a masters degree. If you did want to earn an engineering masters degree it would be significantly harder without the engineering undergraduate degree as there is a lot of math skills that you would not have practiced with a biology undergraduate degree.  

With a degree in engineering the career paths are limitless! I know engineers who are working in all types of industries in traditional and non-traditional engineering roles. 

What else can you do with an undergraduate degree in biology? What would be your starting salary options? Are you getting student loans to pay for school? Could you afford to pay those loans on a salary of a biologist? 

Best of luck! 

Hi Sandeep! 

First, what exactly are you wanting to do with your civil engineering degree? If you are more interested in structural design of buildings or bridges than learning Stadd would be an excellent choice. If you are wanting to do another aspect of civil engineering such as roadway design or hydraulics & hydrology than AutoCAD or GIS may be a better choice. Yes, having some skills with computer program will help you get a job. I highly highly recommend that you get an internship to help figure out which field of civil engineering you are interested in. A lot of engineering includes on-the-job training, so it is not completely necessary for you to have all the skills needed right out of college.

My experience is in site design for commercial development or pipelines and I have never needed to know a programming language. It may be beneficial to know the basics of computer programing, but I would recommend understanding the thought process involved with computer programing and focusing your efforts on learning excel more than a specific programming language. 

Best of luck!