Professor Vrijling finished his masters study at Delft University of Technology in 1974. In 1980 he received his masters degree in Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
After a short period at the engineering office of the Adriaan Volker Group he was seconded to the Easternscheldt storm surge barrier project. In this project mr. Vrijling developed the probabilistic approach to the design of the barrier.
After the completion of the barrier in 1986 he became deputy head of the Hydraulic engineering branch of the Civil Engineering Division of Rijkswaterstaat. In 1989 he was responsible for the research and computer activities of the Civil Engineering Division. In 1989 he became professor in Hydraulic Engineering in Delft. Since 1995 he is full professor in Delft, and advisor to the Civil Engineering Division.
Professor Vrijling has been member of the Veerman committee that studied the future of the new metro line in Amsterdam. Construction of this 'North-South line' was stopped because of new financial prognoses as a result of damage to adjoining houses. The committee presented its advice to the Amsterdam city board on 4 July 2009 (see the media attention section here below).