Why Consulting Remains Top Choice for MBA Grads


Consulting continues to hold sway over MBA graduates as the top choice regardless of whether the economy is booming or in the throes of a recession. With an average starting pay of around $150,000, signing bonus of $25,000 and a performance bonus that could be as high as $12,000, it’s no wonder that the domain attracts the cream among them.  

Professionally too, Consulting throws up fresh challenges practically every day. It could involve a lot of travel, setting up of new teams and new locations. It also offers a lot of exposure to the best minds and opportunities to develop innovative thinking and out of the box solutions.

Another advantage the domain enjoys is that in the absence of the huge investment needed for traditional businesses that involve setting up production, marketing and distribution facilities, Consulting firms are free to invest in the essential part of a business, namely, talent.

How do Consulting firms buck recession? All sorts of businesses enjoy good times during boom periods. Companies hire consulting firms to drive up growth still further. In bad times, too, Consulting remains in demand with businesses searching for ways to cut costs and stay afloat.

Bain & Company had offered a $148,000 average base and a $37,000 signing bonus, McKinsey $152,500 base and $25,000 bonus and BCG $147,000 base and $30,000 bonus.

According to ManagementConsulted, even within the domain, salaries and incentives grow faster in some sectors. For instance, strategy consulting pay rise is 15%-20% compared to 5%-10% for tech consulting. Tech consulting salaries for beginners are also approximately 15-20% lower than in strategy consulting.

There is also a huge difference in the salary offered to those with only an undergraduate degree or an MBA. Strategy & offers the best pay for undergraduates with a starting salary of $90,000 and an average signing bonus of $10,000. The base pay among the big three—McKinsey, Bain & Company and the Boston Consulting Group—is around $83,000-$84,000 and $5000 as signing bonus.

For MBAs, Parthenon offers the best starting pay by a $170,000 to $147,000 margin along with $10,000 more in sign on bonus. In fact, The company’s combined base and sign on bonus were $205,000 in guaranteed first-year pay alone.

Bain & Company had offered a $148,000 average base and a $37,000 signing bonus, McKinsey $152,500 base and $25,000 bonus and BCG $147,000 base and $30,000 bonus.

With growing experience, consultants would be able to get an annual 10%-20% increase in base pay and performance bonuses. However, only the top 5%-10% earn the maximum bonus and the majority are able to get only half of that amount.

For those with 2 to 3 years’ experience, in the manager and project leader level, the average salaries could rise to $190,000 to $210,000. The performance bonus could range from $80,000-$120,000. At the next stage of associate principal or senior project leader achieved after 4-5 years, the base and bonus go up to $230,000-$300,000 and $110,000-$200,000 respectively.

At the junior partner and principal levels, for those with 6-8 years of experience, performance bonuses range from $300,000-$500,000 plus the $320,000-$400,000 base. After a decade or more at a leading consulting firm – when MBAs reach senior partner or director level – base pay can start at $400,000 to $600,000. The top performers also are able to command a bonus as high as $5 million.

Among the perks, MBA interns who return to Deloitte after graduation receive full tuition reimbursement for their second year. Accenture bears tuition costs up to $80,000and also covers relocation fees for undergrads at $5,000 and McKinsey at $9,000.

Over the past three years, starting pay has skyrocketed for undergrads and MBAs alike. At Deloitte, for example, base pay has jumped from $72,500 to $88,000 for undergrads – a 21% increase. The numbers have swelled by 18% and 11% at McKinsey at Bain alike. At the same time, PwC and Strategy& have doubled their signing bonuses.

Among MBAs, McKinsey and Bain have increases their pay by over 9%. KPMG has more than doubled the signing bonuses to $35,000, compared to rival firms’ best offer at $25,000.


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