In Consulting, Which B-School Is No. 1?

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by John A. Byrne on

Which business school is number one in sending MBAs into the consulting industry? Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, according to a new survey of more than 4,500 consultants by Vault.com. Harvard Business School, whose case study teaching method was made for consulting, is second. Chicago, Wharton, and Michigan round out the top five, says Vault.

But is Kellogg really number one?  Probably not. It’s far more likely that Harvard would have gotten the nod if prestigious McKinsey & Co. had participated in the survey. McKinsey has been one of Harvard’s top three employers for decades and also recruits more MBAs from top business schools than any other firm. Yet, Vault concedes that only 20 McKinsey consultants answered their survey through LinkedIn.

Among the Class of 2009, for example, McKinsey hired 50 MBAs from Wharton, 46 from Columbia, 26 from Kellogg, 23 from Chicago, 21 from London, 15 from Berkeley, and 10 from Michigan. Though Harvard does not report these statistics, it is estimated that McKinsey hired as many as 100 Harvard MBAs alone in 2009. So the consulting giant’s absence from the Vault survey raises significant credibility issues with the results. Concedes Carolyn Wise, Vault’s senior education editor: “McKinsey is a feeder of students for Harvard and a very strong employer of Harvard MBAs.”

In contrast, Boston Consulting Group hired 31 MBAs from Wharton’s Class of 2009, 23 from Kellogg, 21 from Columbia, 10 from London, nine from Chicago, five from Michigan, and four from Berkeley. Bain, another prestige strategic consulting firm, carted away 20 Columbia MBAs, 19 from Kellogg, 18 from Wharton, 16 from Chicago, 10 from Michigan, and six from London.

Vault also crunched its numbers by major cities and regions of the U.S. In Silicon Valley, for example, Stanford was number one, followed by Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, MIT’s Sloan School and then, surprisingly, by Michigan’s Ross School of Business. In the southwest, Emory’s Goizueta School of Business tied with Harvard for having the most MBAs employed in consulting. “Emory is extremely strong in Atlanta and Charlotte,” says Wise.  “It really dominates which is something you may know, but it is astounding that they are not a more prominent, national school. That is true for both the business and the law schools.”

The most significant conclusion? Wise says it’s the fact that the top 10 schools produce the lion’s share of consultants. “It was a ski slope-style curve,” she adds. “After the top 10 to 14 schools, it really dropped off. The biggest takeaway for me is the rush toward the most elite business schools. Degrees from lower-tiered MBA programs do not have the value they used to. If you want a job at a top consulting firm, you need to focus on the most elite school you can get into.”

One thing to keep in mind while looking at these lists: Vault did not adjust for the size of the MBA program, even though its ranking is merely derived from the total number of MBAs in consulting from each school. So Dartmouth, MIT, and Stanford, whose annual output of elite MBAs is on the lower side, does not do as well as the larger schools, such as Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Chicago, and Columbia.

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Vault’s Top Ten Schools for Consulting
1. Northwestern (Kellogg)
2. Harvard Business School
3. Chicago (Booth)
4. Pennsylvania (Wharton)
5. Michigan (Ross)
6. Columbia
7. Duke (Fuqua)
8. MIT (Sloan)
9. Stanford
10. New York University (Stern)

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Vault’s Top B-Schools for Consulting in New York
1. Harvard Business School
2. Columbia
3. New York University (Stern)
4. Pennsylvania (Wharton)
5. Northwestern University (Kellogg)

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Vault’s Top B-Schools for Consulting in Boston
1. Harvard Business School
2. MIT (Sloan)
3. Dartmouth College (Tuck)
4. Pennsylvania (Wharton)
5. Chicago (Booth)

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Vault’s Top B-Schools for Consulting in Atlanta
1. Emory (Goizueta)
2. Harvard Business School
3. Duke University (Fuqua)
4. Pennsylvania (Wharton)
5. UNC (Kenan-Flagler), Virginia (Darden)

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Vault’s Top B-Schools for Consulting in Washington, D.C.
1. Virginia (Darden)
2. Pennsylvania (Wharton)
3. Northwestern (Kellogg)
4. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
4. Georgetown (McDonough)
4. Harvard Business School

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Air Time - Comments
  • Jim

    For some terrible reason they included a strange character in the URL – so I’ve included it below.

    “http://www.ie.edu/business/programas/IMBA/PDF´S/ie_international_mba_placement_report_2011.pdf”

    If that doesn’t work, you can always go to: 

    http://www.ie.edu/buscador/default.aspx?txt=placement

    and click the link to the report there.

    Regard,

  • Jim

    I know I am a little late here, but I wanted to ask whether this comment is still valid.  I checked IE’s employment report (http://www.ie.edu/business/programas/IMBA/PDF´S/ie_international_mba_placement_report_2011.pdf) and it appears that BCG is listed at number 7 under “Top Employers”. 

    Then again, although McKinsey, BCG, and Bain are listed as companies attending their career fair, it did not appear that any of these three firms had a custom recruiting page for this school on their site.

    Still, it seems the school is upwardly trending so I’m not quite sure what to think. 

    Thoughts?

  • McKConsultant2

    I was an ex-BA and graduated from HBS. It seems like all my classmates from HBS had McKinsey, BCG and Bain interviews. Sometime I question the selectivity of top consulting firm

  • G_repl

    what do you know about Kellogg?  

  • Jokes

    Shouldn’t HBS and INSEAD be #1 in consulting?! 

  • Guest

    I’m a little late on this comment. I think your comments are spot on, except for the one against Ross. Granted, you are right that it doesn’t have the name cachet that other schools do, but it is still well known as a consulting/gm school. And to be fair, an “average” performer at even HBS will find themselves shut out of MBB. When you are aiming for a job with the McKBain Group, nothing is guaranteed.

  • This list is a bit silly for consulting, imo. There’s a few schools I’d never list as a “top school for consulting” and a few who definitely should’ve made the list.

    Note, I was hired as a pre-MBA consultant at McKinsey in 09, currently working as post-MBA (skipped the MBA).

    Here’s my perspective on the Top 10 list. I’ll go bit by bit, based on my experience and that of colleagues, who have attended a large portion of this list:

    1. Northwestern (Kellogg)

    Great school. Definitely NOT the top school for consulting here. The main advantage to Kellogg is that its a top 1-year MBA program (the 2-year MBA program is really not competitive with HBS, Stanford, etc. Among those accepted to multiple, Kellogg tends to be last pick). Kellog is a favorite for pre-MBA hires who want to do their MBA but don’t want to spend 2 years on it. Among that crowd, they pick Kellogg if they want to work in the U.S., but the overall perception is that INSEAD is the better 1-year MBA for consultants (the downside being that your connections are mostly outside of the US, as INSEAD is only about 20% American). Note: INSEAD absolutely should have made this list and is the LARGEST base of McKinsey partners (bigger than Harvard).

    2. Harvard Business School

    Should be number 1, together with Stanford. Among consultants the top picks are always Harvard and Stanford. A few prefer Wharton. The reasons here are generally the prestige factor. In terms of getting hired, Harvard and Stanford are great schools to hail from, but the process is very competitive and Harvard is a large school, so its not a guarantee to get into a top consulting firm, though if you graduate cum laude, its at least a guarantee of an interview.

    3. Chicago (Booth)

    Solid school. Ranked too highly, imo.

    4. Pennsylvania (Wharton)

    Solid school. Ranked about right.

    5. Michigan (Ross)

    Ranked WAY too highly. There is just no way you can place Michigan over numbers 6-10. This is completely out of place, in my eyes. Michigan is one of those “almost” schools. It offers you no name cred. Its more like, “its probably ranked” than “wow, you went there” – and for consulting, the wow factor is pretty important. Michigan is a good school, but the hires I know from Michigan always had nosebleed stats (3.8+, super GMAT’s, top internships, etc). The average performer at Michigan will get shunned at MBB.

    6. Columbia

    Great school. For some reason more popular for European consultants than American ones.

    7. Duke (Fuqua)

    Good school. Should not be ranked over MIT or Stanford.

    8. MIT (Sloan)

    Good school. Typical profile is the engineer who wanted to move into management. In terms of name cred an amazing piece of resume branding. Sloan is ranked very low on this list.

    9. Stanford

    Why is Stanford number 9? Seriously? I know multiple people who have turned down Harvard for Stanford, and the number of Stanford grads inside McK is very high (especially considering the smaller class size – 400 – v HBS 900). Listing Stanford at 9 is ridiculous. You put Duke, Michigan, and Columbia over this? Makes no sense.

    10. New York University (Stern)

    Stern is a good school. Again, you will need to get good grades to get recruited out of Stern, this goes for most schools, but even more for NYU.

    Schools omitted, but should definitely have been included:
    1) INSEAD
    2) London Business School
    3) UC Berkeley – Haas

  • Kellogg? No way!

  • CiD

    I agree with Sujay and would like to suggest that there should be a list of top European schools in consulting. Or, is it just because those top consulting firms do not mainly hire European school graduates?

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