A New Look At MBA Consultant Factories

by John A. Byrne on

consulting3Little more than a week ago,  we published an article by admissions consultant Linda Abraham of Accepted.com entitled “Where McKinsey & Co. Find The Most MBAs.”

The piece included a table, derived from business school reports to U.S. News & World Report, on the percentage of each school’s graduating class that went into consulting.

Simple enough, right? Except that schools routinely report job choices in two ways: by industry and by function. Our published analysis used the numbers by function which would include MBAs who go into corporate internal consulting or in many cases strategic planning.

The difference can be significant. Consider Yale University’s School of Management. Abraham’s article stated that 30% of last year’s SOM grads took jobs in consulting. That would make Yale the top consultant factory in the world. However, the actual number, according to the school, is just 22%, when you only account for the MBAs who went to work for the likes of McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, Accenture, and other consulting firms. “That is why consulting as a function seems so high,” explains Julia Zupko, assistant dean and director of Yale’s career development office. “It is rolling up students who took jobs in strategic planning and internal consulting.”


She points out that a second difference between MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance (CSEA) standards and the calculations in Abraham’s piece is that MBA CSEA uses the number of students seeking employment as the denominator in calculating the percentage, rather than total students in the class. For SOM, grads working in consulting as a function is about 40% when using the number seeking employment vs. 30% reported in the story using total class. At many schools, the difference isn’t nearly as great. “We have a lot of students who go into corporate,” adds Zupko. “Some of the schools report virtually identical percentages of students who go into the function of consulting and the industry of consulting because they send most of their graduates into McKinsey, Bain, and BCG.”

Another complicating factor is that the CSEA standards require schools to put their graduates into one of only seven categories of functions: marketing, operations, general management, finance, consulting, human resources, and information management. So consulting can often become a catchall category to toss graduates who are going into fields that don’t neatly fit into those seven choices.


Zupko took a “quick grab” of data from school employment reports and came up with the table below. But here’s the rub: “On their websites, schools are allowed to present data anyway they see fit,” says Zupko. “They will roll up categories and will sometimes include sponsored students who according to the standards were not in the seeking employment bucket. So our table is technically not an apples-to-apples data comparison because of this.” Overall, this different look at consulting has some important changes.

Done by function and class size, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management had been tied for second with Duke University’s Fuqua School, with a reported 29% of the class going into consulting. But Zupko’s numbers show that Kellogg is actually number one by far, with 38% of the graduates seeking employment going into the consulting industry. Second is the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, with 33%. In the previous analysis, Ross was tied for fourth place with 27% going into the consulting function–as a percentage of the entire class.

(See table on following page)

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  • El Meerr

    I do not really understand the data behind both articles – if by “consulting” they also mean 2nd-3rd tier places like BAH, Accenture, Big4 (I hardly believe CMU or USC place well to MBB)- then it makes no sense to me…I would be more interested to see targeted table with placements in MBB only and additional graph with MBB+5 or 6 top strategists,excluding any type of implementation/IT consulting offers.

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


    I think you are raising an excellent point in terms of the lack of standardized data — not to mention verification or auditing — in both MBA employment reports, class profiles rankings of all kinds, including P&Q’s rankings. I would love to see the schools provide more detail in their employment reports.

    Due to concern for lack of standardized data and a desire for at least some consistency, I A) disclosed exactly where the data was from and B) the very simple method used to present it. I chose to use the US News information for consistency. I considered going to school employment reports and also considered using the “Number of grads seeking employment” as the denominator. I decided to go the route I went believe it would produce more consistency.

    Despite the flaws, this listing still provides direction for those seeking careers in consulting especially if you look at both lists and then following the instructions at the end of the article, where I wrote, “These numbers don’t tell the full picture. Dig into the schools’ class profile, placement stats, curriculum, extra-curricular activities and opportunities to determine which schools to apply to. ”

    Furthermore as critics of my article correctly pointed out, for those aiming for specific consulting companies, like McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, this information simply isn’t granular enough.

    We have posted on our blog a similar post for applicants interested in going into financial services. In that post I concluded “This list helps you focus your research. It is the starting gate, not the finish line.”

    That’s true of this list too.



  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    For anyone interested in my original post on consulting or the post on financial services, here are the links:

    * Consulting at Top MBA Programs
    * Where Does Wall St. Hire: U.S. B-Schools Sending Grads into Financial Services

  • JohnAByrne

    Very true. Obviously, every school wants to portray itself in the best possible light. That’s what is often behind the decision to release certain data and that often is what makes it more difficult to compare and contrast various stats. Frankly, that’s why I generally prefer U.S. News numbers. They impose a certain uniformity on what’s reported.

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    That was exactly my thinking. That uniformity isn’t perfect nor is “manipulation” of data impossible. I was hoping however that by limiting myself to the US News data as opposed to going to the school’s employment reports there would be greater consistency.

    Thanks again for publishing my post on P&Q. Let’s hope that the schools become more consistent and more generous with their employment stats, including by employer.

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