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Consulting Industry’s Top Feeder B-Schools

Forty-six percent of INSEAD’s 2016 class of MBAs went into consulting, the highest percentage among more than two dozen top programs examined by Poets&Quants. Courtesy photo

On measure after measure, INSEAD continues to shine. The No. 1 school in both the 2016 and 2017 Financial Times rankings and Poets&Quants’ 2016 international ranking, the Fontainebleau, France-based business school has moved into prime position as one of the world’s leading producers of consulting industry MBAs.

What’s not to love? INSEAD offers a brisk 10-month MBA in a scenic French location not far from Paris, along with a second MBA campus in Singapore, with top faculty and sterling placement results, among other perks. Now, over the last two years, the school has emerged as one of the top consulting feeder schools: In 2015, 43% of INSEAD’s graduates went into the consulting industry, and according to its 2016 employment report it has improved on those numbers, sending 46% of its newly minted MBAs into the industry. Looking at consulting jobs by function, INSEAD has almost reached the half-century mark, with 48% of grads going into the industry.

In hard numbers, INSEAD handily outdoes its U.S. competitors: In 2015, McKinsey alone took 102 INSEAD MBAs, BCG hired 72, and Bain scooped up 52. Last year McKinsey upped its investment to 125 INSEAD grads, while BCG took on 67, and Bain 48.

THE MEANING OF ‘PRESTIGE’

Management consulting has long been one of the most desirable jobs for newly minted MBA grads, and the standard offer from a prestige consulting firm leaves no question why: $145,000 to start (up $5,000 from 2015), with a $25,000 signing bonus (an amount that has stayed about the same since last year). That’s a nice way to begin to dig out of that debt bunker after two years of B-school.

But there’s another reason besides money that Bain, McKinsey, BCG, and Deloitte et. al are known as “prestige” firms: They are world-class, highly selective companies that offer a wide range of business challenges at a variety of companies and industries, and they can offer landing points around the globe. They may challenge employees with some of the longest work hours in the business world, but they also reward the intellectually curious, articulate, and analytical with opportunities to work side by side with some of the best and brightest professionals in business while partnering with many of the world’s largest multinationals, private equity firms, and Fortune 500 companies. It’s easy to see why the prestige firms often serve as a springboard for future business rock stars, chief executives at some of the largest corporations in the world.

And it’s easy to see why a school that annually sends a huge portion of its graduates to the A.T. Kearneys and Accentures and PwCs of the world would be an attractive destination for MBA applicants. Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, London Business School, and very few others have achieved the kind of self-perpetuating status other schools dream of, where a combination of brand, reputation, and — no question — sustained excellence keep the talent pipeline flowing. In the past few years INSEAD appears to have broken into that exclusive club.

U.S. SCHOOLS UP AND DOWN, BUT A BIT MORE DOWN

Last year’s Poets&Quants list of top U.S. consulting schools was topped, somewhat unexpectedly, by Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business, at 38% of grads going into the field. This year Emory took a step back, at 33%, while the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business vaulted into the top spot with 38% of consulting MBAs. It’s probably no accident that Darden made its move under a new dean who came straight out of McKinsey & Co., where he had been a partner for many years. Following closely are Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business (36%), Columbia Business School (34.5%), and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (33%) and Emory.

In fact, of the 28 elite U.S. MBA programs examined by Poets&Quants, 14 increased their share of consulting grads in 2016 and 13 saw a drop, with one school (Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, at 32%) staying even. However, the schools that saw a decrease saw more of a decrease — an average of 4.25% — while the schools that saw an increase saw a more modest one, at an average of 2.71%.

For many, the only numbers that matter have a dollar sign in front of them. Here’s where U.S. schools have a distinct advantage over their European counterparts. Of the 32 total schools P&Q looked at (including five in Europe), six had the highest reported median base salary of $145,000. Five of those also boasted the top reported median sign-on bonus of $25,000. Following that, another 12 schools reported a median base salary of $135,000 or more. All were in the U.S.

INSEAD came up well short of its U.S. competitors, at a median base salary for consulting of US$109,500 and a median bonus of US$24,500. London Business School reported a mean base salary of US$109,942. That’s largely a function of placement. More of the MBAs from INSEAD and London are landing jobs in countries, such as India, where the major consulting firms pay grads far less than they do in the U.S. and Western Europe.

(See the following page for our analysis of the top schools that supply the most and least talent to the consulting industry)