A New Look At MBA Consultant Factories

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.”

DIFFERENT WAYS TO LOOK AT DIFFERENT NUMBERS

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.

HARD TO GET AN APPLES-TO-APPLES COMPARISON BECAUSE OF HOW DATA IS PRESENTED

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)