On the surface, consulting is the perfect job. You travel the globe, hobnob with senior executives, and participate in high-profile projects. The work has variety and impact and leaves you with a deep network and enviable exit opportunities. Some pretty healthy paychecks come along with the constant learning, too.
Of course, the job takes its toll. The brutal hours and nomadic lifestyle make it difficult to set down roots. While the job preps you for the C-suite, it also exposes you to high expectations and major-league pressure. When things go awry, it’s always easier for clients to blame the consultant than one of their own.
Are such tradeoffs worth it? According to data shared exclusively with Poets&Quants by Vault, authors of the “Best to Work For” rankings, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” That’s not hyperbole. On 22 different quality of work and life categories, MBA consultants gave their employers higher marks in 20 metrics. Over the past three years, MBAs with consulting jobs have shown a marked improvement in happiness in every category measured by Vault.
The data was derived from Vault’s 2017 Consulting 50 ranking, which was released on August 23. Each year, using a 10-point scale (with 10 being the highest score), Vault surveys practicing consultants to evaluate their own firms on categories like training, leadership, and perks at their firms.
HIGHEST SCORES GO TO CLIENT INTERACTION AND ABILITY TO CHALLENGE SUPERIORS
Not surprisingly, for many consulting firms, MBAs are considered more proven commodities when they walk in the door. That’s why MBA graduates from top-tier programs, like Booth for example, command median packages of $140,000 or more to start. Considering their price tag, MBAs are often given more latitude and responsibility early on. That may be one reason why MBAs reported far higher scores in areas involving relationships with clients and managers.
In fact, MBAs gave their firms the highest score, a 9.229 average, in client interaction, meaning they are more intimately involved in their clients’ work and enjoy greater exposure to decision-makers. This latitude is also reflected in the 9.077 average on their ability to challenge, a further reflection of their credibility with higher-ups. MBAs also experience better relationships with their supervisors as a whole, with an 8.906 average score — a crucial variable in an industry where managers often serve as mentors and advocates, and even references later in their careers.
MBAs reserved some of their highest scores for leadership and culture. Trained to look at the big picture, they rewarded firm leadership with an 8.919 score. They were even more bullish on their firms’ prospects, with business outlook eliciting a 9.012 average as a whole. MBAs also tended to hold the firm culture in higher regard with an 8.766 average.
Of course, they had their quibbles. International opportunities topped the list, which earned the lowest marks at 7.476, a sign that MBAs have been unable to flex their muscles as much as they hoped with overseas assignments. Pay was another issue, with two of their lowest scores given to compensation (8.209) and benefits (8.235). This dissatisfaction may be rooted in consultants beginning to wonder if the cost exceeds the return. Notably, MBAs may be looking to take a breather from the NASCAR-paced, airport-to-airport lifestyle of consulting. According to the Vault data, MBA consultants gave lower scores than bachelor’s degree holders to their firms in the areas of travel (8.330 versus 8.389) and vacation policies (8.473 versus 8.506) — a harbinger than MBAs may be starting to burn down as their industry and workloads continue to grow.
Where can you find the biggest divergence in opinion between MBAs and bachelor’s degree holders? Start at international opportunities, an area where MBAs gave their lowest scores. Apparently it is a complaint across the board, with BA holders also scoring it the lowest at 6.178 (1.298 points lower than MBAs). Compared to MBAs, BA holders were also far less satisfied in career progression metrics like internal mobility (7.915 for MBAs versus 7.353 for BAs), client interaction (9.229 versus 8.626), and compensation (8.209 versus 7.802).
Overall, MBAs tended to be happier than any other segment, with BA holders generally producing the lowest scores. Consultants with advanced degrees, such as Ph.D.s, MAs, and JDs, tended to fall in the middle.
Go To Next Page To See How MBA Opinions Have Changed Over The Past Three Rankings