Consulting Firms That Pay The Best & Have The Happiest Employees

Once again, the top consulting firm according to the employees in the industry: Bain & Company. Bain photoIn consulting, the hardest interview is not always the best — and vice versa. Sitting down with the big, industry-leading company where you want to work may not be as fulfilling an experience as auditioning with one of the boutique shops.

The latest trove of data from Wall Street Oasis tells us that just because a firm’s interview process is perceived as hard, that doesn’t mean it’s the best. Of course, many see the stressful, difficult interview process at one of the MBB firms — McKinsey and Co., Bain & Company, and Boston Consulting Group — as the price to pay for a chance to nab a role with the elite of the elite.

WSO, a job search and news site that for the last seven years has compiled feedback from employees across a variety of fields including consulting and investment banking, has a database of more than half a million employees. Its latest numbers show that McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain are one, two, and three in interview difficulty — but that in terms of “best” interview experiences, New York management consulting company Oliver Wyman wins the most plaudits, followed by human resources consulting giant Mercer, with BCG coming in third place. And there are lots and lots of smaller firms among the 30 highest-ranked companies.

Job seekers should know, however, that the MBB firms — especially Bain and McKinsey — dominate most of the other 15 categories WSO monitors, including the all-important “happiness quotient” — overall employee satisfaction, which Bain tops, followed by McKinsey, BCG, Strategy&, and Alvarez & Marsal. In fact, Bain is the top choice of consulting employees from analysts to directors in eight categories, up from seven this time last year, including Professional Growth Opportunities, Most Fair, Best Communication, and Best Leadership; while McKinsey, just like last year, is tops in six, from Career Advancement Opportunities to Best Feedback to Time Off, a measure of management support for needed down time.

“Especially in consulting, it tends to be that the top three are the top three, whether it’s brand or something else,” says Patrick Curtis, WSO founder and CEO and a Class of 2010 Wharton MBA. “MBB is a well-known moniker around Wall Street Oasis for a reason. The fact is, the top three tend to recruit some of the strongest candidates in part because of their strong reputation.”


Patrick Curtis. Courtesy photo

Wall Street Oasis‘s reports factor in two previous years plus the year-to-date in 17 total categories ranging from Best Pay to Best Work-Life Balance. “We have loads of data that allows you to dive into any one of the specific companies and actually look at the reviews and look at the interviews and look at the compensation data that makes up these graphs,” Curtis says. WSO uses Bayesian percentiles as a way to “deal with companies where there are only a few observations,” he adds, because Bayesian stats “allow you to pull the companies with less reviews closer to the average of the entire group, so that as more votes come in, they are pulled more toward their actual average and away from group average. (This gives you) higher confidence that the score is a true reflection versus just one or two votes (and) prevents companies with only a few great or bad reviews from ranking above or below companies with many great or bad reviews.”

In addition to the categories mentioned above like interview difficulty and quality, WSO also monitors average salary and bonus pay, average hours worked per week, and diversity, particularly female and racial representation.

Pay, obviously, is of keen interest for prospective consultants in their second year (or earlier) of business school. Last fall, WSO’s data showed that the pay range for consulting firms (base salary plus bonus) was $66,000 for summer interns/analysts (extrapolated) up to $286,000 for directors. That represented a big jump for the newbies and a big drop-off for the bosses. This year, the young guns have held steady at $65,000, while the decline for the top end continues, with both principals and directors dropping further to $272,000. In the only category it tops this year, BCG was the number-one firm for Best Pay, followed by Oliver Wyman, Bain, Parthenon Group-EY, and Cornerstone Research.

Money isn’t everything, of course, and for some, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is just as — or more — important. In weekly hours worked, no firm averaged more than 75, which was the mark hit by both Georgia-based business management consultancy Oncology Solutions and EVA Dimensions, the firm recently acquired by corporate governance and investment solutions provider ISS. You have to go down to the 10th spot to find McKinsey, at 67.8 hours per week, and then to 17th to see that Bain & Company averages 65 hours. BCG is 18th at 64.4.

In WSO’s category of Work-Life Balance, Protiviti, the Menlo Park, California based form that works in internal audit, risk and compliance, technology, business processes, data analytics and finance, takes the crown, followed by IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Accenture. Bain is 12th and McKinsey is 13th. “If they’re not in the top three, that doesn’t mean that they’re not great places,” Curtis says of the boutique firms. “LEK Consulting is a different place than McKinsey, but for some people, it will be a better place to work. I think it’s important to keep that in mind.”


WSO compiles diversity data in four categories: Racial Diversity, Female Representation, Athletic Representation, and Military Representation. Only companies with 10 or more submissions are included. Top marks for Racial Diversity — with percentile ranks based on how balanced companies are across five primary groups: Caucasian, Asian, African American, Latino/Spanish, and Other — go to Simon Kucher Partners, PricewaterhouseCoopers, BCG, Gartner group, and Bain; last year BCG was the top firm for racial balance.  In Female Representation, the top percentile score goes to Marsh & McLennan Companies, a New York-based global professional services firm with an estimated 69.3% women, followed by Florida-based Public Resource Management Group (63.1%), Kaiser Associates (59.4%), Altman Vilandrie & Company (44%), and NERA Economic Consulting (41.6%). Bain is 19th at an estimated 20.1%.

Athletic Representation — the proportion of varsity athletes employed at a firm — is paced by Chicago’s Liberty Advisor Group, which is comprised of an astounding 76.7% former athletes. Liberty is followed by Gartner group (54.9%), MFR Consultants Inc. (52.3%), UnitedHealth Group (46%), and PA Consulting Group (42.8%). Last year’s leader in athletes on staff was MFR at 58.4%, followed by UnitedHealth Group at 34.8%. PA Consulting Group was fourth at 29.9%.

In Military Representation, Houston, Texas-based performance analytics firm Phillip Townsend Inc. is tops for the second year in a row with 60.7%, nearly identical to the 60.8% former military it boasted in 2018.The next-closest firm is OCC Strategy Consultants, at 25.4%; Bain is fifth at 14.5%.

See the next pages for data on the firms with the best pay, best work-life balance, best career advancement opportunities, and more. 


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