Two years ago, USC’s Marshall School of Business fell off the consulting cliff.
The school’s employment numbers for MBA graduates finding work in the consulting industry plummeted from 31% to 21% in 2017, the biggest drop of any elite school in the United States or Europe. Which meant that in 2018, USC was poised for a comeback — and come back it did, reversing the slide by reporting that 30% of its MBAs last year found work as consultants. That’s a 9-percentage-point jump and a 42.9% increase, the biggest one-year jump of any of the 35 U.S. and European schools whose employment reports were examined by Poets&Quants.
There were other, similar stories in 2018 — but there were more declines. Twenty of the 35 schools saw year-to-year decreases in consulting hire totals, and 19 saw drops in the three-year window from 2016 to 2018. The average decline in the latter span was 13%, with two schools recording losses of more than 30%: Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business (34.9%) and the University of Washington Foster School of Business (30.4%). Among the top 10, five schools were down over three years, with an average decline of 8.1% (Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business having the worst drop-off at -16.7%), two schools (Harvard Business School, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business) were flat, and the other three schools saw jumps averaging 9.6%, paced by Chicago Booth’s 12.7%.
Overall, of the 11 schools with consulting hire increases between 2016 and 2018, the average gain was 19.8%, led by a pair of Midwestern schools: the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management (56.3%) and Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business (32.2%). Meanwhile four schools in 35 were flat, and only incomplete information was available for two others.
THE KING OF CONSULTING
Which school is the king of consulting? That’s easy: the same school as last year and the year before: INSEAD.
The French school, located about an hour’s drive southeast of Paris, is a consulting factory, churning out more than a 1,000 MBAs every 10 months — of which nearly half are regularly consultants or consulting industry-bound. This year, even as it slipped 15.5% from 2017, INSEAD was the clear consulting leader once again, sending more than 40% of its most recent graduating class into the industry.
The U.S. has a few consulting factories of its own, though none reach the 40% threshold past which INSEAD holds sway. Emory University Goizueta Business School (38%) is the top U.S. consulting school, having gained more than 15% in the last three years, followed by Yale School of Management (34.9%), Columbia Business School (33.6%), and two southern schools, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, both at 32%. In all there are 13 schools at or above 30% of 2018 MBA grads who went into consulting.
In Europe, only London Business School came close to INSEAD, notching 37% of consulting hires in its 2018 graduating MBA class.
WHERE THE JOBS ARE
Where do all these consultants go to work? If you’re graduating from INSEAD, the answer is, practically wherever you want. But the likelihood is that you will find work at one of the MBB firms: McKinsey and Company, Bain & Co., or Boston Consulting Group. These three are responsible for an incredible 801 hires out of INSEAD over the last three years, including 131 INSEAD grads at McKinsey in 2018 alone. Other top destinations for INSEAD MBAs are PwC Strategy&, Accenture, and A.T. Kearney.
The table below shows totals but doesn’t fully capture the ups and downs of select other schools when it comes to the top consulting employers. Northwestern Kellogg, for instance, sent 21 MBAs to Deloitte in 2016, but only 4 in 2017. That number rebounded somewhat to 12 in 2018. The University of Michigan Ross School of Business sent 24 MBAs to PwC in 2016, then only 4 in 2017, but 14 in 2018. Output has been steadier elsewhere. A dozen MBA grads went to McKinsey from Duke Fuqua in 2016, a number ratcheted up to 36 in 2017 and 34 in 2018. Duke also sent 13 to BCG in 2016, upped the total to 23 in 2017, then scaled back to 16 in 2018; sent 24 to Deloitte in 2016, upped that to 40 in 2017, and scaled down to 23 in 2018; and sent seven to Accenture in 2016, which grew to 19 in 2017 and stayed fairly steady at 16 in 2018.
HOW THINGS CHANGE YEAR TO YEAR
It’s a different picture from 2017, certainly, when USC Marshall, UNC Kenan-Flagler, CMU Tepper, and Vanderbilt Owen all saw big plunges.
Last year, examining 33 schools’ employment reports, P&Q found that 13 schools saw a 2017 decline in the percentage of grads going into the consulting industry. After USC Marshall’s big drop-off was a big decline at CMU Tepper, from 28% to 20%, while Vanderbilt Owen fell seven points, from 25% to 18%. The biggest increase, meanwhile, was an 8-percentage-point jump, from 17% to 25%, at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Notably, both UC-Berkeley Haas (19% to 25%) and London Business School (35% to 41%) saw six-point jumps.
This year, much has changed: reversals, upheavals, and more. Of the 20 schools that saw a year-to-year decline in the percentage of grads going into the consulting industry, the biggest drop-offs were at Washington Foster, which fell 30.4% from 23% to 16%; Washington Olin, which fell 28.6% from 21% to 15%; Indiana Kelley, down 28% from 25% to 18%; Rice Jones, which had a 24.5% decline, from 20% to just over 15%; and UC-Berkeley Haas, which saw a 23.6% drop-off from 25% to 19.1%. Note that Haas and Kelley were mentioned in the previous paragraph as schools with big increases the year before.
The biggest two-year increase, as mentioned, was at USC Marshall, all but erasing the school’s massive defection the previous year. And Vanderbilt Owen, another school with a big consulting decline the year before, saw a 38.9% increase in 2018, climbing to 25% from 18% and erasing the seven-percentage-point decline from 2016. Same story at Minnesota Carlson, which added two-thirds to its consulting grad total in one year, climbing to 25% from 15%. Carlson also was the top gainer in the three-year window, at 56.3%.
See the next page for the complete chart of 35 schools and their 2018 consulting hires, plus salaries and more.