In A Huge Year For Consulting MBAs, These Schools Were The Top Industry Feeders

INSEAD was once again the top consulting school by percentage of class in 2019, with more than half its MBA graduates going into the industry. But its grads aren’t the highest-paid. File photo

2019 was a banner year for MBA consulting jobs, and Dartmouth College was a prime example.

The Tuck School of Business, like most of its peers, had a down 2018 on the consulting front, losing nearly 10% of its industry output from the previous year. Of 35 business schools in the United States and Europe examined by Poets&Quants, 19 lost ground in consulting in 2018, ranging from the elite ranks of the M7 to middle-tier schools in the U.S. South and Midwest.

Last year they gained it all back — and then some. Reviewing the same 35 schools in an analysis of MBA employment that includes finance and tech industry job reports, part of P&Q‘s final look back at the start of another MBA school year, we found a complete reversal, with 27 schools seeing improvement in consulting placement. Last year that number was 12. Median starting salaries were also up big year-over-year: In 2018, the top 10 schools that report median salaries had a collective starting average of $148,340; a year later, that number ballooned to $161,600.

Dartmouth Tuck was one of the schools that helped make the 2018 slump firmly a thing of the past. Though by no means the leading consulting MBA program in the world — that honor once again goes to a 10-month program in the French countryside — the Tuck School rebounded in 2019 to jump more than 26%, up to 38% of the Class of 2019, fourth-highest overall and second-highest among U.S. schools. On the money front, Tuck made even bigger strides, jumping more than 12% to join a group of five schools that lead all with a median of $165,000. Heady company: the other four schools are Harvard, Wharton, MIT Sloan, and Stanford. Tuck was also among the leaders in median signing bonus at $30K. (See all placement and salary data on the following pages.)

2020’s numbers — whenever they become available — are likely to disrupt all of this, and in ways we can’t predict. But in 2019, at Dartmouth Tuck and in many other places, consulting was ascendant once more.


No matter the tribulations of the industry, for the last four years INSEAD has reigned atop the consulting mountain. In 2019, the French school put a stamp on its dominance by becoming the only school out of the leading 35 in the U.S. and Europe to send more than half its graduating class into consulting, a 23% jump from the previous year and a 4% climb over the previous three. INSEAD (51%) was followed by Emory University Goizueta Business School at 45%, London Business School (40%), Dartmouth Tuck (38%), and Yale School of Management (37.2%). 

INSEAD is not among the top schools for consulting salary, however. Quite the opposite. Tuck and the M7 foursome of Harvard, Wharton, MIT Sloan, and Stanford claim that mantle, followed by UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business at $162,500, and two schools at $160,000: Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management and University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Another five schools reported consulting salaries of more than $150K, and another 12 between $140K and $149K. In 2018, Stanford had the highest median base salary of all at just over $150K.

But INSEAD, king of consulting, was second-lowest in salary out of 35 schools, with a median of $107,300. (Another European school, IE Business School of Spain, was lowest of all with the only five-figure base salary: $87,600.) INSEAD was also one of only four schools to see an actual salary decline year-over-year, losing 5.4% from 2018. The others: London Business School ($113,228, -0.1%), Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business ($135K, -3.6%), and Washington University at St. Louis Olin Business School ($136K, -2.9%).

Two European schools that report mean totals rather than median led the signing bonus list: IESE of Spain at $63,501 and LBS at $47,625. Eight schools reported a median bonus of $30K. IESE is one of the biggest stories out of Europe, despite INSEAD being the only school with more than 50% of its 2019 class in consulting: The Barcelona-based school saw the largest jump in salary growth of any school, a 23.2% leap to an average of $111,370. The next closest year-over-year salary increase was at Berkeley Haas (14.4%), MIT Sloan (12.2%), Dartmouth Tuck (12.2%), Indiana University Kelley School of Business (11.1%), and IESE’s neighbor in Madrid, IE Business School (10.5%).


By far the biggest jump in consulting placement came at Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business, which grew its consulting class by 95.4%, nearly doubling to 29.5%. The University of Washington Foster School of Business was next with a 81.3% jump, to 29%, followed by the increases at the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business (38.9%, to 25%), Georgetown University McDonough School of Business (37.3%, to 35%), Notre Dame Mendoza (35.5%, to 20.6%), Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business (32%, to 30.5%), and UC-Berkeley Haas (31.4%, to 25.1%). Over a three-year window, the biggest increase in consulting came at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, which increased its class 72.2% to 31% in 2019. The Owen School was followed by CMU Tepper (52.5%), HEC Paris (50%, to 27%), Rice Jones (47.5%), NYU Stern School of Business (42.7%, to 37.1%), and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, which increased its consulting MBA class 41.7% since the Class of 2017, to 17%.

In all, 19% of schools saw a 10% or greater jump in consulting in one year. Twenty-seven schools were up, by a little or a lot, and five down. Three schools were flat. The biggest drops in placement were at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, which lost 36% of its consulting output in a year, down to 16%, USC Marshall School of Business (down 16.7% to 25%), and Harvard Business School, which declined 16% to 21% of the Class of 2019. HBS is down nearly 9% over the last three years. USC Marshall has seen wild fluctuations over that span, as has UC-Berkeley, Minnesota Carlson, Washington Foster, and others.

For the 27 schools up in 2019, the average hiring growth year-over-year was 24%; for the five schools down last year, the average decline was 14.9%. In the three-year window, for the 21 schools that are up, the average is 26.5%; for the 12 schools down, the average decline is 7.6%.

Who is doing all this hiring? Some schools publish the numbers of actual hires at top consulting firms (see above). Top employers are the MBB firms — McKinsey, Bain, and Boston Consulting Group — as well as Deloitte, Accenture, PwC Strategy&, and Kearney. In 2019, INSEAD sent 185 newly minted MBAs to work for McKinsey, raising the four-year total for its pipeline to an incredible 571 employees. INSEAD also sent 126 MBAs to BCG, for a total of 342 hires since 2016, and 105 MBAs to Bain, raising its MBB total across four years to an eye-popping 1,217. No other school really comes close to the scale of INSEAD’s consulting MBA graduation, though McKinsey last year also hired more than 40 MBAs from four other schools (that we know of): LBS, Duke University Fuqua School of Business, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Columbia Business School.

See MBA consulting placement, salary, bonus, and other data on pages 2 and 3.

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