The worst kept secret among MBAs charting new careers is how many want to work for one of the three top global consulting firms. Every year, thousands upon thousands of MBA students interview with McKinsey, Bain and the Boston Consulting Group. The acronym MBB is nearly as popular as MBA.
The reason? It’s partly MBB’s extraordinary demand for MBA grads. Bain & Co. alone expects to hire roughly 700 MBAs this year. At the M7 schools, MBB offers every year are handed out to between 60 and 100 students. But the real reason why so many MBAs are keen to work at McKinsey, Bain and BCG is mainly the pay. Sure, consulting jobs can be highly rewarding, providing exposure to a wide range of industries and business challenges. But ultimately just look at the eye-popping starting pay packages at any of the major consulting firms and you’ll quickly realize how lucrative a consulting gig post-MBA might be.
The standard base salary for an MBB job is now a breathtaking $165,000 to start, and that doesn’t include signing bonuses of $30,000 to $35,000 just to say “yes” to an offer. Annual performance bonuses average another $40,000 a year. Even when you include the non-MBB offers, the medians are extraordinary.
THE MBA PAY AT MCKINSEY, BAIN & BCG IS EXTRAORDINARY
At Stanford Graduate School of Business, the median first-year compensation package for newly minted MBAs who opted for consulting totaled $225,000. It’s the same story at Harvard, Wharton, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg and other top schools because MBB’s offer is standard across all the schools from which it actively recruits. That goes a long way toward paying down any debut you may have accumulated to get the degree in the first place.
But those numbers are just the start. While most people get single-digit raises every year, MBA hires by MBB can expect to see salary and bonus packages rise by 10% to 20% annually, according to surveys by ManagementConsulted. And when these young professionals win a promotion, typically every two to three years, they also get another salary bump.
A mere two to three years out of business school, an MBA who moves up to manager at an MBB firm can expect to earn about $200-to-$220,000 in base pay, $35K to $55K more than the original offer, and another $90,000 to $130,000 in bonuses, well above the first-year combined signing and performance awards of $70K.
AT MBB, THE ANNUAL BONUS FOR A SENIOR PARTNER CAN BE HALF A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR
If you can accommodate the job’s formidable demands and get to the level of either principal or partner, the compensation obviously gets even more lucrative. MBB principals earn between $250,000 and $320,000 a year. MBB partners, about six to eight years out of business school, earn between $350,000. A senior partner can take home $450,000 to $650,000 annually, with bonuses approaching and sometimes exceeding half a million dollars a year.
The day-to-day job for a new MBA hire is pretty much the same across all three firms, except for differences in culture and travel. New MBAs work on assignments in teams led by partners who lead managers who then lead the consultants. An MBA would typically conduct client and expert interviews, lead workshops, build models, made slides, and prepared presentations.
MBA students get a real taste for this future when they intern at one of the MBB firms. At Bain and McKinsey, for example, MBA interns receive $32,000 for their summer efforts, just a shade above the Boston Consulting Group ($31,730), according to the ManagementConsulted. One surprise: EY Parthenon topped all three at $33,000. However, a few firms applied a different pay strategy to recruit talented interns. At KPMG, MBA interns are paid $66 an hour – which rockets to $99 an hour for overtime. While Accenture Strategy pays $30,000 to MBA interns, it adds a $5,000 relocation reimbursement and a tuition reimbursement of up to $80,000 to returning interns.
WHAT IT TAKES TO GET AN INTERNSHIP AND THEN AN OFFER FROM MBB
While you may be salivating over these numbers, it’s important to know that MBB consulting isn’t for anyone–and it’s not all that easy to get one of these jobs. These firms expect your GMAT score to be above 700 and look for certain credentials on your resume. Your personal brand is crucial. As one newly hired MBA puts it, “The undergrad you went to, the awards you got, the internships you worked in, and your employment history all factor into your overall ‘brand image.’ I know you can’t change most of these things, but if you can find a way to “prestige-ify” your resume a little bit it’ll definitely help. For example, don’t just list an award or scholarship, but give some numbers (were you the only one out of 300 applicants to get it? Did the merit-based scholarship cover 90% of your tuition?) These are things that they look at and care about.”
To have a chance at an MBB job, moreover, you need to focus on the core consulting skills required in the job: t’s really important to focus on the “core consulting skills” (forgive the semi-jargon). These are, in some combination or another: quant know-how building intricate models, having a STEM major, a high GMAT math score, strong communication skills, both written and verbal, teamwork, and leadership, showing that you have successfully led diverse groups of people in the past.
It’s a lot, but so are the rewards at the end of the day. No wonder, so many sign up to interview with MBB and so many lust after an offer from one of these three firms.