Top Feeder Schools To The Consulting Industry

2019 was a banner year for consulting placement at the top business schools in the United States and Europe. What effect did coronavirus have on the industry boom?

Answer: It seems to have slowed, but certainly couldn’t stop, the interest MBAs have for the industry. And while the overall salary for all schools that report a ,median  declined slightly, the rise in salaries and signing bonuses for grads from the top schools continued apace — with more schools joining that select group.

As B-schools begin to release employment reports for the Class of 2021, Poets&Quants takes a last look back at the data from the previous year, just as we did for the finance and tech industries. And what a year it was. More schools have joined the elite club of top-paid consulting graduates. More have joined the upper tier of elite signing bonuses. And placement rates, while evening out at the top, are as strong as ever across the 35 schools we have examined over the years.

TUCK: CONSULTING POWERHOUSE

Three schools illustrate the ongoing consulting boom: Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, and Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business, all of which have seen 40% or greater increase in consulting placement since 2018. Rice leads all schools with 62% growth in consulting hires out of its full-time MBA program; Tepper, with 43% growth in that span, is among a dozen schools that placed at least one-third of their Class of 2020 in the industry. But Dartmouth, swimming in more rarefied waters as an Ivy League, top-10 school, offers the inarguably case of the rise of a consulting powerhouse.

The Tuck School began its impressive climb into consulting dominance in earnest in 2019, when its placement rate jumped more than 26%, 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 led all with a median of $165,000. Tuck was also among the leaders in median signing bonus at $30K that year.

Then, in 2020, Tuck made it official and unmistakable, with 42% of the class moving into the industry — second only to INSEAD’s 48% — again at a median of $165K and signing bonus of $30K, despite headwinds attributable to the coronavirus pandemic that slowed industry growth in discernible ways.

SOME SIGNS OF THE PANDEMIC'S IMPACT

Tuck is one of four schools with 40% or more placement in consulting in 2020, up from three schools in 2019. All are led, for the fifth year in a row, by a certain 10-month program whose main campus lies in the French countryside. The University of Virginia Darden School of Business, at 41%, is third, up from 35.5% in 2019; and London Business School is fourth at 40%, flat from the previous year. (See all placement and salary data on the following pages.)

In 2019, 27 schools saw improvement in consulting placement from the previous year; in 2018 that number was 12. In 2020, the number of schools that saw year-over-year placement improvement shrank once more, to 15. Among the notable drop-offs: NYU Stern School of Business fell from 37.1% to 31.7%, a 14.6% decline; the University of Washington Foster School of Business slipped 10 points, from 29% to 19%, or 34.5%; and Emory University Goizueta Business School, No. 2 overall in consulting placement in 2019, dropped from 45% to 34%, a drop-off of more than 24%.

Twenty schools reported 30% or more MBAs hired into consulting by function in 2019; in 2020, that number stayed exactly the same.

ALL BUT TWO SCHOOLS REPORT CONSULTING SALARY GROWTH OVER 3 YEARS

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.

Another sign of the pandemic's impact: While the number of schools reporting a $165K median doubled from five to 10, with another nine schools at $160K, the average consulting industry salary for the 26 schools that report median totals was $153,525, down 4% from the 2019 average of $159,854 across 25 schools. All the M7 schools reported as median starting salary of $165K for consulting grads, with the exception of Columbia Business School (at $160K).

The number of schools reporting a median signing bonus of $30K, meanwhile, grew from eight to 10. (Another four schools reported an approximate average bonus.)

Over the last three years, only two schools lost ground in median starting salary: Washington University Olin Business School, which saw its number shrink from $140K to $125K in 2020; and Notre Dame University Mendoza College of Business, which declined from $140K to $130K.

See the next pages for complete data breakdowns on consulting placement and salary at 35 of the top business schools in the U.S. and Europe. 

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