Consulting Pay: What MBAs Earned In 2022

The good times can only last so long. B-school grads are seeing rising MBA pay in consulting, along with enticing perks, and increased opportunities. In consulting, organizations are still racking up record revenue.  On the horizon, a reckoning is coming – a disruption that may favor undergraduates and specialists and leave MBAs behind and that may well impact MBA pay in consulting.

That was one finding from the annual 2023 Management Consulting Salaries Overview from Management Consulted. Covering consulting pay for 15 years, Management Consulted describes itself as the “only originally sourced data available in the industry.” In essence, the firm collects pay and benefit data through its interview prep and resume prep services (along with verified website visitors and data furnished by consulting firms). In many cases, the data is derived from written job offers.

Most important: the data on MBA pay in consulting is current– derived from 2022 responses that aren’t averaged against past responses.

Management Consulted also stays close to the industry through services to consulting firms and higher education institutions, along with directories and research guides. Through their sources, Management Consulted can confidently say that the industry is healthy. In its overview of 2022 results, Management Consulted notes that MBA pay in consulting is soaring and travel is down. Couple that with increased investment in professional training and lucrative exit opportunities and you could say consulting is operating in a golden era. Problem is, the demand fueling consulting’s growth may also contribute to an industry correction.

Bain & Company. Bain photo

CHANGES ARE COMING TO MBA PAY IN CONSULTING

“This led to record revenue for many consulting firms and a continued wave of M&A activity, leading to double-digit industry growth,” Management Consulted explains. “However, this growth is not without potential peril. Future margins are at risk as firms continue to raise salaries without a commensurate rise in project rates. So far, margins have been protected by a decrease in operational costs (i.e., smaller office space, less travel). Still, there is only so much that firms can cut, and salaries keep rising.”

In its analysis, Management Consulted believes that the next wave of cuts will involve either shrinking project team sizes or opting to hire less expensive non-MBA talent. At the same time, Management Consulted anticipates the continuation of M&A consolidation that has enhanced the capabilities of the large players, citing examples such as Bain & Company acquiring Proxima to bolster its supply chain portfolio. The result, they explain, is “a fragmented market of boutique players” – who will struggle to compete against the in-house groups that enjoy greater resources from their parent firms. Even more, as Management Consulted observes, industry hiring is expected to catch up to client demand.

“As the last two years of frenetic hiring catches up with the demand for services, overall consultant utilization has plateaued…Decreased utilization and a loosening labor market will lead to less open roles and slower salary growth this year. Why? 2021 and 2022 saw an unprecedented wave of exits from the industry – these exits should stabilize as utilization comes back to historical norms. Combine this with the fact that consulting’s biggest competitors for talent – Wall Street and Silicon Valley – are conducting layoffs and slowing hiring because of the rising cost of capital, and these factors will put downward pressure on salary raises headed into the 2024 cycle. With more eager candidates than ever before chasing the prestige, pay, and relative stability of a consulting job, the consulting job market will be even more competitive this year.”

McKinsey Office

MBB IS KIND TO MBAs

It may be more competitive, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be any less lucrative. That’s why Management Consulted also provides firm-by-firm breakdowns of MBA pay in consulting. That starts with compensation – base pay and benefits – for MBA and PhD full-time new hires (who are traditionally paid the same). By the same token, Management Consulted does the same for new hires who hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees (who, again, are historically paid the same). In addition, you’ll find 2022 internship pay data and potential career earnings for both segments over time.

How do recent graduates fare when it comes to pay? Let’s start with the MBB…for MBAs. In terms of base pay, Bain and McKinsey both start at $192K, with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) trailing close behind at $190K. That’s a near 10% increase over last year, where MBB bases averaged $175K. For sign-on bonus, new MBA hires collect $30K at each firm. That reflects a long-time trend at these firms according to Management Consulted.

“At McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, management consulting salaries are relatively flat across all offices within a country. This has two important implications. First, there is often little room for salary negotiation unless you are an experienced hire. Second, you can increase your take-home income by choosing an office location where the cost of living is lower (e.g. choosing Atlanta over San Francisco).”

When it comes to perks, McKinsey and Bain stand out in several areas. As a first-year at Bain, new hires enjoy 25 days of PTO, compared to McKinsey (19) and BCG (15). McKinsey also offers a 50% reimbursement to second years according to Management Consulted, while Bain includes profit sharing. For MBAs and PhDs seeking to relocate, Bain and McKinsey reimburse anywhere from $8,000 to $16,000 in expenses, while BCG provides an interest-free loan. In terms of retirement, McKinsey matches 7.5% of base – or nearly double Bain’s contribution.

Consulting Meeting

A GOOD START FOR BACHELOR’S AND MASTER’S GRADS

You’ll see a similar pattern with compensation for the bachelor’s and master’s segment with the MBB. Bain and McKinsey pay $112K in base, followed closely by BCG at $110K. That’s roughly 58% of MBB and PhD starting pay. Each MBB firm also furnishes a $5K signing bonus. Beyond that, you’ll find major differences. McKinsey tops its peers in this segment with a $30K sign on bonus (compared to $25K at BCG and $22.5K at Bain). Bainies receive the most PTO at 20 days, in contrast to McKinsey (19) and BCG (15). In a reversal of the MBA segment, McKinsey pays more than Bain for relocation for new hires in the bachelor’s and master’s set, while Bain is the only MBB firm offering a housing allowance. In terms of retirement, McKinsey deposits 7.5% of pay into a 401K, while BCG pledges $4,400.

You’ll also find standouts beyond the MBB for the bachelor’s and master’s degree holders who entered consulting in 2022. Deloitte and Strategy& hires generally start around $100K. At Alvarez & Marsal, new hires can make up to $129K in base and up to $100K in bonus. Between base and bonus, EY Parthenon hires collect $122K to start. Cornerstone Research, Kearney, and Avencore sign their first-years to $15,000 bonuses, better than either Deloitte or Accenture. In terms of vacation, Arthur D. Little provides unlimited time off. KPMG starts at 30 vacation days, with 27 days being the norm at CEL Management Consultants. Another four firms offer 25 days of PTO.

Those aren’t the only perks for consultants who haven’t yet pursued an MBA or PhD. At Cornerstone Research, they handle 100% of moving expenses, including broker fees and even lodging (for four days). Kearney covers profit sharing up to $8,500, with Accenture’s package includes a 15% discount on stock. At Kepler Associates, they match 8% of base pay, while Investor Group Services promises that its hires will enjoy a $15K rise in base after the first year.

Next Page: Internship Pay and Compensation Over 10 Years

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