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Bain, BCG, And 48 More Prestigious Consulting Firms To Work For in 2017

Vault ranked the world's best advisory firms on prestige, pay and satisfaction

Thu Aug 25 2016

Management consulting has long been a hit with MBA students. The pay, promotion and prestige that come with an elite firm are alluring.

Vault, the career information site, has released its 2016-17 ranking of the best consulting firms to work for. And the results are not surprising.

Bain & Company and the Boston Consulting Group, among the best-known firms, took the top two spots, rising from no 2 and no 3 last year respectively. McKinsey & Company fell from no 1 to no 3. Although there’s but a whisker between them.

Vault surveyed 17,000 consultants and asked them to rank their firms on a scale of 1 to 10 in categories such as leadership and quality of life. They also rate the prestige of rival firms. Prestige (30%), employee satisfaction (15%) and compensation (15%) are given the greatest weight in the formula.

Bain edged into the top spot by beating all other firms in eight categories including leadership and for its results-driven culture, something Veronica Collins, a Wharton MBA and former case team leader at Bain, describes as “incredibly rewarding”.

“It’s the people that are the differentiating factor,” she says. “There are huge learning opportunities due to the collaborative nature of the firm.”

Bain also came top for employee satisfaction — the firm frequently lands the no 1 spot on national workplace rankings, including Glassdoor’s 2014 list of the Best Places To Work.

Meanwhile, BCG gained ground in 18 out of 21 quality of work categories, including internal mobility and promotion policies. It excelled in compensation — rising from a score of 8.955 last year to 9.432. Stephane Ponce, global consulting lead at INSEAD, the business school, notes that base salaries are high and “as there is a clear career path with growing responsibilities, salaries follow”.

The ranking comes as consultancy firms intensify a battle for the brightest talent using compensation and other perks, according to Sheryle Dirks, associate dean of careers at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, which are critical to both attracting and retaining new hires.  

Meanwhile, although it dropped to third McKinsey excelled in the prestige category. The firm achieved a 9.031 score, up from 9.019 last year and above BCG (8.673) and Bain (8.554). McKinsey also ranked higher than any other consultancy for exit opportunities, plus it notched the highest scores for consultants’ development — international opportunities and client interaction.

McKinsey’s brand name carries significant weight and, on a CV, can be appealing to a diverse range of recruiters, notes Chris Weber, associate careers director at UCLA Anderson School of Management. A few years back, more than 70 past and present CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were McKinsey alumni, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Credit Suisse chief Tidjane Thiam, who are both incidentally MBAs.

While McKinsey may add a wow-factor to your résumé, the firm fell in areas such as work-life balance, hours in the office, travel requirements and overall job satisfaction. Basically, McKinsey’s consultants say they are more over-worked than a year previously.

Outside of the so-called “Big Three”, there were strong performances in Vault’s ranking for the largest four accountancy firms. Deloitte and PwC retained their fourth and fifth spots, respectively. And KPMG, which wasn’t even ranked last year, came in at 13, owing largely to its prestige.

The “Big Four” auditors have pushed deeper into advisory, pitting them against the likes Bain and BCG. Their consulting businesses are growing at about 9% a year, faster than the overall consulting market, according to Source Global Research.

“Deloitte, EY, PwC and KPMG are all experiencing growth,” says Larry Verbiest, associate director for careers at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. As a result, the number of MBA job offers has been on an upward trajectory and he expects that trend to continue.

Also riding high in Vault’s ranking is A.T Kearney, which climbed two places to rank no 7. L.E.K Consulting climbed from no 13 last year to no 8. Oliver Wyman rose from sixth to no 5. And Accenture shot up six spots to no 14.

There’s bad news however for Strategy&, formed from a merger between PwC’s strategy business and Booz & Company. Two years ago, the last time it appeared on Vault’s survey as Booz & Co, it ranked no 5 for prestige. Last year, its first as Strategy&, it fell to no 19. This year, it’s at no 13.