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How An MBA Can Help You Launch a Consulting Career!

Want a career in consulting? It is one of the highest-earning career paths you can take. Three MBAs from MBS and HEC Paris explain how an MBA can help you land a job with a top firm like PwC!

Fri Sep 6 2013

Consulting is a fast-paced, high-earning career path that is immensely popular in the MBA world. It is one of the few industries where a degree is pretty much essential for advancement. A b-school graduate staple, consulting careers are the traditional pathway that MBAs flock towards, and its a role that gives you access to many different industries.
MBAs are turning towards the consulting road in higher numbers than ever. And recruiters are gobbling up b-school graduates from some of the world’s top MBA programs. 
The demand and supply for b-school graduates at top consulting firms is aggressive, and so too is the interview process: it is no easy feat landing a job with one of the Top Four consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company or PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Most MBAs will face a barrage of written tests, face-to-face interviews with senior managers and case studies that challenge not just their business skills, but their intelligence, analytical ability and interpersonal skills. 
It is a highly intense and challenging process. 
But once through and at the other side, successful candidates are able to reap the benefits of an industry with lucrative pay packets. This Fall, undergraduates fresh out of university can expect a starting, base salary at a top consulting firm as high as $75,000.The lowest an undergraduate, who is in their first year post-study, can expect to receive at one of the leading consulting firms is $60,000, at KPMG, according to a study conducted by Management Consulted. 
For an MBA graduate, salaries at Accenture, Bain & Company and McKinsey can jump to a staggering $135,000. At Accenture, that wage includes a signing-bonus of up to $35,000 and a performance bonus of up to $43,500. 
MBA courses at top business schools such as the London Business School, ranked 4th in the world by the Financial Times, cost up to 57,500 GBP. Without a doubt, the consulting industry, led by prestige global brands such as Deloitte Consulting, offers some of the highest starting salaries and bonuses for MBA graduates to get a return on their educational investment. 
At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, nearly four out of ten MBA graduates (39 per cent) accepted jobs in the consulting industry last year. Mckinsey & Company snapped up 54 MBAs from that cohort alone. 
All of the Big Four accounting firms that offer consulting - PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG – offer graduate opportunities. Ernst & Young, that has over 160,000 employees, are visiting five different university campuses in October this year, including the prestigious University of Cambridge and St Andrews in the UK. 
But is an MBA essential to get a top consulting job? 
We spoke to three current MBAs at HEC Paris and Manchester Business School, the latter a university renowned for its consultancy links, to find out how their business Masters’ helped them land jobs and further their consulting careers. 
Victor Anzaldo has over a decade of experience in sales and consulting and has worked at SAP AG and Cisco Systems Ltd. Originally from Mexico; he decided to study an MBA at Manchester to get closer to the European market.
Since graduating from the MBA program in 2011, he landed a job as a Senior Consultant at Ernst & Young LLP, thanks to the alumni network at MBS. He said that his MBA “absolutely” helped him get ahead in consulting. “I’m convinced that the network that b-school provided me with was incredibly useful in getting the job,” he said.
“My previous internship, with Cisco Systems, was because of the network with Manchester. So, in both cases the network with the business school and the alumni was a very strong point to get from the school to the real world.”
Victor thinks that MBAs go into consulting because of the exposure you get to so many different industries: “Everyone could have different reasons but for me, it was to get exposure and to leverage that exposure back to other industries, and a career in consulting will help other companies be successful."
He thinks that the interview process was “very structured” and he went through the rigors of an initial phone-screening, a case interview with Ernst & Young managers and then a final interview with one of the company’s partners. But, surprisingly, he doesn’t think an MBA is “essential” for a consulting career. “I wouldn’t say so because I believe not all consultants have MBAs. But I strongly believe that an MBA could be an edge to progress faster or to have added value in your CV, or if you decide to go back to industry, it could be an extremely good combination,” he added. 
Varun Verdhan was a Consultant at top firm PricewaterhouseCoopers for two years and in 2011, he was promoted to Senior Consultant - before even beginning his MBA program! He left a successful position to further his career and graduated from MBS in June this year. He said the interview process was “challenging” and that his MBA will “definitely” help get ahead. “I studied an MBA because I was consulting clients which were at the senior business levels,” he said. 
“So, when doing consultancy projects, I always used to feel I had a small gap which could be filled with more business knowledge. I wanted to make my profile much more global and I saw an MBA as an opportunity to grow and expand my skills.”
After leaving PwC, Varun was able to keep abreast with his consultancy skills with three separate consulting projects at MBS. He says that MBAs go into consulting for the “fast-paced” exposure to different industries. “Consulting is a fast-paced job and gives you exposure to so many different industries,” he said. “But now, after my MBA, I see the consulting workplace as an opportunity; a place where I will be meeting the finest, smartest people whom I can learn from.
“The numbers of opportunities in consulting increases exponentially after you study an MBA, and Manchester has a great consulting ethos.”
Nick Hwang is studying on the part-time MBA program at HEC Paris. He has over six years’ experience as an engineer but wanted to switch career paths and get into consulting. He worked on an MBA consulting project with the Gates Foundation, in collaboration with Wharton, the ivy-league b-school, and was one of the vice presidents of the HEC MBA Consulting Club for six months. 
He says his MBA has “definitely” helped him in starting a consulting career. “The consulting and strategy part of HEC is strong and the Consulting Club is one of the strongest in the school,” he said. 
“HEC holds a consulting forum each year where we gather alumni working in the top consulting firms such as Bain and McKinsey.. and it gave me a taste of the consulting world.
"I had the desire to open up and be able to look into different industries. A consulting career gives me a very good anchor to be able to switch careers in a short space of time. I want to get into one of the top consulting companies.” 
If you want to launch a consulting career, an MBA isn’t essential, but it gives you a massive boost in the employment world. Not only will you have a higher starting salary, but your alumni network and careers team will provide you with a gateway into one of the most popular, fast-paced and high-earning b-school graduate industries in the world.