Fat paycheques, prestige, invaluable networks—it is easy to see why MBA students love management consulting. But which are the best firms to work for?
According to Vault’s annual ranking of the top dogs of the industry in North America, consultants McKinsey & Company are the best for the second year running. Bain & Company climbed from third to second place and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is third.
PwC and Accenture, meanwhile, creeped into the top-10 of the prestigious ranking, joining Deloitte, Oliver Wyman, Putnam Associates, EY-Parthenon and Bridgespan Group as the world’s very best consulting firms to work at.
The Vault Consulting 50 rankings are based on scores from some 17,000 consultancy firm employees, who were surveyed this year on a variety of factors including prestige, firm culture, compensation and work-life balance.
McKinsey came up trumps because of its well-known reputation for hiring outstanding talent but also for how it develops the people it hires. Employees were singing McKinsey’s praises, describing its mentorship and training schemes as ‘superb’ and celebrating its culture, which leads to the fast acquisition of skills and good career development.
Respondents said McKinsey was ‘the best place to develop yourself’ and had ‘the world’s greatest people’.
It was a good year for McKinsey all around, as the firm also topped Vault’s list of the best consulting firms for innovation, climbing from third place, which it had heled for the past three years. With that clean sweep, it’s easy to see why McKinsey has been rated as the most prestigious firm since 2007.
McKinsey’s new CEO recently told the Financial Times that it plans to hire fewer MBAs now than in previous years as part of a diversity push. But the firm is still the top recruiter at a range of leading business schools; INSEAD, London Business School and Columbia Business School included.
McKinsey is one of the Big Three advisory houses, along with Bain and BCG, but some less-well -known firms in Vault’s ranking did exceptionally well this year. Take for example GE Healthcare Partners, which came fifth in Vault’s list for innovative consultancy firms—its first foray into the top-25.
Also conspicuous are the so-called boutique firms that focus on specific sectors, such as technology and innovation. Vault ranks these separately, under the heading Best Boutique Firms. In that list, Putman Associates rose from number two to first place globally, with Insight Sourcing Group in second. Bridgespan Group moves up one place to third and Cornerstone Research is at five after having not being ranked for two years.
Some of the top droppers in this year’s list included ClearView Healthcare Partners (from third to 15th among the boutiques) and DayBlink Consulting, which fell from 10th last year to 21st.
Consulting has long been a hugely popular career path for MBAs with some business schools such as INEAD seeing about half of their cohort join advisory firms. Some 750,000 people applied for jobs at McKinsey last year and fewer than 1% were hired.
MBAs typically say they value the opportunity to consult a broad range of hugely influential and powerful companies in an array of industries, which is what a business school education trains them to do.
They are also paid extremely well: At INSEAD, consulting firms pay MBAs typically $109,500 annual median salaries, in addition to hefty signing bonuses of $25,000.
In addition, a job at one of the top firms can be good preparation for a career in any field including entrepreneurship. McKinsey for one is said to have over 350 alumni chief executives of businesses with more than $1 billion in revenue.