Partner Sites

Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

Why Consulting? | Reasons Why Management Consulting Is A Top Career Path

Why consulting? It's a question that recruiters in the industry regularly ask, your motivations should be clear if you aim to become a management consultant. So, here’s why it’s a top career path

Thu May 23 2024

Each year, business school grads flock to management consulting firms in their droves, seeking out illustrious careers that involve working with prestigious clients and earning sky-high salaries. 

Consulting has long been the most popular industry for business school students, while interest in areas such as tech and finance can vary among different generations. 

One of the key questions aspiring consultants are asked by hiring managers and recruiters during admission to top firms is: Why consulting? 

It’s a tricky question that requires a well thought out answer. While there’s an allure associated with the big names and financial rewards on offer, consulting isn’t a career for the fainthearted—it involves high pressure and a demanding lifestyle. 

However there are many reasons why consulting is a top career path for b-school grads. So, if you’re considering embarking on a career in management consulting, it’s a good idea to inform yourself of exactly what that entails, so you know how to answer that all-important question. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Considering A Career In Consulting? 


Download Our BusinessBecause Consulting Guide

What is management consulting? 

Across many different industries, consultants are hired for projects by third party companies that require specialist skills and expertise to solve an issue. Management consulting focuses on applying strategy and management expertise to improve a business’s performance and maximize efficiency. 

Each project sees a team of management consultants gather and analyze information to identify a problem, before then coming up with a solution. Finally, it’s the job of management consultants to implement their solutions for clients.  

Each management consultant’s tasks vary depending on where they are in a project. Early stages involve crunching numbers and speaking with clients, latter stages are about analyzing their information and coming up with ideas. 

Some of the largest employers of management consultants include the Big Four accounting and professional services firms—PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG—each of which has a specialist consulting arm. 

Arguably the most prestigious companies to work for in the industry are the Big Three management consulting firms—McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG)—also known as the MBB. 

Whether you go to work for a Big Four or a Big Three firm (confusing, right?), you’ll find yourself in a position where you’ll have to provide expertise to many of the world’s largest companies, as well as governments and other influential institutions.  

Why consulting: The pros 

High salaries play a large part in the appeal of management consulting. Graduates from MBAs or business master’s who go into consulting can expect to earn base salaries above $150k, with signing and performance bonuses to boot. 

Land a role with the MBB firms as an MBA graduate and your total compensation package could be as high as $250k in your first year. A consulting arm of the Big Four, such as Deloitte Consulting, will also pay salaries and bonuses that amount to more than $200k. 

Another key benefit is that a career focused on project work allows you to employ a diverse skill set across ever-changing tasks. Once a project is complete, you’ll quickly move onto the next one, often with a new client and possibly even in a new industry. 

“Each project is unique, you will have a unique team composition and unique tasks. They might sound familiar to what you've done before, but you're solving a unique problem,” explains Kseniia Kastusik, senior associate at Strategy&—a consulting arm of PwC—in Dubai. 

Working with different clients means you’ll build up your expertise quickly, and consultancies typically offer extensive training opportunities to help you upskill. You’ll likely also have opportunities to travel as you work closely with client teams. 

Management consulting offers strong career progression opportunities. While there can be variation between firms, consultancies typically hire MBA grads at associate level and business master’s grads a step below as business analysts. 

From the consultant position, the next step is to become a manager or project leader, often within three years. Sometime after that you can become a principal, before eventually becoming a partner. 

Higher ranks have different requirements and provide the opportunity to develop a broader skill set. While you may begin your career crunching numbers, later on you’re more likely to be using your interpersonal skills to bring in clients. 

READ: What Does A Management Consultant Do?


Why consulting: The cons  

There are, of course, some things to bear in mind before you jump straight into a career in management consulting. 

The high salaries are offered to match the demands of the job. Work-life balance in consulting can be a challenge: it’s not uncommon to work regular 60+ hour weeks. 

The pressure to find solutions can also be frustrating when faced with difficult issues. Working with the world’s largest companies under time constraints will also place you in a high stakes environment. 

Competition for places in the industry can be extreme, particularly within top management consulting firms. Land a place within the MBB or at another prestigious firm such as EY Parthenon and you will enter a high-flying, potentially fierce environment.  

“You deal with different strong personalities, because I think it takes one to break into this industry,” says Kseniia. 

 The intensity of the industry also means that for some people consulting is a short-term career move. It’s common to see business school grads spend two or three years with a top consulting firm before moving into another industry.   

The good news is that high demand for professionals with consulting experience makes this an entirely possible, well trodden career path. 

READ: 7 Management Consultant Skills That Are Essential In The Industry



Why consulting: What skills will you learn? 

The nature of management consulting makes it a highly challenging career path, however it can also be very rewarding in terms of your personal and professional growth. 

With a large focus on identifying problems and finding solutions, analytical and creative skills are essential in the industry.  

“It’s solving problems every day, and you just do it in different ways, that's what makes it exciting for me,” says Kseniia. “That would be a lot of creative work. And by creative, I mean problem solving.” 

It’s also necessary to learn quickly to become an expert on a subject area and employ an ability to adapt as you move between projects. 

 “It's super important when you start a project that you get up to speed quickly,” explains Sarah Schilling, project leader at BCG. “In the beginning, one of the key challenges is getting up to speed with a topic, especially if you’re more junior.” 

It’s no surprise, then, that consultancies favor business school grads because they can use their broad business acumen to solve cross sector issues.

You also need a wealth of soft skills. Management consultants hold meetings, present strategies, and interact with clients on a regular basis. Being able to communicate effectively is key to a successful working relationship. 

“You need a lot of soft skills in consulting, because you work with clients, you work with different people, you don't have a fixed team, you have a new team every project, so you need to be good with people,” says Kseniia.

Of course, in today’s business world, many companies experience issues related to similar themes such as sustainability and digitalization. Increasingly consultants must be well versed in these areas in order to offer their expertise effectively. 

“Digitization is changing the consulting industry, and therefore technology and digital skills are more necessary at McKinsey and with our clients,” explains Sydney Streets, senior manager of recruiting at the firm. 

“Not everyone is a tech-focused consultant, of course, but we see more candidates who have coding, programming and other tech skills."

READ: How To Get Hired By The Big Three Consulting Firms


How to get hired as a management consultant

Landing a job with a top management consulting firm is a huge task. By now it should be clear: this is a highly desirable, competitive industry. 

However, demonstrating that you have the necessary qualities to excel in the industry can go a long way in impressing recruiters and hiring managers. 

For example, at BCG, a key focus during recruitment is whether candidates have a growth mindset. The firm looks for candidates who are curious, with an appetite to learn and embrace challenges. Landing a place at BCG will require you to show that you’re driven by outcomes and the impact your work can have. 

“[Show] how you think about the impact we can make for our clients, the impact we can make for the world, while being really passionate about driving impact and outcomes,” says Amber Grewal, BCG’s chief talent officer. 

Recruiters aren’t looking for candidates who they’re going to have to be patient with. At the top firms, where the demands placed on new recruits are at their highest, hiring managers want to find candidates who can hit the ground running. 

“We're looking for people who have demonstrated analytic experience, people that can get down the learning curve very quickly, people that get excited about problem solving, and get excited about making a difference,” says Keith Bevans, head of global consultant recruiting at Bain. 

“I like to say, if you're a good athlete, we can teach you the sport. Right? And so what we're looking for in a lot of ways is good athletes.”

Many of the largest firms regularly hire from top business schools each year. McKinsey, for example, hired 124 MBA grads from INSEAD and 60 from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 2023. While these top business schools offer strong links and a tried and tested route in, the ability to succeed in the job is what’s most important. 

“We’re excited to hire stellar talent to all of our global offices. Across our campus recruiting efforts, we’re focused on ensuring we’re reaching and recruiting exceptional talent no matter their school or prior experiences,” says Sydney from McKinsey. 

For more info about what it's like to work in consulting, the perks and salaries you could gain, and tips on how to successfully become a management consultant, download our BusinessBecause Consulting Guide