Base salaries for MBA grads at top consulting firms are nearing $200K in 2023

BY Sydney LakeJanuary 20, 2023, 2:20 PM
Commuters enter a subway station in New York, as seen in December 2022. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon—Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The intense competition for MBA talent has been one factor driving higher salaries for those grads who go into consulting careers. And top consulting firms aren’t just fighting with each other to hire the best and brightest—they’re also trying to elbow out finance companies, banks, and Big Tech

Between 2022 and 2023 figures, there’s been roughly a 10% increase in starting MBA base salaries among top consulting firms, says Namaan Mian, chief operating officer of Management Consulted, a company that provides data and prep materials for hiring in the industry. For example, Boston Consulting Group boosted its base salaries to $190,000 from $175,000, while Bain & Co. and McKinsey & Co. is now at $192,000 up from $175,000 previously. Salary figures refer to the year in which start dates occur.

“Three main factors led to the salary increase,” Mian tells Fortune. “Persistent inflation, retention challenges due to high pandemic-era consultant utilization, and the war for talent that played out earlier in the year between consulting, banking, and tech.”

Bonus structures have also changed at some top consulting firms. Bain, AlixPartners, and Analysis Group all lifted their performance bonus caps, which limits firm risk by capping the increase of fixed-cost salaries while also incentivizing top performers to join the firm, Mian explains.

“The type of perks a firm offers reveals an interesting insight into the type of candidate it hopes to attract, its work culture, and its own perception of its market position,” he adds.

MBA programs that feed into top consulting firms

Many of the top business schools, as ranked by Fortune, are strong feeders for consulting firms like BCG, Bain, and McKinsey. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has long been a school that sees many of its graduates take consulting jobs after graduation. In fact, nearly 150 students of the roughly 1,000 Kellogg graduates in 2022 landed jobs with those companies, also known as the MBB firms.

“Our coursework prepares students for these roles—including hands-on courses in which students act as consultants on projects for real companies,” Liza Kirkpatrick, assistant dean of the Career Management Center at Kellogg, wrote in a blog post about the 2022 employment report results.   

Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business had a huge year for its consulting recruits: about 50% of students who were looking for a job post-graduation landed one in consulting. While Tuck doesn’t provide a breakdown of employers, BCG, Bain, and McKinsey frequently hire their MBA graduates. Stephen Pidgeon, the executive director of Tuck’s career services, gets a lot of the credit for the school’s success with consulting recruiting, because he’s a former McKinsey & Co. consultant and has written several books on case interviewing, a pillar of most consulting job interviews.

“The Tuck experience is purposely designed to work on team and leadership skills, and so Tuck graduates skew very highly on [emotional intelligence], which is incredibly valuable in consulting,” Pidgeon previously told Fortune

2024 MBA consulting salary predictions

While 2023 will be a big year for consulting recruits, Mian anticipates a “cooling in the war for talent between consulting, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley.” That’s largely due to the decline in activity surrounding initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions, which has led to layoffs at big banks, he says. 

Plus, incoming analyst cohorts—the groups of MBA students that consulting firms hire—will be smaller in the upcoming year, Mian explains. All in all, these factors could indicate no salary gains for MBA grads in 2024.

“Furthermore, a rising interest rate environment has significantly increased the cost of capital in Silicon Valley, which has led to belt tightening across Big Tech,” he says. “In summary, the risk of high fixed-cost salaries increased in finance and tech, which leads me to believe that salary growth for entry-level consultants will slow this upcoming year.”

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