New MBA grads at McKinsey, BCG, Bain can now land base salaries of nearly $200K

BY Sydney LakeAugust 31, 2022, 1:33 PM
A person rides an escalator in front of the Empire State Building at the new entrance to Penn Station and the Moynihan Train Hall, as seen in January 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

MBA graduates already make 42% more than working professionals with just a bachelor’s degree. The median base salary for MBA graduates is $115,000, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, but some alumni are earning even more money in their first roles. MBA grads who go on to work at the top three consulting firms—McKinsey & Co., Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Co.—will now bring home starting base salaries of $190,000 to $192,000.

Starting salaries for MBA graduates going into consulting have gone up, especially during the past few years, as the competition for talent continues to rise. In 2022, starting base salaries for new MBA grads at the three firms was $175,000. Going into 2023, however, Bain and McKinsey will offer $192,000 base salaries and BCG will offer $190,000.

“The fiercest competition in the labor market is for ‘top talent,’ and consulting firms are competing for this top talent not just between themselves, but also more broadly versus Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and traditional corporate America,” Namaan Mian, chief operating officer of Management Consulted, tells Fortune. 

The three firms don’t publicly disclose their pay scales, but Bain and McKinsey confirmed the reported salary increases to Fortune. BCG didn’t respond to requests for confirmation, but The Financial Times and Management Consulted reported that BCG will roll out its updated compensation structure this week.

“What we’ve seen in the last several years is a really hot job market where MBA graduates in particular have a lot of really great career opportunities available to them—whether that’s in professional services, or industry, or tech or startups. They have more options than they’ve ever had, and they’re well paying options,” Keith Bevans, a partner in Bain’s Chicago office, tells Fortune. “We consider our value proposition as an important part of what it means to be—and stay—the best place to work. Comp is one part of the value proposition.”

MBA hires in consulting are making well beyond their $190,000 base salaries, however. Performance bonuses can amount to an additional $50,000 and signing bonuses are about $30,000. That means that immediately after graduating from an MBA program, these workers are landing $270,000 pay packages. 

Competition for consultants

For the past couple of decades, Bain has seen double-digit growth each year, Bevans explains, and in particular, the last year was the strongest the company has seen. Since the onset of COVID-19, companies have exhibited more of a need for consulting services to work on challenges presented by the pandemic. The company growth, in turn, fuels the need for more case teams, which means more hires.

“Pandemic after-effects led to an outsized demand for consulting services—and firms were already understaffed to begin with,” Mian says. “The only constraint on the services they can deliver is staffing, so firms have had to hire aggressively to maintain growth.”

These three peer firms are competing for the same group of highly valued talent largely from the same business schools, Juan Pablo Gonzalez, a senior client partner with Korn Ferry, a management consulting and recruiting firm, tells Fortune. 

“This means that most grads have multiple opportunities and compare one against the other,” he says. “Add to this that employers from other labor markets—tech, private equity, financial services—want the same talent and the result is a hyper competitive market.”

Beyond the paycheck

For an industry known for relatively high turnover rates, major consultancies aren’t just raising starting base salaries in hopes of finding and retaining top talent. These companies are also working to expand bonus and profit-sharing pools, offer more paid time off and parental leave, and adopt a hybrid working model that doesn’t force consultants to be on clients sites as much as was historically required, Mian says.

Other ways companies can work on attracting and retaining strong consulting talent is investing in learning and development, creating a sense of purpose for new employees, and embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, Gonzalez adds. McKinsey is also focusing more on intangible work benefits to find and keep top talent.

“While compensation remains important, our research shows that to attract, retain, and develop talented colleagues, considerations such as clear career growth opportunities, flexibility and purpose matter just as much,” a McKinsey spokesperson tells Fortune. “That is what we’re focused on as we continue to recruit a broad range of talent and expertise to our firm.”

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s degree programs in data science (in-person and online), nursingcomputer sciencecybersecuritypsychologypublic health, and business analytics, as well as the doctorate in education programs MBA programs (part-timeexecutivefull-time, and online).