One of the reasons why many people want to work in management consulting is that the top firms offer very attractive compensation and benefits.
In this article, we lift the lid on the typical salaries and total compensation that consultants can expect at McKinsey, BCG and Bain (MBB) in the US, at every level from Graduate to Partner. We also consider whether there is scope to negotiate on compensation, and explore the additional benefits available to consultants. Finally, we explore how the salaries in management consulting compare to those typically offered in other top professions, including investment banking.
Compensation at McKinsey, BCG and Bain
MBB consulting salaries from Graduate to Associate Partner
At McKinsey, BCG and Bain, compensation consists of an annual salary and performance bonus. For each role from Graduate to Associate Partner, the firms all provide very similar total compensation. Base salaries are typically within 5% of one another.
Average compensation by role at McKinsey, BCG and Bain in the US in 2023
Figures provided are for an average performer’s first year in each role.
|Consultant (i.e. MBA graduate)
(*) Associate Partner includes BCG’s ‘Principal’ and ‘Partner’ levels
In addition to base salaries, the table above shows the bonus awarded to an average performer at each level. Bonuses are typically based on individual performance unless the consultant has been at the firm for under a year, in which case a standard amount is awarded.
In general, top-performing consultants can receive up to twice the bonus of an average performer. However, because junior consultants only receive a small portion of their compensation through their end-of-year bonus, the difference between the remunerations of top and bottom performers is relatively limited.
Another way that top-performing consultants can maximize their compensation is through accelerated promotion to the next level. Although policies vary among firms and offices, the top-3 consulting firms are all meritocratic workplaces, where promotions are based on the demonstration of a consultant’s skills, rather than on their tenure.
Compensation at Partner level
At McKinsey and Bain, compensation for Partners starts at close to $1,000,000. The Partner role is accessible to new graduates with 9-11 years tenure, and to MBA hires with 6-8 years tenure. At the Senior Partner level, compensation can increase to multiple millions of dollars.
However at BCG, the position of ‘Partner’ comes with a compensation that’s only 20% higher than that of ‘Principal’, the previous level. BCG consultants are only compensated in line with the Partner level at McKinsey and Bain when they are promoted to the position of ‘Managing Director and Partner’, two years later. The position of ‘Partner’ at BCG is therefore more comparable to the position of ‘Associate Partner’ at both McKinsey and Bain.
MBA hires and some experienced professional hires receive a sign-on bonus
McKinsey, BCG and Bain typically offer MBA hires a sign-on bonus of $30,000, which can be paid as a tax-deductible tuition reimbursement.
Under certain circumstances, the firms may also offer a sign-on bonus to experienced professional hires at Manager level and above.
Room for negotiation is limited and only available to some experienced professionals
The prospect of salary negotiation is highly unlikely for Graduate and Consultant (MBA) roles, which represent the majority of hiring at McKinsey, BCG and Bain. Each office has a set base salary for each role, and applies it consistently.
There is only room for negotiation for certain experienced hires who enter the firms at Manager level or above. Top consulting firms typically make extra efforts to attract these hires, who can be hard to find and may also bring more business through their ability to manage consulting projects, their technical expertise or their existing client relationships. Such candidates are in a strong position to negotiate, particularly if they have to forgo an end-of-year bonus or accept a lower base salary as a result of the move.
However, even in this scenario, firms are normally unable to diverge from the standard base salary that they would usually offer at a given entry point. They might instead offset any gap in the individual’s compensation through a sign-on bonus. Alternatively, firms might bring the candidate in at a more senior role, which would come with a higher base salary. This would, of course, need to be weighed up against the individual’s ability to perform and be successful in that role.
All MBB consultants receive world-class benefits
The benefits included in the compensation packages at McKinsey, BCG and Bain are among some of the most generous to be found anywhere in the world. Here’s an overview of the benefits that the firms offer to consultants in the US.
A generous retirement plan
A key feature of the benefits package at McKinsey, BCG and Bain is a generous retirement plan. The firms contribute a percentage of the consultant’s salary or total compensation to a personal pension plan, sometimes without requiring the consultant to make a contribution. At McKinsey, the firm contributes 12% of a consultant’s total compensation each year.
Gold-plated health insurance
Health insurance at McKinsey, BCG and Bain is among the very best offered by any employer in the US, with healthcare, dental and vision included, along with fertility benefits such as IVF and egg preservation. The policies cover 100% of healthcare premiums for employees and their families, with extremely low deductibles and copay requirements.
McKinsey, BCG and Bain all offer parental leave, with different policies in place at each firm:
- McKinsey provides 16 weeks of paid parental leave for birthing parents and 8 weeks for non-birthing parents.
- BCG provides 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and eight weeks of paid leave for non-birthing parents.
- At Bain, all new parents are eligible for 21 weeks of paid parental leave, with the option to extend this to up to 26 weeks of paid leave with vacation.
These policies often cover those who become parents through adoption and surrogacy.
Numerous additional benefits
In addition to attractive compensation, a generous retirement plan, world-class health insurance and ample parental leave, McKinsey, BCG and Bain all provide consultants with an array of additional benefits. These include:
- Paid time off (PTO) in excess of five weeks (including bank holidays), increasing with tenure
- Relocation assistance
- Subsidized backup childcare
- Life insurance
- Legal assistance
- Free snacks and at least one weekly free lunch in most offices
- A range of other perks, including employee discounts, company social events and access to an employee assistance program
How does a management consulting salary compare to that of other top professions?
Consulting is not the only profession that offers highly attractive compensation. Candidates who are considering a career in consulting might also be thinking about entering other high-paying professions, such as investment banking or tech. So how do the options compare?
Compensation in consulting is more predictable
In top consulting firms, base salaries make up a higher percentage of total compensation than they do in other high-paying industries. Below Partner-level, performance bonuses at consulting firms are based on individual – rather than company – performance. This is measured objectively across specific dimensions and is subject to a transparent formula.
Bonuses in investment banking can be significantly larger than they are in consulting. However they are highly volatile and depend on both the mood of financial markets and the performance of the bank’s division at the time. In addition, they tend to be awarded subjectively, based on a general sense of appreciation from an individual’s boss.
In tech, compensation is largely based on stock options and other equity compensation, which only comes to fruition if the company goes public or is acquired at a premium. This only happens in a small fraction of cases and, when it does, the amount awarded depends on the company’s valuation, when the employee joined and fluctuations in share price.
Ultimately, compensation in consulting is far more predictable than it is in both investment banking and tech. This predictability is underpinned by the top-3 firms’ very clear approach to increasing compensation steadily in line with a consultant’s career progression.
The journey to Partner is quicker in consulting
In other professional services careers, partnership is only available to a very small percentage of senior employees, usually after a tenure of well over a decade.
In consulting, the route to Partner level is not only far quicker than it is in other professions, it’s also more achievable. Partnership is available to any consultant who meets the firm’s promotion criteria, and a consultant at McKinsey, BCG or Bain can reasonably expect to make Partner within ten years. Top performers may even reach this level within eight or nine.
This means that in consulting, new joiners have a clear path towards reaching a total annual compensation exceeding $1,000,000 within a reasonable time frame.
If a career in management consulting sounds like it might be right for you, you can learn more in our complete guide to the management consulting industry. And if you’re preparing to apply to a top consulting firm, the resume and cover letter templates and specialized advice in our Free Resume Course will help you get your application in great shape.