Salary Expectations at Top Consulting Firm from Graduate to Partner

Consulting roles at the top strategy firms McKinsey, BCG and Bain are highly coveted and typically pay well compared to other professions. 

In this article, we lift the lid on what top consultants are paid at each tenure level, the type of bonuses they receive, and how the career compares to other top professions such as law and banking.

Compensation at McKinsey, BCG & Bain

The data below describes the first-year salary of an average performer at a top consulting firm in London:

Average first-year salary in London for an average performer
RoleTotal CompensationOf which is bonus
Project Manager£150-160K20%
Associate Partner£200-230K30%

Source: CaseCoach (2019)

You will see that consulting salaries increase by ~30% year-on-year over ten years with a comparably faster increase in the first three years followed by a sharp increase between the role of Associate Partner and Partner.

You’ll also notice that given the salaries at the Manager and Associate Partner level you don’t necessarily have to make Partner to earn a large amount of money.

Consulting bonuses

In addition to the bonuses in the table above, top performers also have the opportunity to almost double their bonus at nearly all levels. 

Top performers also have the opportunity to move up the ladder quickly due to merit-based promotions, rather than tenure-based ones. This means that the potential total compensation for a high performer over a typical five-year period can be far higher than an average performer.

Consulting compensation vs. other top professions

Other professions such as banking, law, or startups can offer very attractive compensation.

Banking may offer larger bonuses than consulting and startups can provide a windfall if they go public or are acquired. However, bonuses in consulting are more predictable than in these professions, where the amount and even certainty of receiving a bonus is far more tenuous year to year. This is because consulting bonuses below Partner-level are based on individual performance rather than company performance and because that performance is measured on objective dimensions rather than a general sense of appreciation from a boss. 

Alongside the greater certainty of receiving a bonus in consulting versus other top professions, it’s also worth noting that moving up the consulting ladder and becoming a Partner is a very realistic career path.

It’s reasonable for a consultant to make Partner within ten years, and often less for top performers. On top of that, the salary of an entry-level partner is not based on sales as many people assume. This reduces the risks associated with compensation year to year and increases the predictability. This often cannot be said for other professions. Additionally, in law or banking owning equity in the partnership may not be possible or may take well over a decade to achieve. 

Overall, compensation in consulting increases very quickly compared to many other professions. It is based on individual performance so there is a high predictability and it rewards high performers with equity when they reach the top. Along with the work being interesting and challenging, you can see why many people aspire to join a top consulting firm!

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