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Why work in management consulting?

If you’re embarking on a career in management consulting, you’ll probably know that the recruitment process is highly competitive. In fact, top-tier consulting firms have an average acceptance rate of lower than 1%. In this article, we consider why so many people are drawn to a career in management consulting and why the competition to work at McKinsey, BCG and Bain – the world’s top-3 firms – is particularly fierce.

Key takeaways:

  • A career in consulting provides unparalleled learning opportunities, with exposure to a huge amount of sectors, functions and locations, along with world-class training.
  • Consulting work provides plenty of intellectual stimulation and the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the real world.
  • Consulting firms offer highly attractive compensation packages and an array of additional benefits.
  • Consultants get to travel and enjoy other perks, such as a generous policy on hotels and meals when traveling for business.
  • The top consulting firms all offer a great working environment, with a highly supportive and collaborative culture and a meritocratic approach to career progression.
  • The experience of having worked in consulting – even for a relatively short period of time – can open the door to a wide range of exciting future career opportunities.

Consulting provides unparalleled learning opportunities

For high achievers who want to learn as much as they can as quickly as possible, joining one of the world’s top management consulting firms represents the ultimate learning experience.

Consultants work on a wide variety of client projects across a vast range of sectors, functions and locations. In addition to being hugely educational in itself, this variety helps new consultants gain a better understanding of where their expertise and interests lie.

When it comes to more traditional learning, the training provided at top consulting firms is world-class. Many of the firms have an ‘apprenticeship model’ approach to learning, where managers support more junior team members by providing regular feedback and helping them develop the skills of consulting. These include:

  • structuring their approach in order to solve problems quickly
  • analyzing data
  • being productive
  • delivering high-quality outputs
  • communicating persuasively
  • managing clients and working with many different kinds of people

Finally, as some of the brightest minds, consultants have a huge amount that they can learn from one another. The same project team rarely works together twice, which means there are plenty of opportunities to learn from different people with a diverse range of skills, expertise and perspectives.

Consulting work is appealing

There are many aspects of consulting work that appeal to highly motivated, driven people who want their work to make a difference in the real world.

At its heart, the job of a management consultant is to work with some of the world’s largest organizations to solve their most critical and complex problems. The impact of a consulting project could therefore easily make the business news headlines or might even affect the economy, climate change or what people consume.

The variety of industries that consultants work in, and the vast range of problems they help to solve, mean that there’s very little chance of them ever getting bored. This makes consulting work even more appealing for those who thrive in an intellectually stimulating environment.

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Consulting firms offer attractive financial benefits

At McKinsey, BCG and Bain, the compensation packages for consultants are typically very attractive, with less volatility than can be expected in other industries, such as tech or investment banking.

In the US, a graduate hire can expect a starting compensation in excess of $120,000. MBA hires can expect a starting compensation in excess of $220,000, plus a $30,000 sign-on bonus.

The rapid career progression available at McKinsey, BCG and Bain means that a new consultant could expect to make Partner within 10 years. At this level, total compensation starts at close to $1,000,000 and can increase to multiple millions of dollars in line with a Partner’s tenure.

In addition to highly competitive salaries and performance bonuses, the top-3 firms all provide their consultants with world-class benefits, which include a generous retirement plan, comprehensive health and dental cover, and ample parental leave.

Consultants get to travel and enjoy other perks

Travel to client sites is a staple of the consulting lifestyle, and consultants are often sent to interesting or far-flung locations. At top consulting firms, all consultants – from entry level to Partner – enjoy the same generous policy on hotel rooms and meals. This means that consultants can book with their favorite luxury hotel brand and can sometimes eat at Michelin-starred restaurants when they travel.

There are other perks too. Each of the firm’s offices is likely to run an all-expenses-paid team retreat every year. There’s also a generous allowance for team dinners and events to celebrate the culmination of a project.

Consulting is a great working environment

One of the most prevalent myths about management consulting is that the working environment is incredibly competitive. The reality couldn’t be more different. Consulting firms are full of friendly, professional and incredibly smart people who all want to work effectively together to achieve the best outcome for their clients. Consultants work in dedicated project teams, which means they are all focused on the same result – the success of the project – and work closely together to ensure that they achieve it.

McKinsey, BCG and Bain pride themselves on being meritocratic workplaces, where promotions are based on the demonstration of a consultant’s ability. The firms also go to great lengths to support their highly collaborative working culture with beautiful and comfortable offices designed to foster teamwork.

The fact that the three firms are listed in Glassdoor’s top-10 ‘Best Places to Work in 2023’ in the US is a testament to the quality of the working environment they all offer.

Experience in consulting will shape the rest of your career

A few years of working for McKinsey, BCG or Bain can have a significant impact on the rest of a consultant’s career. Making it through a famously rigorous selection process and earning the seal of approval from one of the world’s most prestigious companies is a strong signal of professional potential. As a result, consultants from the top-3 firms tend to be employers’ first choice when it comes to hiring.

Management consultants have an abundance of highly desirable transferable skills, which means they are well placed to enter almost any industry or function after leaving consulting. A wide range of attractive exit opportunities are therefore available to anyone who has worked for McKinsey, BCG or Bain as a consultant.

Interested in joining McKinsey, BCG or Bain as an entry-level consultant?

A career in consulting offers unparalleled training, appealing work, excellent financial benefits, the chance to travel and enjoy other perks, a fantastic working environment, and great exit opportunities. This is why consulting has consistently been a top choice for the most gifted candidates over the last 50 years, while other trends have come and gone.

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.

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