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The guide to pay at Bain, McKinsey, BCG and the Big Four

Three firms – McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – have dominated the elite end of the consulting industry globally for years. Known collectively as the MBB firms, or the Top Three, they have also provided a springboard for people looking to move into high-end jobs in financial services or the corporate sector.

But while the MBB firms have traditionally paid the best consulting salaries and bonuses, the consulting units of the Big Four accounting firms (Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC) – along with a growing range of boutique providers – are now catching up with them on the compensation front.

What will you earn if you join McKinsey, Bain, or BCG in the U.S.? And how does their pay stack up against what’s on offer at their rivals? Executive coaching firm Management Consulted provides some answers in the 2022 edition of its Consulting Salaries Report, which is based on a survey of new consultants who accepted offers this year.

The 2022 salary and bonus data – displayed in the tables below at both pre-MBA and post-MBA entry levels – is mainly the result of high demand for management consulting services this year and last, which created a tight employment market, and ultimately pushed up pay across the board. A renewed battle for talent has also contributed to pay inflation as consulting firms compete for candidates with big banks – who have made substantial increases to their own pay over the past 12 months – and big tech.

In consulting, salaries have risen year-on-year across all seniority levels and firms as the industry continues to rebound from a relatively brief period of pay stagnation at the height of the pandemic, which is now likely to have been a blip within a decade-long era of growth.

It’s not just base pay that’s risen for consultants in 2022. Many firms increased total compensation by increasing maximum performance bonuses and signing bonuses. Perks such as unlimited PTO (paid time off) and profit sharing have also become more mainstream.

Pay for MBAs and PhDs in consulting in 2022

This is the level of education you need to earn top dollar in the consulting industry, but in 2022 your options aren’t limited to an MBB firm. While base salaries at the organisations in our table – KPMG aside – are all in the $165k to $175k range, total compensation is best at PwC Strategy& at Parthenon-EY, largely thanks to their larger maximum performance bonuses.

PwC runs Strategy& as its elite consulting arm alongside its existing consulting business, and Strategy& employees earn far more than their PwC counterparts.

Compared with 2021, base salaries for post-MBAs have risen by $10k at each BBM firm. But this reflects an overall upward trend in the consulting industry – Big Four firms have also made increases year-on-year.

Meanwhile, Boston, Bain and McKinsey all offer a signing-on bonus of $30k, although this doesn’t set them apart from the Big Four – Parthenon-EY actually pays $5k more to attract top MBA and PhD talent.

2022 salaries and bonuses for master’s and undergraduate hires at elite consulting firms

Boston, Bain and McKinsey dominate the top spots on the pay table at this level of entry, although PwC Strategy& takes second place and matches the BBM firms with its $100k base salaries. In 2021, all three BBM firms were only paying $90k salaries.

Notably, while both Parthenon-EY and Deloitte S&O (the firm’s strategy and operations-based consulting service) pay above-market signing bonuses, but their maximum performance bonuses are considerably below those of their BBM competitors.

*Only after third year (15% of base).

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Insider Comment
  • bu
    1 September 2022

    In London, UK, consulting pays tops £40k for recent bachelor graduates

  • Le
    28 August 2022

    The numbers for PhDs look a bit inflated, even after the inflation adjustment. 175k base corresponds to 150k GBP - never heard such a base starting salary in LDN, except for Jane Street and the likes... PWC and KPMG pay 60k GBP starting for quant PhDs...

  • Xx
    28 August 2022

    Weird that L.E.K. is missing when they pay the most post MBA

  • xx
    xx xx
    12 February 2021

    why are undergraduates paid so low compared to MBAs. It is not that they deliver significantly better. Is it just they can sell them easily to clients?

  • Jo
    18 December 2020

    This varies a lot based on the regional market. In Germany BIG4 pays sh*t!

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