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After the MBA: Consulting

Posted in Test Prep on January 17, 2011 by

This is another post in our “After the MBA” series, in which we chronicle a variety of post-MBA career opportunities to give you a sense of which might be the best fit for you. Whether you’re looking to make a career change or want to stay in your present field, this information will help guide you in your b-school decision-making process, as well as direct your studies once in school.

Job/Industry:

Consulting

What It Is

Broadly, consultants are hired to help organizations, companies, and government agencies improve their performance. Consultants identify and develop solutions for general or specific problems hindering the organization, and provide insights to help improve their business model. As advisers and problem-solvers, their goals might include increasing revenue, reducing costs, or clarifying the company’s direction. Ideally, consultants provide their clients with extensive industry knowledge and connections, as well as superior communication and problem-solving skills.

There are different types of consulting firms, including management consulting firms, IT-focused consulting firms, and boutique consulting firms. It is also possible to work as an independent consultant.

Salary Range

Salaries for recent MBA graduates entering the consulting field vary based on a variety of factors. According to one source, consultants with MBAs earn an average of $160-200K their first year. This figure includes base salary, signing bonus, relocation/moving expenses, and year-end bonus.

If you are interested in the average consulting salary for graduates from a certain business school, check out the school’s website: often, they will self-report the mean salary of graduates entering certain fields. For example, NYU Stern reported a mean base salary of 116,830 for first-year consultants from the Class of 2010. Harvard graduates’ median base salary was $120,000; Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business reported a median of $90,000, and Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin School of Business reported a median starting salary of $89,000 for consultants. Keep in mind that those figures do not include bonuses and relocation expenses.

Best B-Schools for Consulting

According to an article on Vault.com, the 5 business schools that graduated the most consultants in 2010 were Kellogg (Northwestern), Harvard, Booth (Chicago), Wharton (U. Penn), and Ross (U. Mich). No matter where you want to work after getting your MBA, those schools will provide a strong foothold into the industry. However, attending almost any well-ranked school with a national reputation will greatly improve your chances of getting a job in the consulting industry after receiving your MBA. If you are looking to work in a certain area, be sure to do some research into the top business schools for consulting in your city.

Is Consulting a Good Fit?


While there are many benefits to being a consultant, it is also a very demanding lifestyle. If you are thinking about becoming a consultant, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of the position and carefully evaluate how well your personality aligns with the job requirements.

Consultants must be excellent listeners and communicators, and immediately foster a relationship of trust with their clients. Furthermore, consultants should be creative, knowledgeable, and resourceful; they will be expected to provide quick, innovative solutions for real-world challenges.

If you like working with people and enjoyed written assignments and case studies in b-school, consulting might be a good fit for you.

Getting into the Industry

If you’re at one of the top 50 b-schools, consulting firms will almost certainly recruit at your school. Attend social mixers/presentations/info sessions hosted by firms. Be professional, and try to appear engaged without being over-the-top (make sure others can get a word in edgewise). After these initial meetings, there will typically be a resume submission process: be sure to present a clean, concise resume and cover letter to help yourself stand out. If the firm likes what they see, you’ll go through an interview process, and if you’re lucky, receive an offer.

If the consulting firms you’re interested in don’t recruit at your school, don’t despair! It might be more difficult to get your foot in the door, but it is not impossible. Some firms have online application submission processes; you can also try submitting an application through “contact us” links and email addresses. In addition, don’t be afraid to network and put yourself out there. Contact head-hunters and use b-school contacts, family and friends to find an “in.” If there are other MBA programs or even law schools near you, check out their job fairs to see if you might be able to meet with firm representatives there.

Whether consulting firms recruit at your school or not, keep in mind that consulting is a notoriously selective field. If you don’t get an offer right off the bat, don’t be discouraged. Look for jobs in another industry or at a less desirable firm; you can always try again after you’ve gained some more experience.

Pros and Cons of Consulting

Pros:
Relatively high pay
Prestige
Intellectually stimulating
Extensive Travel*

Cons:
Long hours (50-80 hour work weeks are normal)
Difficult work/life balance
Extensive Travel*

*Some enjoy the extensive travel required by many consulting firms, while others (especially those with families) consider it a con.

Prominent players in the field:

Top consulting firms include McKinsey & Company, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Company, Bain and Company, Accenture, Deloitte, and Monitor Group.