Consulting Salary

by Victor Cheng

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You may have heard that management consulting salaries are often superior to industry salaries. As a data-driven aspiring consultant, you can find some more specific consulting salary figures below. To put the compensation premium offered to management consultants in proper context, this articles presents:

1) Consulting salaries at the top three firms — McKinsey / Bain / BCG (MBB)

2) Average starting salary for undergraduate business students

3) Offers from another 11 lower-tier consulting firms, as reported by a recent survey of top MBAs

4) Overall salary survey results of top MBA programs

The numbers that follow are based on conversations with individuals plus literature research. Consulting salary fluctuates year by year, location by location, and sometimes individual by individual. Location is a particularly important driver of compensation.

In some locations (e.g. China and Africa), compensation may be as small as 1/3 of the figures listed below, which are primarily based in the United States. Another key variable is firm performance. Bonuses, profit-sharing, and equity payouts can make a huge difference in compensation — particularly at the higher levels. With these caveats in mind, the consulting salary data below can help frame your expectations.

1) McKinsey / Bain / BCG (MBB) consulting salaries:

McKinsey salaries:

  • Business analysts (fresh out of undergrad hire) earn a $75,000 salary + $5,000 signing bonus + $5,000 relocation allowance.
  • Associates (fresh MBA hire) earn a $125,000 salary + $20,000 signing bonus + performance bonus of up to $40,000 + 12% of bonus/salary contributed to retirement fund.
  • Engagement Managers earn approximately $250,000.
  • Associate Principals’ earnings vary greatly from $500,000 to $800,000.
  • Partners often earn over $1,000,000.

Bain salaries:

  • Associate Consultants (fresh out of undergrad hire) earn a salary of $70,000 + signing and year-end bonus totaling $9,000 + profit-sharing vesting three years later of approximately $7,500 (depending on firm performance) + 4.5% of their salary contributed into retirement fund.
  • Consultants (fresh MBA hire) earn a salary of $125,000 + signing bonus of $20,000 + performance bonus of up to $40,000 + profit-sharing vesting three years later of approximately $14,000 (depending on firm performance) + 5% of salary contributed into retirement fund.
  • Managers earn approximately $350,000.
  • Partners often earn over $1,000,000.

BCG salaries:

  • Associates (fresh out of undergrad hire) earn a salary of $72,000 + signing bonus of $5,000 + performance bonus of up to $16,000 + profit-sharing of up to $4,400 + 15% of salary and bonus contributed into retirement fund.
  • Consultants (fresh MBA hire) earn a salary of $135,000 + signing bonus of $20,000 + performance bonus of up to $40,000 + 5% of salary contributed into retirement fund.
  • Project Leaders earn approximately $250,000.
  • Principals earn approximately $500,000.
  • Partners often earn over $1,000,000.

The consulting salary data above provide a perspective on top-tier firms. Other firms typically pay less, with the disparity increasing as you move down the prestige rankings and you grow more senior within the firm.

2) Average starting salary for undergraduate business students:

These figures may seem eye-popping, particularly to undergraduates who have suffered through minimum compensation in their college years. For freshly-minted Bachelor degrees, the compensation packages above represent roughly an 80% premium over the $48,144 average figure the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) provides for business undergraduates.

Bear in mind, however, that consulting firms tend to concentrate their recruiting efforts on top students at top schools. The premium narrows when you compare the MBB figures to undergraduate business programs whose graduates earn top compensation. (Note: Consulting firms do hire from many majors and not just business programs, but the consulting job is most similar to other jobs accepted by undergraduate business students as compared to other types of students.) These new entrants to the workforce earn salaries as follows:

  • University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) undergraduates earn an average of $70,000.
  • MIT (Sloan) undergraduates earn an average of $65,000.
  • Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) undergraduates earn an average of $64,500.
  • Virginia (McIntire) undergraduates earn an average of $60,000.
  • Michigan (Ross) undergraduates earn an average of $60,000.
  • Georgetown (McDonough) undergraduates earn an average of $60,000.
  • NYU (Stern) undergraduates earn an average of $58,000.
  • UC Berkeley (Haas) undergraduates earn an average of $58,000.
  • Washington University (Olin) undergraduates earn an average of $58,000.
  • Alabama (Culverhouse) undergraduates earn an average of $57,000.

3) Offers from another eleven lower-tier consulting firms, as reported by a recent survey of top MBAs:

When top MBAs reported on their first-year offers from lower-tier consulting firms, they shared the following:

  • Accenture salaries are $127,000 + $50,000 signing bonus + $23,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • L.E.K. salaries are $128,000 + $29,000 signing bonus + $34,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • A.T. salaries are $110,000 + $36,000 signing bonus + $41,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • Deloitte salaries are $126,000 + $42,000 signing bonus + $16,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • Booz & Company salaries are $109,000 + $37,000 signing bonus + $37,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • ZS Associates salaries are $118,000 + $2,0000 signing bonus + $19,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • Capgemini salaries are $109,000 + $12,000 signing bonus + $33,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • Monitor Group salaries are $109,000 + $23,000 signing bonus + $16,000 anticipated annual bonus. (Note: Monitor was acquired by Deloitte in November, 2012.)
  • PwC salaries are $97,000 + $20,000 signing bonus + $28,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • IBM salaries are $101,000 + $24,000 signing bonus + $16,000 anticipated annual bonus.
  • Ernst & Young salaries are $107,000 + $16,000 signing bonus + $18,000 anticipated annual bonus.

4) Overall salary survey results of top MBA programs:

Finally, to round out the comparison, below are the first-year consulting salary figures associated with the top MBA programs:

  • Wharton MBA salary + bonus is $132,579
  • Stanford MBA salary + bonus is $131,949
  • Harvard MBA salary + bonus is $131,759
  • Tuck MBA salary + bonus is $128,013
  • Booth MBA salary + bonus is $126,779
  • MIT MBA salary + bonus is $125,905
  • Kellogg MBA salary + bonus is $123,996
  • Columbia MBA salary + bonus is $123,486
  • NYU MBA salary + bonus is $121,867
  • Berkeley MBA salary + bonus is $120,164

So, a management consulting salary is indeed usually significantly more than salaries offered in alternative industry jobs. But do not mistake the large sums to mean that management consulting is a cushy alternative to industry jobs. The hard part is getting in, staying in (amid strict up-or-out policies), and accepting a lifestyle that’s significantly more demanding than a stationary 9-to-5.

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