Determining the management consultant salary you can expect to receive, or more narrowly, a strategy consultant salary, is probably one of the defining factors in deciding which firms you will apply to. That’s why we put in hundreds of hours of research each year to bring you the most up-to-date consultant salary information – anywhere.
This – to the best of our knowledge – is the only firsthand report in the industry containing current numbers obtained directly from offer letters for an entry level McKinsey salary, Boston Consulting Group salary, and stats from over 60 additional consulting firms. So whether you’re looking for a Bain consultant salary, Deloitte consultant salary, or information about niche boutique consulting firms, you’ve come to the home of the most up-to-date management consulting starting salary numbers available.
2021 Consulting Salaries Overview
Welcome to 2021, and our updated management consulting salaries report!
This is a big year: COVID-19 still upends normal life across the globe and a new administration takes office in the U.S. The Summer Olympics and Euro 2020 soccer (football) tournament have been rescheduled for this summer. In addition, NASA, the ESA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the Space Telescope Science Institute will launch the James Webb Space Telescope to replace the Hubble.
The consulting industry is shifting dramatically too. While 2020 brought an explosion in demand for some consulting services, established firms saw an outsized benefit. Frenetic M&A activity continued, and some consultancies consolidated core business offerings.
Where has M&A activity focused? For one, Digital Solutions continues to be a growth driver across the industry, as even traditional strategy consulting powers like McKinsey, BCG, and Bain move further downstream into digital and implementation work.
In addition, Supply Chain was a key focus area for consulting firms looking to support clients as the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders and disrupted supply chains.
These factors created a dichotomy inside the industry:
The Rich are Getting Richer…
Notable consulting firms continued rapid growth, driving overall growth. As a prime example, Bain reported its best quarter ever in Q3 2020. However, the rate of growth for boutique firms slowed in 2020 across a fragmented market with thousands of boutique players displaced in part by the continued expansion of in-house strategy groups at large corporations.
…and the Staff are Staying Busy…
Due to market uncertainty, most consultancies stalled or cut hiring. Consulting firms of all sizes amped utilization of current consultants, replacing suitcases with double doses of spreadsheets. Even today, some firms continue to freeze hiring and many are operating at reduced capacity. This was more pronounced in niche practice areas (human capital consulting and digital consulting specifically).
…but There’s Nowhere Else to Go
Unprecedented labor shortages in 2020 were replaced by labor glut in 2021. Consulting firms’ greatest competitors for talent – banking and corporate strategy – had more hiring drop-offs. Sure, tech still grabbed as many humans as it could, but the declines outpaced that growth.
With utilization up, hiring down, and fewer alternatives, the consulting job market is flush with eager talent and therefore more competitive than we’ve seen it in 12 years – which left salaries flat or down at over 80% of firms.
How has this impacted consulting salary trends?
The impact of COVID-19 abruptly stopped the upward momentum of consulting salaries. In the 13 years we have been covering salaries, this is notably the only year that starting salaries did not increase.
Sure – most historical consulting salary increases were in the 2-4% growth range, indicating that even in tightening labor markets, the value proposition of consulting goes beyond financial compensation.
Then, as an exception, in the middle of 2019, MBB increased MBA & PhD base salaries to $165,000, and other firms increased MBA & PhD salaries to follow suit. For example, top boutique L.E.K. quickly matched MBB and offers a $165,000 base salary for its incoming MBA hires & PhD hires in the U.S. Other boutiques have since followed suit.
However, this year undergrad salaries and MBA salaries largely stood still.
Following a trend from the last 2 years, consulting firms have continued to increase hiring of specialists (bonus points if you have technical expertise), experienced hires, and candidates from non-target schools. In fact, most firms hold 20% of their slots for those from non-target backgrounds. The increase in tech democratization (no more half-day schmoozing sessions – just jump on Zoom!) helped. But targets still drove most hiring, so if you’re from a non-target school, network now and apply early.
Below are salary figures for those joining management consulting positions in 2021. The data comes from our interview prep clients who received written job offers and firm representatives. The salary data is for those recruited straight from an undergraduate, master’s, MBA, or PhD program or those that were hired at the same level. All salary figures are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise stated.
This is the only originally sourced data available in the industry. Everyone else uses ours or uses outdated or arbitrarily averaged Glassdoor salary data, PayScale salary information, or Indeed salaries. Please reach out if you want to use our data.
All of our data is included in the full downloadable report – get a copy for free below.
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Summary of Salaries for Incoming Undergraduate & Master’s Full-Time Hires
Overall, salaries for incoming undergraduate & master’s students have risen significantly after staying stagnant last year. When comparing consulting roles to those in industry at the same level, there are few better options when it comes to total comp. If compensation is the most important factor in your firm preferences, look at firms like Alvarez & Marsal, Accenture Strategy, OC&C Strategy, AlixPartners, McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. However, we recommend considering other factors in your search as well, including exit opportunities, firm culture, travel, and more.
Summary of Salaries for Incoming MBA & PhD Full-Time Hires
Starting salaries for incoming MBA & PhD hires are rising again after staying stagnant last year for the first time in a decade. Still, outside of finance, post-MBA compensation packages are the highest in consulting out of any industry. While Big Tech continues to compete with consulting for top talent, consulting continues to offer faster promotion cycles, broader industry exposure, and a better path to business leadership. The highest paying firms at the post-MBA/PhD level are L.E.K., AlixPartners, OC&C Strategy, Kearney, Strategy&, Parthenon-EY, McKinsey, Bain, and BCG.
Internships are a standard 10 weeks in the United States (early June through first or second full week of August) but the range is 8-12 weeks in Canada and the EMEA. Monthly internship salaries are typically prorated based on starting salaries for new hires. Here are 2021 internship salaries:
Undergraduate & Master’s Program Internship Salaries
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Management Consulting Salary Insights
Management Consulting Bonuses
Full-time consulting offers are nice, but bonuses have the potential to take your comp from good to great. Generally, consulting full-time hires receive signing bonuses, relocation bonuses, end-of-year performance bonuses, and more. Consulting interns are less likely to receive bonuses, although some firms do offer relocation or signing bonuses.
More firms are starting to offer returning interns a larger signing bonus than full-time counterparts who interned somewhere else. The most extravagant of these include MBA second-year tuition coverage plus signing bonuses (here’s looking at you, Deloitte).
When analyzing these bonuses, there are 5 things you should keep in mind:
Value base salary more than signing and relocation bonuses. Your salary during your 2nd (and sometimes 3rd) year at the firm is often a function of your initial base salary. All else held equal, we would recommend choosing a base salary of $82,000 with a $5,000 signing bonus over base salary of $80,000 with a $7,500 signing bonus.
On your offer letter, the listed maximum amount of the performance bonus typically goes to the top 5-10% of performers. Average performers often receive bonuses closer to half of the maximum amount, while poor performers typically only receive a small bonus if any. Also, firms that pay overtime may choose not to offer a performance bonus.
The size of the relocation bonus is primarily driven by the distance from your university to the office location. If you live in the same city as the office, you are sometimes offered no bonus or a smaller bonus (~$2,000 in the U.S.). However, if you live in a distant state or country, you are typically offered the firm’s maximum relocation bonus amount.
Relocation and signing bonuses are commonly distributed soon after signing your contract. However, they may be distributed on your start date (e.g. at IBM GBS) or given in increments over several years (e.g. L.E.K.).
Bonuses are usually taxed. Uncle Sam loves your bonuses and will make sure to get his share. So don’t forget to account for taxes when planning your bonus spending (or saving). Taxes may be deducted when receiving bonus payments or they may be withdrawn from future paychecks, putting a small temporary dent in your future monthly income.
Salary Growth Along the Management Consulting Career Path
The salaries above are for full-time hires and interns coming straight from an educational program. Before deciding on a final offer, consider how your salary will grow across time. Often, our interview prep clients will receive slightly higher job offers in tech than in consulting. However, the salary growth in management consulting outpaces many industry positions. Because of that, the net income after a few years in consulting can exceed those in other industries, despite an initially lower base pay.
In top consulting firms, you can typically expect a 10-20% increase in your base pay and/or performance bonuses each year. Additionally, when promoted to the next level (usually every 2-3 years), the increase in your income is substantially larger. For instance, when promoted from Associate to Consultant at BCG, your base salary almost doubles. Here’s the potential salary growth trajectory of someone working at a top consulting firm (McKinsey, Bain, or BCG) in the U.S.:
Consultant Salary Growth Trajectory:
First-year out of Undergrad/Master’s program:
Signing Bonus: ~$5k
Performance Bonus: up to ~$30k
First year out of MBA/PhD program:
Signing Bonus: ~$30k
Performance Bonus: up to ~$45k
Manager/Project Leader (2-3 years out of MBA/PhD) program:
Associate Principal/Senior Project Leader (4-5 years out of MBA/PhD) program:
Junior Partner/Principal (6-8 years out of MBA/PhD) program:
Senior Partner/Director (10+ years out of MBA/PhD) program:
Keep in mind that most full-time hires will not make it to Partner. Many consulting firms have an “up-or-out” promotion structure – and many consultants choose to leave. Those who perform exceptionally are given the chance to be promoted, while poor performers are encouraged to seek employment elsewhere. Because of the up-or-out structure and the attractive exit opportunities, only a small percentage of consulting recruits make it all the way to Senior Partner. Regardless, salary growth is substantial for each promotion you receive at a consulting firm.
Salaries When Exiting Management Consulting
Although your salary increases relatively rapidly within a top consulting firm, you typically receive a pay increase when leaving, as well as a bump in lifestyle. In the U.S., the average consultant who accepts an industry position receives a 12-20% increase in pay and a better work-life balance. Those entering the financial services industry receive a 30%+ increase in compensation—but work/life balance often takes a hit.
Although your salary increases relatively rapidly within a top consulting firm, you typically receive a pay increase when leaving, as well as a bump in lifestyle.
Large Consultant Salary Variation Across International Offices
There is a large variation in management consulting salaries within firms across different countries. Management consulting salaries are highest in the U.S. due to the aforementioned competition with Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Compared to the rest of the world, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Switzerland, and Canada also boast relatively high consultant salaries. Most surprisingly, consultant salaries in London are relatively lower given its high cost of living.
Overall, consulting salaries are competitive within their country, often offering salaries 20%+ above the average for other professional service firms. If you accept a consulting offer in any country, you will likely be paid more than the average local employee with a similar tenure in professional service industries.
Small Consultant Salary Variation Across Domestic Offices
At McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, management consulting salaries are relatively flat across all offices within a country. This has two important implications. First, there is often little room for salary negotiation unless you are an experienced hire. Second, you can increase your take-home income by choosing an office location where the cost of living is lower (e.g. choosing Atlanta over San Francisco).
In other firms, salaries are sometimes adjusted to account for living costs. For example, a Big 4 consultant working in New York often receives a slightly higher salary than a Big 4 consultant in Dallas.
Consultant Salaries for Master’s and PhD Students
Many consulting firms offer master’s students the same positions as undergraduate students. Because of that, master’s students often receive the same compensation as undergraduates. However, when a master’s student applies for a relevant technical position (e.g. data scientist), they can receive more compensation than an undergraduate counterpart. Likewise, PhDs often (though not always) receive the same compensation as MBAs. This is important to note, as you should be applying for the position the firm wants to hire you for.
2021 Consultant Salary Summary
This last year has seen some upheaval in the management consulting industry. However, the industry continues to grow. Both at the undergraduate/master’s level and post-MBA/PhD, management consultant salaries continue to stay competitive to rival Banking and Big Tech.
Overall, consulting salaries are highly competitive compared to other industries. One notable exception is finance, where salaries are higher but work-life balance is often worse. Technology firms also compete with consulting firms for talent. They often offer higher base salaries but the roles are more siloed and the promotion trajectory is slower.
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