How Can an MBA Get You into Consulting?

Thomas Nugent

Thomas Nugent - BusinessBecause

Thomas Nugent is the Deputy Editor for BusinessBecause.

Pulling Down Post Its

Careers in consulting are popular among MBA grads. The industry is one of the top three sectors MBAs enter after they leave school, along with finance and tech, and consulting firms are often listed among the world’s best companies to work for.

Whether you land a job at a Big Three management consulting firm or a boutique consultancy, being a consultant gives you the opportunity to put everything you’ve learned during your MBA into practice.

You get to work with clients on projects covering multiple industries and functions, and in teams consisting of colleagues from all around the world.

While most MBA programs can help you get a consultant job, MBA consulting specializations focus more closely on this career path, preparing you for a career in the industry.

How can an MBA help you become a consultant?

The core MBA syllabus gives you a wide base of business knowledge covering everything from strategy and finance to operations and marketing, that you’ll need to leverage as a consultant.

During an MBA, you learn to work and lead diverse work teams, strengthen your communication and presentation skills, and gain knowledge of how a business works from the top down.

Several business schools also offer specialized consulting tracks for MBA students. The University of Rochester’s Simon Business School offers a STEM-designated MBA with a specialized consulting track; The University of Alberta’s Alberta Business School offers a Strategy & Consulting Career Track; and HEC Paris offers an MBA specialization in Strategy, for students who want to become top strategy consultants.

A typical MBA consulting specialization will also develop your people skills, business case cracking ability, and knowledge on how to overcome a variety of business challenges. There will be more consulting-specific training and ample opportunities to deliver presentations and practice public speaking.

One of the core parts of the consulting recruiting process is the case interview. An MBA will also provide you with opportunities to practice cases, whether with professors, fellow students, or alumni who work for consulting firms. Your MBA careers service will also hold interview preparation sessions to ensure you’re ready if you make it through the application process.

Beyond the curriculum, MBA clubs and events offer a path into the world of consulting. At Spain’s IESE Business School, a consulting career trek takes students to London where they visit companies and network with recruiters. 

HEC Paris has a strong consulting club as well as an in-house, student-led consulting practice—the HEC Consulting Practice—that sees students work as consultants during the MBA. The diversity on offer in an MBA classroom is the ideal learning platform for any aspiring consultant. Hassnan Gardezi, an MBA grad from HEC Paris and former president of the school’s Consulting Club, explains that at any one time you’ll be standing in a group of five-to-seven people and everyone speaks a different language and is from a different country.

Learning to draw from diverse perspectives, coupled with the academic focus and the skills you develop through case cracking, makes for great consulting candidates, he says.

Consulting skillset

During your MBA, you’ll also be able to develop and hone the skills you need to be a successful consultant. The core skills you need to be a management consultant include:

  • Collaboration/Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Complex problem solving
  • Case cracking
  • A diverse perspective
  • Improvisation
  • Digital-savvy

“Consulting is a great exercise in analytical problem solving, structured thinking, understanding of a clients’ explicit and implicit needs, and extensive collaboration—all of which are highly transferable,” explains Harsha Singhraj, the founder former president of the HEC Consulting Practice.

Top consulting firms also want students who despite their skillset are intellectually curious to learn more.

“It’s about wanting to learn and constantly stay outside of your comfort zone, because we are working with more sophisticated tools and deeper expertise than we ever have before,” says Keith Bevans, head of global consultant recruiting for Bain & Company. 

Consulting jobs you can get after business school

Consulting jobs are often listed among the highest paying MBA jobs. Students can start their MBA consulting career on six-figure salaries and have opportunities for strong career growth.

Interactive Tool: Estimate Your Post-MBA Salary

How much could an MBA increase your salary? Use our MBA salary calculator to estimate your post-MBA salary based on real data from alumni and top employers.

There are two paths for MBA grads to launch a career in consulting. Either by landing a summer MBA internship with a consulting firm and being converted into a full-time hire after graduation, or by applying directly as a full-time hire.

When choosing which type of consulting firm to work for, students have various options:

MBB consulting firms

Many MBA students target the Big Three—McKinsey, Bain, and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Commonly referred to as MBB, the Big Three hire thousands of MBAs every year between them, both through MBA summer internships and full-time hires. 

The salaries at companies like McKinsey, Bain, & BCG can be eye watering, and the firms all offer strong career progression.

Bain, BCG, and McKinsey hire from a wide array of schools, but top-ranked schools typically place the greatest number of students into MBB consulting each year.

INSEAD places the greatest number of students into the Big Three, followed by Harvard Business School, Kellogg, Wharton, Chicago Booth, and London Business School.

Top MBA Programs

What are the best MBA programs for you? Check out our list of top MBA programs by GMAT score sending, featuring HBS, Stanford, and Wharton.

Boutique consulting firms

There are also opportunities at boutique consulting firms. These are smaller-sized consulting companies, typically with close connections to local clients or a specific area of expertise.

If you launch your MBA consulting career at a boutique consulting firm, you might focus on telecommunications and the media industry, for example, or work solely with clients in artificial intelligence.

Boutique firms are a good fit for MBA graduates who have an interest in consulting and either know the area in which they want to specialize or have a specific professional background.

These firms also offer strong starting salaries for MBAs, with many offering six-figure base salaries with lucrative signing bonuses.

Is an MBA worth it for consulting?

So, will an MBA guarantee you a consulting career? The short answer is no. There’s no guarantee of anything on an MBA, unless you put the work in.

However, going to business school will place you in an environment in which you’ll be able to optimize your education to stand the best possible chance of breaking into consulting after graduation.

An MBA will give you the core skillset required to be a consultant, helping you develop skills from communication and teamwork to problem solving and improvisation.

By pursuing an MBA consulting specialization you’re indicating to potential recruiters that you’re both passionate and committed to a career in the sector. You’ll also build industry-specific expertise.

Through MBA consulting clubs and events, you’ll be able to build up a network of industry professionals and discover more about what it takes to become a consultant. You’ll also have ample opportunity to case crack and prepare for interviews.

Studying an MBA signals that you’re intellectually curious and keen to develop professionally. That’s a good sign for potential consulting recruiters.

After enrolling, the hard work begins, as you set yourself up to ace the interview process and start your journey towards an MBA consulting career.

Thomas Nugent

Thomas Nugent - BusinessBecause

Thomas Nugent is the Deputy Editor for BusinessBecause, with responsibilities supporting the Editor with content and SEO strategy, alongside editorial team development.

Thomas is an experienced writer who has written articles covering business education, management, careers, and the future of work.

He launched and edits the BusinessBecause Insights series, which explores the latest research and trends from the business school classroom, drawing on the expertise of world-leading professors to inspire and inform current and future leaders. The Insights series has covered things like the sharing economy, working from home during COVID-19, the future of the office, NFTs, and ESG investing.

Thomas earned an MA in English from the University of Aberdeen before completing an MSc in Journalism at Robert Gordon University. He joined BusinessBecause in October 2017.

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