Consulting salaries: which firms pay best? January 29 2017

Golden state bridge

Candidates who prepare for consulting interviews sometimes ask us the following question: which consulting firms pay best? We have analysed the information available on Glassdoor.com and here is our conclusion: consulting salaries are split into 2 groups.

1. Base salary

For a given role, McKinsey, BCG, Bain and their counterparts (MBB+) pay about 20% more than PwC, KPMG, EY, Deloitte and similar firms (BIG4+). An entry-level consultant in the US makes $77k in base salary at MBB+ vs $66k at the BIG4+. And this percentage difference stays relatively consistent from entry level to Partner.

In both groups, base salaries grow relatively quickly. If you join one of these companies, your salary will increase by about 20% per year on average. This estimate assumes that you spend 1.5 years at each level and make partner in about 10 years, which is relatively standard.

The average salary for each group and level is available in the graphs below. The name of the different levels changes from firm to firm. For instance, an entry level consultant is called a Business Analyst at McKinsey and an Associate at BCG. In the table below, we standardised the name for each level across the different firms to make a clean comparison (see section 5).

Average management consulting base salary by level in the USAverage management consulting base salary by level in the UK

Detailed salaries for each company are also available at the end of this article in addition to the averages below.

2. Bonus and other types of compensation

In addition to their base salaries, consultants also earn other types of compensation including performance bonuses, retirement contributions and signing / relocation packages. We have listed typical ranges for the US and UK in the tables below.

At most firms, the majority of your bonus will be linked to your individual performance and the minority will depend on the firm’s performance in the year. If you have a good year, your performance bonus could be as much as 50% of your base salary. On the contrary, if you have an awful year, you might not get any performance bonus at all.

In the US and UK, the consulting firm you work for will also usually match your contributions to your pension pot. This pension pot is called a 401k in the US. Contributions vary approximately between 3% and 6% of your base salary in the US and up to 12% in the UK. Finally, consulting firms also usually give a signing bonus to their new employees as well as a relocation bonus when you have to move city to join an office. 

Bonus and other compensation in the US and UK for management consulting

3. Partners' total compensation

Glassdoor.com has got very little data on salaries at the partner level. In addition, the range of salaries varies much more for partners than consultants as their compensation is largely based on how much project revenue they manage to sell. Based on glassdoor.com and conversations with consultants, we estimate that partners earn a total compensation of between $500k and $5m a year depending on firms and performance.

4. Detailed base salaries by level and firm

We have listed the average salary across firms in the US for each level across the MBB+ and BIG4+ groups below. 

As you can see, McKinsey is the highest paying employer in the MBB+ group followed by BCG and Bain. Oliver Wyman is the lowest paying employer with base salaries 10% lower than McKinsey on average in the US. There is a similar distribution in the BIG4+ group with Accenture at the top of the table and FTI Consulting at the bottom.

Average management consulting base salary by firm in the MBB+ groupAverage management consulting base salary by firm in the BIG4+ group

5. Understanding job titles across firms

In the tables below we detail how we came to the different conclusions listed above. Each consulting firms uses different names for consultants at different levels. For instance, an entry-level consultant is called a Business analyst at McKinsey and an Associate at L.E.K. To be able to compare salaries across firms we built the mapping tables below.

Mapping of management consulting firms names for different levels in the MBB+ groupMapping of management consulting firms names for different levels in the BIG4+ group

After putting together this mapping, we simply downloaded the data available on Glassdoor.com and calculated average salaries for the different levels. The Excel with the exact allocation of salaries reported on Glassdoor.com to the different levels is available here.

Additional resources

Candidates from the best universities around the world use our McKinsey Case Interview Training ProgrammeFree McKinsey Case Interview PrepMcKinsey PST Training ProgrammeFree McKinsey PSTBCG Potential Test Training Programme and Free BCG Potential Test. Some races are worth the extra effort - let's get started!

The IGotAnOffer team

Photo: Denys Nevozhai / Unsplash