The COVID-19 pandemic brought on a big freeze in salaries in the consulting industry as participants cut costs, bringing to an end the generous pay rises of precedng years.
The 2021 salary report from industry coaching firm Management Consulted shows that salaries at the top three firms – McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – known collectively as MBB, remained flat compared with 2020. This is confirmed by the latest Harvard MBA employment report, which puts salaries for Harvard MBAs going into consulting at $165k for 2021, the same as one year previously.
Until this year, however, pay at the big consulting firms had been climbing. Management Consulted says the rise was most notable in 2019, when firms hiked salaries as they fought a war for talent with tech firms. Tech firms haven't gone away, so consulting firms have taken measures to soften the blow of stagnant pay. Unlimited paid time off (PTO) (E&Y), profit sharing (L.E.K.), and one-time work-from-home bonuses have become more common.
Below is an analysis of pay at the MBB firms: McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., and BCG. The figures are drawn from Management Consulted.
Salaries and signing on bonuses for undergraduates remained flat at the MBB firms compared with 2020. The only big difference was that McKinsey doubled the threshold of its maximum performance bonus to $30,000.
While MBB firms froze salaries, they offered other perks, and there are some differences here. Bain offers relocation of $5,000, a housing allowance of up to $5,000 along with 20 days paid time off (PTO) vacation per year.
BCG offers relocation expenses up to $8,000, profit-sharing of up to $4,400 and 15 days a year PTO.
McKinsey which offers the biggest total comp package for those who hit the top performance bonus of $30,000, provides up to $10,000 in relocation expenses and 19 days PTO per year.
For MBA and PhD hires, salaries and bonuses for the MBB firms remained unchanged, with Bain and BCG edging ahead of McKinsey in terms of total compensation for the second year running.
Again, there are some nuances when it comes to perks for MBA and PhD hires.
McKinsey was a bit more generous with retirement assistance, setting aside 7.5% of salary for an employee's 401k. BCG held its retirement contribution a $10,312, after a big hike in 2019 – while Bain has kept its contribution steady at $8k.
There is also some variance over the size of relocation packages, with Bain being the most generous. It offers $8,000 for relocation distances of less than 400 miles, and $16,000 thereafter. BCG offers between $2k and $8k, while McKinsey upped its allowance slightly to a maximum of $10k. McKinsey also offers to pay 50% of MBA tuition for returning interns.
Overall, if you want to work for the top three consulting firms then there’s not much in it.
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