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The guide to pay at Bain, McKinsey, BCG and the Big Four

There are three big consulting firms. Mostly.

They are “the” MBB – McKinsey, Bain, and BCG (Boston Consulting Group). But they have, in recent years, had stiff competition – from the Big Four: Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG. Although these are traditionally accounting firms, they’ve ventured into management consulting, which now makes up the largest share of revenue across all firms.

Traditionally, MBB paid the best of the bunch. And based on data from executive coaching firm Management Consulted, that still seems to be the case – and the gap seems to be pretty far from closing any time soon.


In 2023, US figures suggest that an undergraduate student at an MBB firm is paid around $140k, compared to around $100k for a Big Four consultant. That’s actually a more significant difference than the difference in 2020, when an MBB consultant earned $107k - $117k and a Big Four consultant earned $80k - $102k.

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Most of the difference seems to be in a lack of performance bonuses for Big Four consultants. Whilst salaries are relatively similar - $80k to $95k at Big Four compared to $110k or so at an MBB firm – the latter can expect performance bonuses of up to $30k, per Management Consulted. Signing bonuses are also relatively uniform across the two, although Deloitte and KPMG are more generous than their competitors. They are also on the top end for salary brackets, too.


Compensation for MBA & PhD graduates have less of a disparity. Although MBB still leads, it’s by less of a margin, proportionally. Although Management Consulted didn’t have figures for Deloitte, the rest of the Big Four offered compensation packages between $210k and $245k, compared to MBB’s $267k to $285k. Given that Deloitte pays its undergrad consultants best of all, their MBA/PhD graduates likely earn even closer to the MBB bracket.

Much of that difference reduction might be because these graduates earn some sort of performance bonus – although they’re not as high as their MBB counterparts. Big Four MBA/PhD graduate consultants earned between $17k and $40k in performance bonuses compared to between $45k and $63k for MBB. Salaries were also lower too.

Both are significantly lower than what most financial services firms offer. Harvard’s MBA program posted graduate earning figures recently, showing that its graduates entering hedge funds and private equity earned $396k and $345k on average respectively, whilst investment bankers were earning $329k. Ouch.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon
  • El
    9 January 2024

    Really don't understand why the US seems to be paying so much more than Europe (sorry rest of the world, I don't know about your comps). Our clients are the same, it's the same work, long hours, high cost of living in many cities like London etc. (and it's not because 'we get more holidays' -- I've worked in the US and our hols were very comparable).

  • bu
    1 September 2022

    In London, UK, consulting pays tops £40k for recent bachelor graduates

  • Le
    28 August 2022

    The numbers for PhDs look a bit inflated, even after the inflation adjustment. 175k base corresponds to 150k GBP - never heard such a base starting salary in LDN, except for Jane Street and the likes... PWC and KPMG pay 60k GBP starting for quant PhDs...

  • Xx
    28 August 2022

    Weird that L.E.K. is missing when they pay the most post MBA

  • xx
    xx xx
    12 February 2021

    why are undergraduates paid so low compared to MBAs. It is not that they deliver significantly better. Is it just they can sell them easily to clients?

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