There is little doubt that among the most desirable jobs out of an MBA program are in consulting at McKinsey, Bain and BCG, known to everyone as MBB. But business school employment reports are notoriously unreliable in providing a full picture of which MBA programs send the most graduates to those elite global consulting firms.
Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and many other business schools, for example, never reveal their major employers. And some of the schools that do, including Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg, don’t tell you how many of their graduates hired by MBB upon graduation are actually sponsored students returning to their employers. Yet, landing a spot at McKinsey, Bain or BCG is among the most lucrative post-MBA jobs any graduate can get. Last year, the starting salaries at MBB were $165,000, plus a $30,000 signing bonus.
Now, for the first time, an extensive analysis of MBA recruits at the MBB, done by Menlo Coaching, the premium MBA admissions consulting firm, has pulled the curtain back on the business schools that give MBA students the highest chance to break into big league consulting. Menlo Coaching’s research team analyzed 51,991 student profiles on LinkedIn to gather valuable insights on each MBA program’s job placement history in management consulting. Among other things, the firm has crunched the numbers on new vs. returning hires at MBB as well as the total number of students employed by each firm as well as a percentage of the graduating class.
TOP THREE FOR PERCENTAGE OF MBAs HIRED BY MBB FOR THE FIRST TIEM: KELLOGG, TUCK & BOOTH
The big surprise? “The MBA programs with the best placement in the management consulting industry are not HBS, Stanford and Wharton,” says David White, a founding partner of Menlo Coaching. “Several MBA programs not traditionally seen as frequent feeders to MBB have been rapidly increasing their placements at those firms by as much as 155% over the last two years.”
In fact, Menlo discovered that Kellogg, Tuck and Booth are the top three schools by percentage of the student body being placed into MBB for the first time, far ahead of the competition. “While INSEAD is the global leader in new post-MBA placements into jobs at MBB,” adds White, “in the U.S., the University of Chicago Booth is #1 and Northwestern Kellogg is #2. This has been a close race, with a tie between the two schools in 2019, and a Kellogg victory in 2018. Tuck holds its own in total consulting placements: despite lower raw totals because of its small class size, it is #2 among top MBA programs for sending the highest percentage of the student body into consulting jobs.”
New Placements into MBB
THE SCHOOLS WITH THE MOST MBB MOMENTUM: NYU, UNC & NYU STERN
White also discovered that several MBA programs not historically considered to be target schools for MBB have shown incredible growth from 2018 to 2020. NYU Stern increased MBB placements by 40%. Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management boosted it by 156%, and UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School increased MBB placements by 83%, according to Menlo Coaching’s data (see table below).
Total Placements into MBB
Harvard, Stanford and Wharton are hardly lost causes when it comes to McKinsey, Bain and BCG. After all, those schools have long been consistent hunting grounds for the elite consulting firms and all are on the target recruiting lists of the MBB (see These 17 B-Schools Are On McKinsey’s Target List or These 40 B-Schools Are On Bain’s Target List). One somewhat contrarian finding is the relatively small percentage of MBAs at Stanford who take jobs with the MBB after graduation. New MBB placements represent less than 5% of the study body (see table below). Kellogg, Booth and Tuck placements are four times higher.
But it’s worth noting that the data also can’t tell you how many students at Harvard, Stanford and Wharton had no interest at all in working for an MBB firm. So that lack of interest would certainly impact these numbers. It’s long been known that recruiters who have gone to Stanford to recruit MBAs have often left empty handed because of the appeal of startups and early-stage companies to Stanford or hedge funds and private equity to Harvard grads.
New Placements Into MBB By School
# of Students Joining MBB for the First Time
As a % of Student Body
As a % of New Consulting Placements
(See following page for total MBB placements by school)
McKinsey & Company hires the most MBA graduates of the big three in any given year
HOW TO USE THE STUDY’S FINDINGS
David White of Menlo Coaching
Even so, in total placements, including sponsored students, Harvard Business School would be the number one program in the U.S., followed closely by Kellogg, Wharton, and Booth. “The strength of HBS’s overall placement at MBB partly reflects the fact that HBS admits many sponsored MBB consultants,” explains White. “This is a strong performance by Kellogg and Booth considering that their class sizes are around ⅓ smaller than those of HBS and Wharton.”
What most surprised White about the research? “McKinsey, Bain and BCG are expanding their recruiting at schools that are ranked outside the Top 10,” he says, pointing to the increases at NYU Stern, Cornell Johnson and UNC Kenan-Flagler. “We noticed that some consulting firms had delayed start dates due to the pandemic when we saw 2020 MBA graduates who began jobs in summer 2020 at non-profit institutions such as museums, and then began their consulting jobs at the start of 2021.” He also was surprised by the proportion of sponsored students which varies greatly among MBA programs.
How can applicants smartly use these findings? “If you want to know whether a given MBA program is likely to have alumni within the consulting firms you want to join, the total number of students that MBA program places into consulting is the best predictor,” notes White. “On the other hand, if you want to know about your chances to break into the consulting industry for the first time, the percentage of the student body that joins consulting is a good indicator. You wouldn’t expect an MBA program of 300 students to place the same number of people into consulting as an MBA program with 900 students, would you?”
White also believes that tracking MBB placements as a percentage of total consulting placements is a way to estimate the quality of an MBA program’s consulting placements. “An MBA program like Columbia has many students who choose to recruit into finance rather than consulting,” he says. “This lowers the MBB placements as an absolute number and as a percentage of the student body, but should not be taken as a negative sign about Columbia’s consulting career opportunities. By calculating MBB placements out of total consulting placements, we avoid penalizing Columbia for its strong finance recruitment portfolio and its many finance-focused students.”
For a copy of the full report, go to Menlo Coaching.
Total Placements Into MBB By School
# of Students joining MBB
As a % of Student Body
As a % of Consulting Placements
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