Do You Need an MBA for a Career in Management Consulting?

MBA AdmissionsManagement consulting is one of the most “glamourous” industries among business professionals – a career path that can transform even the most polished of resumes – and the names of the firms which consultants covertly provide solutions for are known as the “Who’s Who” of American commerce. Prestigious firms like Bain & Co, McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group commonly rank at the top of many job seekers’ wish lists.

So what are some of the common tracks for entering one of the most competitive industries in the world? The entry points below are your best bets if interested in joining the ranks of the consulting elite:

Undergraduate

Top consulting firms do recruit students out of undergraduate academic programs, but not in major numbers. Recruits from this level are just a fraction of the classes of consultants they bring in at the MBA level. Typically, consulting companies will use students at this level to fill their analyst-level responsibilities on project teams.

Firms target the majority of recruiting at this level at prestigious universities and at regional powerhouses near local offices. If you’re a student at this level, make sure you are a top performer in your class. Top consulting firms are notorious for identifying only elite students, so to get on their radar you will have to bring a strong track record of academic performance to the recruiting process.

MBA 

MBA recruiting is the crown jewel of talent acquisition for top consulting firms. The rigorous training and diverse experience common in MBA-level talent makes business school a natural feeder for consulting firms. MBAs make up the majority of the associate-level talent at consulting firms, with a small selection of other graduate school recruits coming from programs like law, engineering and computer science.

Potential recruits have two chances to enter the industry: during internship recruiting in Year 1 and during full-time recruiting throughout Year 2. The recruiting support for candidates in MBA programs exceeds that at any level, so students tend to have the opportunity to build in-depth relationships throughout the process.

Industry

A less common source for talent from consulting companies is plucking employees from within “industry”. Industry talent tends to be more experienced and individuals in this category are poached for their specific industry knowledge to operate as subject matter experts.

Consulting is a tough industry to crack – your best bet to making the transition into a career in this industry is to consider an MBA as your entry point.

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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here