As consulting salaries continue to rise industry-wide, the wealth has trickled down to the Analyst level as well. That’s right, this year was a record breaking year for the undergrad consultant salary. While the war for talent is being waged far more prominently on the MBA battlefield, firms (smartly) recognize the value of top undergrad talent. The work of a pre-MBA analyst isn’t all that different from a post-MBA analyst, and hires straight out of undergrad tend to stick around longer due to MBA sponsorships.
If you’re an undergrad or specialty masters student, there are lots of great consulting firms you can work for. But if you’re interested in where you can make the most in Year 1, we’ve crunched the numbers to identify the best 10 consulting firms for undergrad consulting salaries.
Even better news for you? In consulting, a Harvard salary, Stanford salary, or your salary coming from a big state school will be exactly the same. The notable exception to this are the Big 4 firms, who often adjust base pay due to cost of living calculations. (i.e. Base is a little lower in Dallas compared to San Francisco).
As with our MBA rankings, we determined these best consulting firm rankings by the potential total compensation you could receive in Year 1 out of school. We define total compensation as base salary, signing bonus, and performance bonus. Before you gape wide-eyed at the numbers, please note that only the top 5-10% of performers will receive the max performance bonus, with most consultants receiving half of the maximum amount.
If you only care about the money, prioritize the firms that offer higher base salaries as opposed to the potential of high performance bonuses. Find the full breakdown in our latest salaries report.
Undergrad Consultant Salary Ranking:
Max Total Compensation: up to $105,000
One of our favorite boutiques checks in at #10 on our list of best consulting firms for consulting salary. Known for its supply chain focus and quant-heavy cases, Kearney is a fantastic place to begin your career. You’ll leave with the industry exposure and hard skills that will make you an attractive MBA candidate or future Fortune 500 leader. Beware, however. The firm definitely specializes in operations and supply chain – if you don’t want these areas to be a long-term focus for you, you may not get the functional exposure you’ll get at some of the other firms on our list.
Max Total Compensation: up to $107,000
The first shocker of our list! The world’s premier consulting firm is NINTH in our rankings for total potential compensation at the undergrad level? Yes, that’s right. McKinsey offers a competitive base salary ($87,000) which is one of the higher base salaries in the industry. However, the firm offers a lower bonus structure and only a $5,000 signing bonus to incoming Business Analysts.
Max Total Compensation: up to $108,500
This is perhaps the first firm on our list you may not have heard of. Cornerstone Research is a well-regarded boutique firm specializing in economic consulting. What is economic consulting? In a nutshell, economic consulting firms serve clients in litigation, providing research and analysis to aid in the prosecution or defense of antitrust matters. With a base salary of $85,000, Cornerstone offers a competitive starting package. A performance bonus of up to 10% of base salary is alright, but the firm made it on this list due to its generous $15,000 signing bonus, one of the highest on our list.
Max Total Compensation: up to $111,200
One of the practices pushing the envelope on consulting salaries is EY-Parthenon. The firm offers the highest undergrad base salary we’ve seen ($92,000). However, it’s at #7 on our list because of a relatively tame performance bonus (up to 10% of base). The firm does redeem itself some with a $10,000 signing bonus. One of the best pure strategy practices outside of MBB, EY-Parthenon is a great place to start your career.
Max Total Compensation: up to $113,000
We’ve got a 3-way tie for 4th place on our list, and all 3 firms are fantastic places to launch your career. Oliver Wyman is one of our favorite boutiques for undergrads just entering the workforce – you’ll get good professional development opportunities, broad industry exposure, and, if you’re interested in financial services, more than your fair share of projects in this particular sector. OW’s base, at $85,000, is lower than the other two firms it ties with, which is why we mention it first.
Max Total Compensation: up to $113,000
PwC Strategy& is next on our list, and beats Oliver Wyman on the strength of its higher base salary ($90,000). Couple that with a max 20% performance bonus (up to $18,000) and a $5,000 signing bonus, and you have the potential to make up to $113,000 in your first year out of an undergrad program. Strategy& has put some of the merger headaches of the past decade behind it, and is re-establishing itself as one of the premier strategy houses in the market. The firm is also one of our top recommendations for aspiring consultants interested in Middle East opportunities.
Max Total Compensation: up to $113,000
Also checking in at #4 is BCG. The firm offers exactly the same compensation package (base, performance, signing bonus) as Strategy&. But if you have the choice between the two firms, we’d highly recommend beginning your career at BCG. The firm has cultivated a more prestigious brand name, tighter-knit network, and will open up endless exit opportunities for you within 2-3 years, from b-school to business leadership.
Max Total Compensation: $113,500
An operations-focused consultancy leveraging cutting edge digital tools to drive efficiency for clients, New York-based SSA & Company checks in at #3 on our list. Offering the same base salary as BCG, Strategy&, and others, the firm edges by its competitors in total comp because of the $10,000 signing bonus it offers (compared to the standard $5,000).
Max Total Compensation: up to $117,500
At least at the Analyst level, Bain outclasses McKinsey and BCG when it comes to total compensation. The firm offers a $90,000 base salary, but its max performance bonus is equal to 25% of that base salary ($22,500). This max performance bonus, combined with a $5,000 signing bonus, elevates Bain to #2 on our list of best consulting firms for undergrad salary.
Max Total Compensation: up to $125,600
Far ahead of the other firms on our list, Accenture Strategy takes 1st place on our list (spoiler: the firm was ranked highly on our MBA list as well). Combining its traditional technology expertise with business strategy, Accenture Strategy is quickly climbing the ranks as a strategy practice to be reckoned with, with a specific focus on providing its clients competitive agility. Backing up its big ambitions, the practice has significantly updated its salary structure. While base pay is a little lower than its top competitors ($87,000) the firm makes up for it by offering a maximum performance bonus that is 30% of the base salary. If you don’t want to do the mental math, that’s $26,100. Furthermore, the strategy practice laps the field by offering a $12,500 signing bonus. Additional perks include a 15% discount on Accenture stock and a 6% 401k match after your 1st year.
While your consulting salary will be an important factor in your decision of which firms to target, it should not be the end all be all. Think about what you’d like your career to look long-term, and aim for firms that will give you the best exit opportunities to accomplish your goals. If you don’t have a long-term vision yet, pick brand names over boutiques, which will keep the most doors open for you.
Furthermore, really focus on firm culture during the networking process. Do you want a tight-knit environment, or are you okay working in a large office where you won’t get as much face time with partners? Do consultants at the office get together for beers on Friday afternoon, or do folks not really seem to get along outside of work? There’s no right or wrong answer to be looking for – instead, focus on where you think you’ll be the best fit.