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 $127,500
One of our favorite strategy houses checks in at #10 on our list of best consulting firms for undergrad consulting salaries. This pure-play strategy firm performs work in the areas of corporate strategy, divisional strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and performance improvement. Much of OC&C’s operations are located in Europe and MENA, but it has a growing footprint in the U.S. (New York and Boston).
Max Total Compensation: up to $130,000
Right behind its Big 4 rival Strategy&, we have EY-Parthenon, Ernst & Young’s strategy division. EY-Parthenon, as a pure-play strategy consultancies, pays better than its Big 4 counterpart EY. This is in line with the historical trend of strategy work paying better than other types of consulting (i.e., ops, implementation, IT). First year consultants at EY-P will stand to take home an even $100,000 base salary, an up to $22,000 performance bonus, and an $8,000 signing bonus equaling $130,000 total maximum compensation.
Max Total Compensation: up to $132,000
PwC Strategy& is next on our list, and just edges out a couple of other firms for undergrad consultant salaries. Combine the base salary ($100,000) with a max 27% performance bonus (up to $27,000) and a $5,000 signing bonus, and you have the potential to make up to $132,000 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 $137,500
IGS (Investor Group Services) is a newcomer to this list but no stranger to the world of consulting. Founded in 1998, the boutique firm provides M&A diligence and strategic support to Private Equity and corporate clients. Entry-level consultants can expect to take home a $90,000 base salary, an up to $40,000 as a performance bonus, and a $7,500 bonus upon signing.
Max Total Compensation: up to $139,500
Bain brings up the rear in the trio that is MBB, but the difference is negligible. At the Analyst level, base and bonuses at Bain match McKinsey and BCG very closely. Honestly, compensation isn’t as much of a factor when comparing MBB because the three firms have historically matched each other. If one firm raises salaries, the other two won’t be far behind.
Honorable Mention: Advancy
Max Total Compensation: up to $119,000
Advancy is a 250-consultant strategy firm making waves in the industry. The Paris-based firm is quickly expanding on all fronts, especially in the firm’s relatively new New York and Boston offices. Advancy has a leading position in the consumer and industrial space, equating to high quality projects with plenty of opportunities for professional development and growth. And with a $100,000 base salary for undergraduates, Advancy also pays well enough to merit an honorable mention on this list!
Max Total Compensation: up to $140,000
Checking in at #5 is BCG. The firm offers compensation packages similar to Bain and McKinsey. If you have the choice between the three firms, we’d highly recommend beginning your career at BCG or Bain. The firms have cultivated more prestigious brand names, tighter-knit networks, and will open up endless exit opportunities for you within 2-3 years, from b-school to business leadership.
4. Oliver Wyman
Max Total Compensation: up to $140,900
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.
Max Total Compensation: up to $142,500
Accenture Strategy takes 3rd 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. Base pay is on par with top competitors ($100,000) and the firm offers a maximum performance bonus that is 30% of the base salary. If you don’t want to do the mental math, that’s $30,000. 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.
Max Total Compensation: $147,000
The world’s premier consulting firm grabs the bronze medal for total potential compensation at the undergrad level. McKinsey offers a competitive base salary ($112,000) which is one of the higher base salaries in the industry. In addition, the firm’s bonus structure allows top performers the opportunity to take home up to ~30% of their base pay in bonuses. Finally, McK offers a $5,000 signing bonus to incoming Business Analysts.
Max Total Compensation: up to $185,000
Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) leads the charge in undergraduate consultant salaries with an incredible base salary ($129,000), sizable bonus cap ($51,000), and average signing bonus ($5,000). A&M is known as the “restructuring and turnaround guys” but is venturing into the strategy and transformation waters with the creation of its Consumer and Retail Group.
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.