How To: From Part-Time MBA To Full-Time Consultant

A popular question we get is something like the following:

I’ve been working full-time for last 10 years at Big Company doing Big Company Function. I recently enrolled in a local part-time MBA program. How do I take advantage of this opportunity to break into a good consulting firm?

Before we start, let me put a big disclaimer here.

Big disclaimer: it is almost impossible to get into an MBB-caliber firm from a part-time MBA program. However, it is definitely possible to get into a respected boutique consulting firm or even a Big 4 (eg, Accenture, Deloitte) depending on your work experience and skillset

Below, I lay out the 6 steps you need to take to maximize your chances.

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1. Part-time MBA programs are not all created the same

A part-time MBA from UCLA is better than a part-time MBA from University of Texas-El Paso. In fact, one guy even got into Bain this way!

Brand equity matters as much here as it did for undergraduate and graduate programs. Go to the best school that you can.

Better schools provide more recruiting resources (including dedicated job placement counselors), a more plugged-in student base, a stronger alumni network, and access to more consulting firms.

2. Your work starts before you set foot on campus

The most frequent mistake I see students making is that they don’t start thinking about jobs until they’re several weeks into their first semester.

This is a huge mistake.

If you’re serious about consulting, recruiting starts when you get accepted.

Reach out to the Career Center on-campus and ask them what resources are available to help you achieve this goal. They will have prep resources (eg, The Vault Guides, subscriptions to online career databases), access to Alumni networks, and potentially even contacts at your target firms. This is huge!

Some programs will have recruiters whose sole aim is to help you find jobs. Establish contact before you set foot on campus. Often they split time between the part-time, executive, and full-time MBA programs so it’s critical to build a solid relationship, and build it early.

This is covered in #5, but have an updated resume and cover letter ready.

Ask to be put in touch with current students who’ve successfully made the transition. Build relationships with those students. Come recruiting time, they may be willing to forward your resume directly to the right recruiters.

If the Career Center is not helpful or non-existent, contact the Admissions Office and ask for their help.

Now is not the time to be nice – it’s time to get serious about your career.

3. Network, network, network

I’ve already covered everything from info session networking to cold calling.

Nothing particularly new to say here, but my key advice is to start early and cast a wide net. The following are sources of contacts:

  • Current students
  • Student organizations (eg, Consulting Clubs)
  • The Alumni Network (see if you can get plugged into the full-time MBA alums!)
  • The Career Center
  • The Admissions Office

Systematically reach out and manage contacts. Use a tool like Highrise to keep track of who you’ve emailed, who you’ve called, and who you need to follow up with.

You need to think scale. Assume 2/3 ignore you, and 2/3 of the ones who you talk to can’t help you. That means if you email 10 people, only 1 actually helps. If you email 100 people, now you have 10 people who can help. As a wise man once said, “quantity has a quality all its own”. Actually, it may have been Gideon Yu from Facebook…I don’t remember.

Don’t take silence as a “no”. Try different contact methods, and follow up only until you get a clear “no”

4. Think beyond the part-time MBA bubble

Often people get stuck filling roles that are expected of them, for no good reason.

Being a part-time MBA doesn’t mean socializing exclusively with other part-time MBAs. It doesn’t mean leveraging only resources explicitly offered via your program. If you’re a part-time MBA at a place like UChicago or Northwestern, consider yourself a full part of that school and all its resources!!

Here’s a full list of the U.S. News & World Report’s 2010 rankings for the best part-time MBA programs:

  • Northwestern/Kellogg
  • UChicago/Booth
  • UC-Berkeley/Haas
  • UMich/Ross
  • NYU/Stern
  • UCLA/Anderson
  • USC/Marshall
  • UT-Austin/McCombs
  • Carnegie-Mellon/Tepper
  • Emory/Goizueta
  • Indiana U/Kelley
  • Ohio State/Fisher
  • Wash U in St. Louis/Olin

There are more than 10 due to ties. See detailed info here.

Crash recruiting events for full-time MBAs. Even if the firms aren’t looking to hire part-time MBAs, you can build valuable contacts and ensure your resume gets noticed.

Attend undergraduate recruiting events. Same deal here.

Join student consulting and business clubs. Another source of events, networking opportunities, and access to recruiters.

Your mentality should be “ask for forgiveness, not permission“.

5. Get your documents ready

Make sure your resume and cover letter are updated. Bring copies of them with you everywhere, but don’t force them onto people – all recruiters hate that.

6. Prep, prep, prep

FInally, act like you have interviews and start preparing now.

I’ve written several articles about preparing for both the fit interview and case studies.

Often, you can give a company your resume Monday, and by Wednesday they’ve emailed you to schedule an interview for the following Monday. Things move fast – be prepared.

Well, that’s it. Following these 6 steps will give you a MUCH better chance of actually making that desired transition – and ensure that the $$$s you spend don’t go to waste.

What other ways can you take advantage of a part-time/fully-employed MBA program to get into consulting? Was I wrong to assume that it’s nearly impossible to leverage that into an MBB?

Comment away. Feedback is always appreciated.

  • farulg

    Point #1 is so true. I was at INSEAD’s executive MBA program and got my McKinsey interview with very little effort comparatively (one call to the career counselor and two emails to the McKinsey recruiter). Failed the interview unfortunately but that’s beside the point :)

    Brand equity matters, if you absolutely can, go for the best school out there!

  • AM

    This may be a silly question…Why is it almost impossible to get into an MBB-caliber firm from a part-time MBA program? Is it just the brand equity?

    For many (if not all) students who come to the USA from third world countries, awareness about top schools and top firms is very limited. Also, many do not apply to top schools because of very high tuition fees. I guess, in some cases, it is just lack of planning due to no mentorship.

    May be because they have enough applicants available from top schools so they don’t need to recruit from lower tier schools. I am curious to know what are the real reasons…

  • Shauravg

    I am currently attending a part time MBA program.

    Brand value and networking definitely matter a lot. But, how much does it matter what kind of job you are doing while attending the part time MBA program. Is there a specific industry or field that is preferred?

  • KelloggPTMBA09

    As a Kellogg Part-Time grad, I’m surprised to see this post. It didn’t seem to me that the recruiters differentiated between FT and PT students at Kellogg. Those of us PT students who had authorization to use recruiting attended the same events and interviewed / received offers from the same caliber employers. Perhaps that’s a testament to Kellogg?

  • Anonymous

    From what I’ve heard, programs like Kellogg and Anderson do a great job of providing the full suite of resources. There are other programs which make it much tougher as a PT MBA to get the same access, and sometimes aren’t even allowed to attend the same events

  • Anonymous

    Of course. If you’re looking into hedge funds, you obviously want serious financial industry experience, preferably either banking or trading. Ditto for any other post PT MBA job.

  • Anonymous

    Primarily because you don’t have the same level of credibility as a fulltime MBA at the same program, and generally some of the top bschools (eg, HBS, Stanford GSB) don’t have part time MBA programs.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed :)

  • JZippy

    What about if you are interested in business strategy consulting? what jobs while doing a PT MBA would be best to increase your chances of getting a FT job in that field upon graduation? Thanks.

  • Bateman

    I’m starting as a grad at Deloitte’s Australiasian Consulting practice next week and am curious about an MBA in the future. I recently finished a research Master’s in business and am curious what extra an MBA would bring to the table? In particular, this side of the World could care less if you’ve done an MBA at Harvard, and a lot, if not all of the fees would come out of my own pocket to cover MBA study. Can any one offer some pros / cons I am perhaps overlooking?

  • ay

    Any UMich Ross Part Time graduates? I’m considering the weekend MBA since I travel for work during the week. I would much rather keep my salary and start paying off the debt of business school if FT and PT programs have similar recruitment options. I understand that as a PT student you can’t do an internship (since your most likely currently employed), but i’m inclined to think that strategy consultancies, high tech firms, etc. don’t treat them with the same magnitude as investment banks.

  • LR

    Why would you suggest that “Part Time MBA students do not develop their managing skills the same way as full time students do?” I currently work full time pulling down 80K+ a year and I attend school part time. I am getting quite a bit of on the job management training since I oversee a team of 8 people… I would say that I am developing my management skills quite well despite my “Part time MBA status.”

  • Deaconblue

    I disagree with the credibility argument. I am in the Kellogg PT program and you go through the recruiting program with the FT students, they companies hiring don’t even know/care if you are PT. The real reason it’s hard to get into a top consulting or ibanking program as a PT is that you generally need an internship to get an offer and you can’t do that if you are already working. Overall, you can definitely get into a top tier consulting firm/bank from a top-tier PT program, but it will be harder than if you go FT.

  • MBA correspondence

    Thanks for the information on Online MBA courses I’ve tried to get
    enrolled in top MBA university and If I get there then it will be worth
    to leave my current job but now I am thinking about having a online MBA
    program that way I didn’t have to leave my current earning and I can go
    on with my studies, Thanks

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  • Bored

    The student bodies at most FT programs are much stronger.  Look at any “good” mba program’s class profile and you can quickly see the differences.  FT MBA’s usually have higher GMATs, higher pre-MBA salaries, better work experience, etc. Also, depending on the grading system, a part time MBA’s “high marks” may mean less.  For example, if there is a bell curve of some sort, then high marks would be easier to achieve in a part time program (weaker classmates). 

  • Guest

    Just finishing up my PTMBA at Kellogg. Felt compelled to comment. Kellogg does a great job of allowing PTs the full resources as the FTs so long as your current employer approves. Once you are in the race – its really all a matter of how well prepared you are – this is a little harder for PTimers given their time commitments with work.

    That said, I am done with recruiting this week and with 6 consulting offers (including one from MBB) I can tell you that it isn’t impossible. Good luck to you all.

  • John_chrome

    Seeking Advice
    I am, an international, interested in a career in Management Consulting or Technology Management for an IB. Is it possible for me to get recruited from an 1 year AMBA from Cornell. I mean will I face a difficult task with recruiters as I wont have an internship when compared to an regular student?

    I am also accepted into a near elite full-time MBA program. Is it better to take up a full time MBA even though the brand name is not so high?
    Pre-MBA, I am an entrepreneur in late 20’s who provides engineering consultation. As of now, I am thinking that I will be interested in a career of technology management or management consultation. 


  • Prometheus

    I got into MBB through UMich — was close-listed with all three, actually — but as mentioned it was extremely difficult. Look up the employment placement stats for evening/weekend MBA programs by company and you’ll see that even in a good year, only 2-3 PTMBAs will get MBB, and often none will. Partly it’s due to the fact that PTMBA tends to be a less qualified group in terms of GMAT, undergrad, experience, etc. Partly it’s due to the fact that PTMBA at Ross can’t apply for internships. And yes, there is some truth to top consulting firms being snobby about PTMBA candidates. The key is to do just what this article said … plan and network from day one … as well as not advertise the fact that you are PTMBA. Make your resume look like a FTMBA resume — do MAP, put 2008-2012 instead of 2008-present for your most recent job, and time your graduation so it is on cycle with the FTMBA students.

    Good luck!

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  • partTimeMBA13

    I agree with KelloggPTMBA.  I am a part time student landed an offer with 2 of the 3 MBB this year.  It’s certainly difficult to put the effort into the recruiting process, but once I was in interviews the firms didn’t seem to bat an eye at the fact that I was part time.

  • Kevin Stevens

    Thanks for a very informative article .

  • Mykeman1

    I have just obtained a Bachelors of Science degree in Sales and Marketing from DeVry University. I am considering moving forward into an MBA. I had the privilege of full tuition benefits as I also worked for the school. I am looking to either go to Keller Graduate School of Management, and still work for tuition benefits, or find a different school to work for at the Graduate level in order to attend a more prestigious school. Can anyone offer any advice?

  • mba_myth

    Hello , I disagree with almost everything you are saying. atleast it doesnt happen in europe that way, especially in UK. FT MBAs might be having higher GMAT score but that’s an requirement because of their lower experience. for executive route, it’s the year of managerial experience that’s taken into account. who says that EMBA student cant score higher? it’s just that it’s not required hence people do not take GMAT. I am pursuing EMBA and my GMAT score was 690. I am 37 year old with 15 years of experience.  regarding Higher salary.. come on.. all those in EMBAs have atleast 12-15 years of experience at senior management level and their salaries are waaay above that of FT MBAs. same holds true for experience.  Most of the EMBAs are already at positions which most of the FT students just aspire to be after few years of MBA. Regarding internship etc, EMBA students do not need internship because they are already working. regarding recruitment, since many of them are sponsored by their organisation hence they do not participate in recruitment activities anyways. I have seen others who are self-funded getting very good response from recruiters but more often than not they all get rewarded in their current companies itself. so  whole point of comparing FT MBA to EMBA just doesn’t make sense to me. Only reason I didn’t go for FT MBA was because I wasn’t happy with average level of experience of any FT MBA cohort. I thought people will learn more from me than will I from them.  That leads me to the last but most important point favouring EMBA. the quality of networking you have ( with likes of CEOs, CFOs, directors, senior managers etc ) is just awesome…I do not care whether CFO of any company has taken GMAT or not but any day, just any day I will prefer networking with people with such profiles rather than someone with score of 750 + 2years experience, as it happens a lot in US and India.

  • mba_myth

    I hope by part time MBA you do not mean executive MBA. EMBA students are already managers, most of them senior managers, directors,MDs and CxOs. I sincerely think you shouldn’t post unless you know about something else you are helping none but confusing almost everyone.

  • Great information. Doing just MBA is not enough even for startups. It requires preparation and networking in advance.

  • Jamiemadrox

    Point #1 is actually huge here.  I’m a part-time student at NYU Stern and though I haven’t begun the process yet personally, there are lots of part-timers here getting offers at McKinsey, BCG, Bain, LEK, Deloitte, etc.

  • Mike

    I’m also a Stern PT student. I found comfort in this comment given the part-timers-are-second-class-citizens tone of this blog post. It’s not always about undergrad GPA and GMAT scores when deciding between PT/FT; it’s much more likely a financial decision or career aspiration decision (stay the course or switch industry/function)

  • jennyrae

    Hi there – not clear what kind of advice you’re looking for, but you’ll want to target the best caliber MBA program you can find! Hope that helps – feel free to post or email us for more detail…

  • jennyrae

    Great – thanks for the feedback and congrats on the offers!

  • njcool

    Hi , I am considering applying to NYU PT Stern and was looking for some more info related to MC recruiting… Would you mind sharing your email id please … 

  • AC Slater

     As mentioned earlier its more that PT programs attract people with jobs and different circumstances. That said, it is a lot easier to get into the PT program at Kellogg/Booth than the FT. I guess its just supply and demand.

  • AusInd

    It is definitely possible to get a call / offer from MBB if you are a PT student. I did the top Exec MBA program in Australia and was interviewed by McKinsey … didnt make it after the 3rd stage, but that was not a reflection of not having a FT MBA

    I eventually joined a boutique consulting firm which allows me to leverage my industry experience effectively. Quite happy here :)

  • nirmal indore

    nice article. i m thinking of become consultant…

  • jennyrae

    Thanks Donna. Please contact us through the form at the top of the page to discuss this further.

  • Ann

    Hi there, appreciate this article. Question for you – do you have any insight and/or other articles about how to switch into consulting in a target school full time MBA? I’m coming from the media/entertainment industry and looking for some advice on my elevator pitch during recruiting…any advice would be helpful and appreciated.

  • Nico Skeba

    What if your full time job is only 15 hours a week? I work for myself and can take day classes and go part time but want internship recruiting. As far as I know only ulca allows part time to recruit for internships

  • DM

    Full time MBA – Start networking on the very first day. They need job to repay a huge loan so its an absolute necessity for them to engage in all networking events. These folks have less experience and often needs a career shift so payouts are pretty aligned with the MBA fee ( Have you noticed that ? Google please)
    Part time MBA – Networking is not a absolute necessity. They can apply the learning on job and have flexibility in timings. Most of these are either company sponsored or already have a good job to finance their MBA’s. Don’t go here if you want to Switch you career or domain
    Executive MBA – Full time MBA’s can reach to these guys to get a job. They are well settled in their field, they need a polished and strategic approach to handle client needs and to expand their business. Most of them can become a part time faculty in B-Schools ( If they want to :) )