2016 Top 10 U.S. MBA programs for Management Consulting

Going to a top notch business school to get an MBA is high on the list for many aspiring consultants, especially those based in or desiring to work in the U.S. But which U.S. MBA programs should you apply to if you want the best inroads to consulting?

We’ve all seen top 10 business school lists, and they’re helpful, but we wanted to go one step further to help our readers who specifically want to go into consulting. With that in mind, we compiled the 2016 Top 10 U.S MBA programs for Management Consulting – and the results may surprise you.

If you’ve been in the marketplace for 3 years or 13, read on to see where you should head to B-school for your best shot at breaking in to the consulting job of your dreams.

If you’re from somewhere else on the planet, want to stay somewhere else on the planet, or especially if you want to speak French, be on the lookout for our upcoming article on the Top 10 International MBA programs for Management Consulting (spoiler alert – one of them accounts for the maximum number of consulting recruits WORLDWIDE, especially across top firms, and more than any U.S. school).

Buckle up; here we go!

1. Kellogg School of Management – Northwestern University

2015 class size: 635

% into consulting: 35%

Average consulting base salary: $133,253

Average signing bonus: $27,151

What sets Kellogg apart from the pack? It’s the special emphasis the school places on teamwork, collaboration and executive presence. In fact, most projects and homework assignments are completed in teams, and students’ strengths and weaknesses are then peer-reviewed after each project. In consulting, nothing is more important than teamwork, and Kellogg sharpens that tool better than any other program we’ve seen.

But more than just teamwork, Kellogg also knows how to train you up in problem-solving skills. The Class of 2015 had a full 35% of its graduates accept offers in the consulting field, and Kellogg has become a hot recruiting spot across top firms – but especially for McKinsey. In fact, McKinsey has hired over 215 Kellogg graduates over the last 5 years, including 34 from this most recent class. In contrast, this year 28 graduates accepted offers from Bain, 26 from BCG, 20 from Deloitte, and an additional 18 went to PwC/Strategy&.

The average starting base salary for a Kellogg 2015 grad entering consulting was over $133,000, with an average signing bonus of over $27,000. The highest signing bonus we saw a Kellogg grad receive this past year, however, was $97,000!

Kellogg has also recently placed a focus on recruiting more women in to its program, and women made up 35% of the Class of 2015. The most recent class size at Kellogg has grown to 635, and we fully expect that these graduates will continue to land offers from top firms.

2. Tuck School of Business – Dartmouth

2015 class size: 259

% into consulting: 34%

Average consulting base salary: $130,723

Average signing bonus: $27,508

Tuck takes leadership seriously. While Tuck is the oldest graduate business school in the U.S. and the smallest heavy-hitter on our list, its graduates are known not only as team players, but as team leaders. In fact, every student is required to come up with a personal leadership development program.

Tuck only accepts around 250 students/year, and is therefore known for having a collaborative and collegial atmosphere within the program. As evidence of this, Tuck alumni are known to have a strong loyalty toward the school and other alumni. Because of the school’s small size, there may not be a Tuck alumni in every firm, but the alumni you do connect with will go the extra mile to get a fellow Tuck graduate (why don’t they call themselves Tuckers?) a job at their firm.

Tuck’s Class of 2015 placed 34% of its students in management consulting, with a vast majority of those going to MBB firms. The average starting base salary for a Tuck grad entering consulting in 2015 was over $137,000. Tuck is also very strong in its technical skills training, especially regarding Excel modeling and executive presentations. With a rigorous core program, strong alumni network, and team-building atmosphere, Tuck landed at #2 on our list of the top MBA programs for management consulting.

3. Harvard Business School

2015 class size: 932

% into consulting: 24%

Median consulting base salary: $140,000

Median signing bonus: $25,000

It may surprise you to find HBS at a place in our rankings other than #1, but being ranked in our Top 3 is nothing to sneeze at – unless you’ve been drinking the HBS Kool-Aid a little too long.

Harvard Business School could probably more aptly be named Harvard Leadership School, as the goal of molding future leaders permeates every course offering at HBS. What separates good leaders from great leaders (and good consultants from great ones!) is the ability to prioritize what is most important and what isn’t. At HBS, improvement of students’ decision-making abilities is a constant focus. HBS graduates are not only known for being smart, but for being able to make positive decisions under pressure.

In addition, students are taught how to influence others, as each is expected to teach his/her classmates in addition to what the faculty are teaching. This is one of the reasons the HBS alumni network is world-renowned for keeping classmates connected and loyal to the alma mater decades after graduating.

However, because of the variety of the backgrounds of applicants HBS admits (and nationalities, P.S.), only about 24% of its Class of 2015 entered management consulting. Again, however, the vast majority of these students landed at MBB firms, with HBS understandably being a recruiting hotbed for McKinsey, Bain & BCG. The median base salary for a HBS grad entering consulting in 2015 was $140,000, and 93% of those entering the field received signing bonuses, with the median signing bonus being $20,000.

In short, if you want to go to a top firm, you’re not underserved at Harvard – but the global menu is a bit bigger, and the emphasis on consulting – while there – hasn’t been as stark as at Tuck or Kellogg in recent years.

4. Columbia Business School

2015 class size: 748

% into consulting: 35%

Median consulting base salary: $140,000

Median signing bonus: $25,000

Located on Broadway in Morningside Heights, it’s no surprise that Columbia is well known for its excellence in finance and relationships with movers and shakers on Wall Street. But what makes Columbia an attractive school specifically for consulting firms, and not just investment banks?

The short answer is that because almost every class has a bent toward finance, graduates come out strong in quantitative work, which is the backbone of consulting jobs – and increasingly so. Every client wants data that supplements your hypothesis and recommendations, and you’ll be the one who’ll have to find it, analyze it and interpret it.

What sets Columbia apart from the other schools on this list (beyond its renowned quant focus) is its Program on Social Intelligence (PSI), which teaches students the effect they have on other people and how to anticipate the emotional needs of the people around them. If you can’t read people, you most often won’t be able to provide them with what they really want. Social intelligence and emotional intelligence, as mentioned above, is very important in consulting; without it you won’t be able to please or land clients, and won’t be as effective of a team member.

In 2015, 168 students of the 748-person class went in to consulting, despite the strong interest in investment banking at Columbia as well its culture of encouraging entrepreneurship. 55 of these graduates ended up at McKinsey, 35 at Bain, 29 at BCG, 28 at Deloitte, 8 at A.T. Kearney, 7 at Strategy&, and 3 each at EY and PwC. If you’re up-to-date on your mental math, that’s a whopping 69% of the graduates entering consulting who went to MBB. The median salary of graduates of the Class of 2015 who entered consulting was a cool $140,000, with an average signing bonus of $25,000.

5. Sloan School of Management – MIT

2015 class size: 406

% into consulting: 32%

Average consulting base salary: $137,609

Average signing bonus: $25,959

The next heavy-hitter coming in at the mid-point of our list is MIT Sloan. Located in Cambridge a stone’s throw (or thereabouts) from Harvard, Sloan has nonetheless carved out for itself a unique and impressive reputation. Sloan has a decidedly global focus in its curriculum, offering a plethora of opportunities for students to study abroad. The school even has student-run business groups that focus on different nations around the world.

Because of it’s relatively small size, Sloan has done a good job of building a sense of community on campus. Students work through the first-semester core in teams of 5 or 6, and unlike at HBS, can only choose one elective during this time period. There are also well-known “Consumption Functions” held weekly on campus, where students and faculty alike gather together to eat and drink, and these “C-functions” often have international cultural themes. Most impressive, however, are Sloan’s “Action Labs,” where students gain practical experience by teaming up to solve problems for actual businesses in the United States, China, and India.

MIT Sloan has long been a recruiting hotbed for top consulting firms, and last year was no exception, with McKinsey being the biggest recruiter on campus, hiring 31 graduates. BCG was next, hiring 14, followed by Deloitte (13), Bain (12), and Parthenon-EY (6).

6. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

2015 class size: 826

% into consulting: 26%

Median consulting base salary: $140,000

Median signing bonus: $25,000

Since 1881, Wharton has built itself a reputation as an innovative graduate management program with a specialty in finance. Wharton is also known for being incredibly globally minded, with faculty encouraging students from over 65 different countries to look at issues from a global perspective. Its graduates are also known for their excellent quant skills, without which you won’t last a day as a consultant, as well as a firm grasp on international markets.

Wharton is a recruiting hotbed for investment banks, but one thing that sets Wharton apart for consulting is their Small Business Development Center, which allows students to consult for local entrepreneurs and gain valuable consulting experience and feedback while still in the program.

An impressive 42% of Wharton’s Class of 2015 was made up of women, one of the highest figures of all the programs on our list. In addition, Wharton placed 156 graduates (or 26.3% of the Class of 2015) in the consulting field. The median starting salary for these graduates was $140,000, and 123 out of the 156 who entered consulting received signing bonuses, with the median being $25,000. Over 550 Wharton alumni currently work at McKinsey, which is the 3rd largest group of employees from one school after just INSEAD and Harvard Business School. However, because of the firm’s sheer size, Deloitte is the largest recruiter on campus, but the MBB firms have a not-surprisingly strong presence.

7. Booth School of Business – University of Chicago

2015 class size: 580

% into consulting: 33.5%

Median consulting base salary: $140,000

Median signing bonus: $25,000

An international brand name in the business school world, Chicago Booth lands at #7 on our list. Historically strong in Finance, lately the school has focused on offering a more well-rounded education, beefing up its general management curriculum. The faculty at Booth are world class, as Booth boasts an impressive 6 Nobel Laureate professors, more than any other school on our list.

The advantages of attending Booth go beyond just the classroom. The school has a wide-reaching alumni base, with connections at almost every top consulting firm in the world, as well as a great reputation in the consulting world.

Booth graduated 580 full-time students in 2015, and out of that total, 154 (32%) entered consulting, taking advantage of their alma mater’s brand name and connections to secure an average starting salary of a little over $130,000. 44 of these grads accepted offers from McKinsey, 29 from BCG, 18 from Bain, 12 from PwC Strategy&/PwC Advisory, and 7 from Deloitte. In addition, 5 graduates went to Accenture, and 4 each landed positions at A.T. Kearney and EY. Not to beat a dead horse, but MBB firms are obviously the biggest recruiter on campus with 19% of Booth MBAs landing at one of the Top 3. Out of the MBB firms, McKinsey hires the most Booth grads, with over 350 working at McKinsey in some capacity currently.

8. Darden School of Business – University of Virginia

2015 class size: 320

% into consulting: 28%

Average consulting base salary: $131,911

Average signing bonus: $27,503

Darden has been quickly rising in the rankings of top business schools for a few years now, and checks in at #8 on our list. Its reputation for providing a well-rounded executive education is well-founded, and the program’s focus is more on imparting practical skills – such as negotiation, selling and team leading – over business theory.

In addition, we haven’t seen a school place an emphasis on integrity and character like Darden. The school has a strict one-strike academic honesty policy, and also excels at teaching “soft skills,” including emotional and social intelligence. Though soft skills are quite literally unquantifiable, they are essential in consulting, an industry that can be incredibly people oriented.

With a 2015 enrollment of only 320 students, Darden is not much bigger in size than Tuck Business School, and so is able to offer the same kind of personalized attention from faculty and career services. Out of last year’s class of 320, 28% went in to the consulting industry with an average starting base salary of $131,911, and an average signing bonus of over $27,503. Deloitte is a major recruiter on campus, along with the MBB firms. Darden is specifically a target school for McKinsey, Bain and BCG’s southern region offices, and is notably the standout amongst target schools in those regions.

9. Fuqua School of Business – Duke University

2015 class size: 390

% into consulting: 32%

Average consulting base salary: $130,374

Median signing bonus: $25,000

A relatively young MBA program compared to many other schools on our list, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business has nonetheless become a top-ranked MBA program by any metric by which you would want to measure it. Fuqua places an emphasis on teamwork in the classroom, as students will hardly do any individual classwork. Chants of “Team Fuqua” are routinely heard at the school, and they are not just for show. There is a tremendous culture of collaboration, one that all consulting firms look upon favorably and have built to different degrees of success in their own offices. Coming from this culture will give you a leg up at firms such as Bain, where the office atmosphere is very collegial and the most “fratty”.

Fuqua’s academic school year is structured differently than most other full-time MBA programs, giving students a much wider and diverse range of course offerings than most business schools. In comparison to HBS, where you can’t take electives until your 2nd year, Fuqua offers 1st year students the option to take at least 5 elective classes, arguably giving them more well-rounded experience sooner. Everything at Fuqua is centered around becoming a “leader of consequence,” and the program has recently placed more emphasis on understanding and solving problems at a global level.

The 390-person Class of 2015 landed 24 grads full-time at McKinsey, 21 at Deloitte, 17 at BCG, and 10 at Bain. These students reported receiving an average annual base salary of over $131,000. Fuqua’s Class of 2016 was just as impressive, garnering 20 internships at Deloitte, 11 at BCG, 9 at McKinsey, and 8 at Bain. Fuqua does place candidates in a broader set of firms than a school like HBS, however, which dropped them accordingly in our rankings.

10. Berkeley Haas – University of California

2015 class size: 248

% into consulting: 25%

Average consulting base salary: $131,922

Average signing bonus: $32,231

Checking in at #10 on our list is Berkeley Haas, where students work cooperatively with peers and faculty alike in small group classroom settings. Learning in small groups allows students to role play and put themselves in the shoes of diverse kinds of stakeholders during the course of their learning.

Berkeley also does more than just pay lip service to the idea of challenging the status quo. Students are encouraged to ask as many questions as possible and improve existing processes. Also unique to Berkeley is its International Business Development Program (IDP), which allows students to be a part of a global consulting team made up entirely of peers. This gives students from various technical and cultural backgrounds the chance to work collaboratively on actual consulting projects and provide real recommendations for real business issues.

Berkeley has a reputation for churning out mature graduates who are well versed in how external issues (politics and globalization, for example) affect day-to-day business. The school also has been way ahead of the curve in its emphasis on ethics and social responsibility, areas in which some other programs are still trying to catch up. This combination of social responsibility, practicality and maturity is very attractive to top consulting firms who are looking not just for competent candidates, but competent candidates who have also shown the capacity to care about the widespread impact of their work.

What Berkeley is selling, firms are buying. For the MBA Class of 2015, 25% of the 248-person class entered consulting. The top hiring companies from Berkeley were (in order) Deloitte, McKinsey, Bain, A.T. Kearney and BCG. Hires from Berkeley’s Class of 2015 reported receiving an average annual starting base salary of almost $132,000, with an average signing bonus of over $32,000 (the highest of the schools on our list).

Honorable Mention

11. Stanford Graduate School of Business

2015 class size: 396

% into consulting: 14%

Average consulting base salary: $135,443

Average signing bonus: $25,100

Stanford’s program is general management all the way; no majors allowed here! Still, with its proximity to Silicon Valley, Stanford has a reputation for entrepreneurship not matched by many of the other schools on our list. The skill set that makes a good entrepreneur doesn’t always make a good consultant however, as many entrepreneurs can be the go-it-alone types who aren’t good with working in teams or communicating well. Still, while Stanford may not emphasize teamwork like other top B-schools, it is an important part of the culture. Students are assigned to study groups of 4-5 and meet everyday during their first quarter in the program.

Stanford prizes innovation, and encourages its students to look for creative solutions to current business and political problems. It puts its money where its mouth is by having more personalized learning experiences based on the needs of the individual student available in first year, in comparison to some of the more inflexible programs at other B-schools. While some entrepreneurial types may not make good consultants; quick, creative thinkers do. Stanford prizes itself for teaching its students to make key decisions quickly and to be creative and flexible enough to look at problems from the angle of every stakeholder.

Just like at Harvard, Booth and others, Stanford has an enviable network of alumni in the biggest and best firms all over the world, making networking much easier for grads. This behemoth placed 14% of its 2015  graduates into  consulting, with McKinsey being the biggest landing spot. The average annual starting salary for these graduates was over $135,000. Add in an average $25,000 signing bonus, and these guys aren’t doing too bad. Why is the number of students entering consulting so low at Stanford in comparison with the other schools on our list? The culture of entrepreneurship which Stanford has championed for years leads a sizeable chunk of students to venture out and create their own start-ups right down the road in Silicon Valley. The school’s location also makes it a recruiting hotbed for tech companies, and its reputation as a top school for Finance also means that Stanford is a pipeline for premium talent going to investment banking as well.

Do you agree with our list? Disagree? Is your program or alma mater mentioned? If it’s not, should it be? Comment below to let us know what you think of our list!