Consulting is among the most popular MBA specialties and, not coincidentally, one of the highest-paying post-degree career trajectories. No wonder so many MBAs regard a job in management consulting as the pinnacle of success.
An MBA in Consulting can facilitate your entry to the field or help you advance more quickly if you’re already working as a consultant. You need to be choosy when looking at consulting MBA programs, however. If you’re like a lot of MBA students, you dream of working at one of the Big Three: McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, or Bain & Company, aka the MBB Firms. Achieving that dream usually requires graduating from one of the best MBA in Consulting programs.
Does that mean you have to get an MBA from a top consulting program to become a management consultant? Absolutely not. But if you want to land a high-paying position in a notable consulting firm or in a small niche firm specializing in a functional area like tech or operations, having the kinds of connections you’ll make in a top MBA program will be invaluable.
In this article about the best MBA in Consulting programs, we cover:
Consulting is one of the top MBA specializations for a variety of reasons. Management consulting is a highly sought-after skill in the business world, and consulting is a lucrative profession. Most MBAs who go into consulting, whether or not they earn a consulting MBA, earn six-figure salaries.
Those aren’t the only reasons to choose this specialization, however. It’s possible to become a consultant with just a bachelor’s degree, and a generalist MBA will help you launch a career more quickly. Still, the reality is that it’s hard to transition into the management consultant industry without a specialized degree. Your MBA in Consulting shows prospective employers that you have hard business skills and the problem-solving skills, analysis skills, communication skills, and teambuilding skills required to help companies solve their most pressing business challenges.
A surprising number of the top business schools don’t offer consulting as an official MBA concentration. Some do, but at others, students create de facto specialization tracks by choosing electives related to consulting. That’s why an MBA in Strategy or an MBA in Strategic Management can be just as valuable when you’re launching a career in consulting.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (
Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. ( )
|University and Program Name
Students pursuing consulting MBAs take a variety of classes designed to prepare them to advise companies on subjects like:
They learn to identify critical problems and roadblocks, analyze those issues, and then design and implement custom solutions. While every school approaches this degree a little differently, the typical MBA in Consulting curriculum includes core business courses and courses that give students the tools they’ll need to succeed in management consulting.
The best MBA in Consulting programs require students to take classes like:
In some MBA programs with a consulting concentration or track, students can choose sub-concentrations like technology, operations, pricing, or business strategy. That sub-concentration often determines which electives they can choose.
You can launch a long and lucrative career in consulting with a degree from any of the top schools for MBAs, but not all of those schools offer an MBA in Consulting. You can find some of the top MBA programs with consulting specializations, concentrations, and tracks at:
Prestige is one thing all the colleges and universities in the list above have in common. That’s far from the most essential quality they share. These schools have notable faculty, volunteer mentors from top consulting firms, and relationships with those firms that make it easy for students to land career-boosting internships. Those same companies routinely send recruiters to snap up graduates for consulting and management roles—sometimes before graduation.
At the schools listed above, alumni groups tend to be large, active, and well-connected, which means opportunity is often just a message or a cold call away. The curricula at these institutions usually include career exploration programs in real-world settings, and top schools also have robust post-graduation student support services.
Finally, many of the best MBA in Consulting programs are located in or near cities where you can find the top consulting companies; programs sometimes include site visits. In other words, students start building their networks and building relationships with employers from day one.
There’s no way around it. An MBA from a top business school will set you back anywhere from $165,000 to more than $200,000 in total tuition.
Unfortunately, business is one of those fields where who you know can be much more important than what you know. You might gain all the same skills and knowledge in a budget MBA program, but chances are you won’t make the connections in the consulting industry that will lead to some of the highest-paying positions in the business world.
The good news is that the loans you might take on and the income you’ll probably lose when pursuing an MBA will more than likely pay off in the form of a sizeable paycheck that puts you back in the black relatively quickly, as you’ll see below.
The quick answer is that with this degree, your potential is almost limitless. If you’re researching MBA programs because you think this degree will accelerate your career trajectory, you’re right. An MBA will get you promoted faster, and you’ll go farther. Most people who earn consulting MBAs go on to work in—you guessed it—consulting.
Not all MBA in Consulting graduates become generalist management consultants, however. Most specialty MBA programs devote plenty of credit hours to business fundamentals, which means you can also work in finance, marketing, and other business areas, in industries as diverse as banking, healthcare, and fashion. Think of any job you might do after earning a traditional MBA; you can probably do it with an MBA in Consulting.
Students who graduate from the best MBA in Consulting programs often do so with offers already in hand from top consulting firms like:
If your goal is to become a CEO one day, enrolling in one of the top consulting MBA programs is a good idea, if only for the fact that you’ll boost your chances of getting hired at one of the above firms. Some surveys have found that a whopping 15 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are McKinsey alumni.
An MBA is a significant advantage when you’re launching a consulting career. How big an advantage? The answer depends quite a bit on what school you attend. There are disciplines where your alma mater doesn’t matter nearly as much as your skills, but business isn’t one of them. Because so much in business is driven by professional networks, the college or university you choose will likely have a substantial impact on your average annual salary and your lifetime earning potential.
When you factor in the lowest-earning consultants and the highest-earning consultants, you find that most MBA grads who specialized in consulting earn about $99,000. Consultants who earn their MBAs from the top business schools (whether they specialize in consulting or not) typically earn close to $140,000, or even more. That’s because the highest-ranked business schools (like Fuqua, Booth, and Kellogg) set graduates up for life with strong internship placements and very well-connected alumni networks.
There are many good reasons to pursue a consulting MBA—because you love business strategy, or because you want to transition into a consulting career after gaining business experience in another area. Consulting is one of the most popular careers for MBA graduates.
Even so, a traditional MBA can lead to a career in management consulting as readily as an MBA in Consulting. About thirty percent of students who graduate from The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business complete internships in consulting and then go on to work in consulting, even though the school doesn’t offer a consulting concentration. That suggests that a traditional MBA might do as much as an MBA in Consulting to help launch careers in this area of business—especially at colleges and universities that offer students the opportunity to create boutique concentrations.
Given that, you should keep your options open when looking for the best MBA in Consulting programs. Don’t discount Northwestern University ‘s Kellogg School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan, Dartmouth College‘s Tuck School of Business, or other top B-schools that don’t offer a consulting specialization. because the best MBA for aspiring consultants might not be a consulting MBA at all.
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