2023 Consulting Tier List

Tier 1: McKinsey, BCG, Bain

Is there anything I need to say? 

Tier 2: EY-Parthenon, Strategy&, Oliver Wyman, LEK, Kearney, Altman Solon, OC&C

I know you people from Deloitte and Accenture would want to say that you guys belong here but all you guys do is implementation bullshit so I'm gonna drop you down half a tier. Other than that, I think in terms of pay, growth and projects, each firm that I put in T2 deserves their spot. EYP and LEK kill the PE DD space and have strong corporate strategy verticals, Strategy& is solid overall with a strong deals practice, Kearney is great at operational work, OW is huge and has a standout financial services practice, Altman has been absolutely dominating the TMT space. OC&C is the one people have probably heard of less but despite its boutique size, its intellectual talent and pickiness for top tier strategy projects puts it up here with the other T2s.

Tier 2.5: Deloitte Strategy, Accenture Strategy, ZS, Roland Berger, Simon Kucher, A&M CPI, Clearview

Alright Deloitte and Accenture, let's talk. There's a reason why Deloitte had to retitle its Monitor division to Deloitte Strategy & Operations and now, Deloitte Strategy (& Analytics) - all for the implementation bs work that's dominating your company because Deloitte knows that's where they can make the most money. Accenture - I will say that you get sexy tech companies as your projects, but so many projects lean towards less real "strategy" work that you'd get at a better firm. ZS and Clearview kill it in healthcare/life sciences so I'll put them here for people that really want to do LS/HC - these are genuinely good firms to be at. Roland Burger, Simon Kucher and A&M's CPI (not restructuring) would also sit here as well.

Tier 3: PwC Management Consulting, EY Business Consulting, Accenture CDP/TDP, Putnam, Kaiser, Keystone, Mars, Charles RiverBooz Allen Hamilton

From all these firms, I'd argue that PwC Management Consulting might be the strongest - there's enough differentiation from the work they do here compared to Strategy& , while EY Business Consulting is easily overshadowed by EY-Parthenon because of the similarity of certain projects. Accenture CDP is another strong choice here, where similar to Accenture Strategy, its "management consulting" is really a lot of implementation/IT, but CDP does have the opportunity to network up into Accenture Strategy, while TDP can do CDP projects. Putnam is a strong player in life sciences consulting, but their pay is ass. For you boutique lovers, Mars might be the best one here, with Keystone, Kaiser and Charles River being good choices as well. BAH hasn't really moved pay up a lot, and a lot of their work stays within government and public sector.

Tier 4: KPMG Strategy/Advisory, FTI, IQVIA

Alright, so KPMG being the worst of the big 4 shouldn't come off as a surprise. I mean, if it's the best offer you have, it's great, but there's a reason why almost anyone can get an offer at KPMG, and why people tend to renege on it if they get anything better, especially during full-time recruiting. Also, KPMG doesn't case during their interviews either, for people that don't really want to practice casing. FTI has a strong RX practice, but for general consulting, it's alright. IQVIA is strong for its brand name within life sciences work, and it's very data driven as well. 

Tier 5: Mercer, Protiviti, Guidehouse, Capgemini, Capco, Huron

Alright guys, now that we're at tier 5, most these firms are only here because their pay sucks, their brand sucks, their projects barely charge a fee, their talent isn't really from the best schools either, but I want to give a shout out to Mercer for still being below $70K base in this market.

Of course, there's firms I didn't include in here that are very strong in other areas of consulting, like Cornerstone and Analysis Group within econ consulting, and Alix Partners and A&M for RX, and Deloitte's other non-Strategy practices aren't real consulting, but overall I think that this is a strong overall list for the current consulting economy today. Within each tier, the big difference that separates your decision should honestly be the kind of the work that you're interested in doing the most, the kinds of exits you can achieve (e.g. industry) and the people/culture you met during the whole recruiting process. 

 

better said, beside tier 1, why do we have all of the rest on the list?

 

Great list overall. 

I would say OW, EYP, S&, LEK, and Kearney are the mainstays in T2 due to project quality and breadth. Altman Solon is pretty niche (even within TMT, the majority of their work is in telecom), I think of them in the same ballpark as ZS and Clearview as specialists that kill it in their niche. OC&C has a strong foothold in Europe but I don't think I've come across them at all in the US. 

Curious where you'd put AlixPartner's PI group. I view it as pretty comparable to A&M CPI.

 

Decent list, but for people less familiar with consulting you need to provide the important context implicit within your selection of firms & practices, and explicitly referenced on occasion: That your list considers only a select subset of consulting work, i.e. "strategy" type stuff that MBB have historically been known for, plus some operations/supply chain/transformation. Furthermore, the former is weighted heavily over the latter. Finally, while you have disaggregated specific practices within some firms, the list aggregates industries, verticals, and geographies to produce an "overall" score - which is perfectly sensible, but it needs to remain clear that there are a whole slew of instances in which the tiering falls apart. Like if you wanted to do automotive work in Germany, in which case Roland Berger is tier 1 and quite possibly even above Bain. Or if you wanted to do only pricing work, where Simon Kucher is extremely strong.

Really a more precise view would be a table of tiers vs practice araes, and an even more comprehensive one would be a (cube?) of tiers vs practice areas vs geographies.

 
Most Helpful

I'm at Partner at one of the firms mentioned in T2 and (i) agree this is a pretty good list and (ii) support Angus Macgyver's caveats. I consistently beat MBB in head-to-head pitches given my firm's unique value proposition and strengths in specific niche markets (definitely not on price...) so some fluidity in these tiers must be assumed.

There are five factors candidates should consider when evaluating "fit" at a consulting firm (generally ordered from most to least important but don't get hung up on the specific order):

  1. "Prestige" (which correlates to pay because it usually takes the form of bill rates - the more "prestigious" firms tend to command higher fees)
  2. Functional focus (business strategy, technology strategy, M&A advisory, technology implementation, etc.)
  3. Pay
  4. Culture (including WLB, location, emphasis on return-to-office, internal competitiveness/collaboration, etc.)
  5. Industry focus (TMT, FIG, Consumer, etc. as well as corporate versus private equity)

For consultants coming out of UG or MBA, #5 is less relevant since you will begin your career as a generalist, unless either (i) you have strong conviction in a particular vertical or (ii) the firm is well-known for a specific vertical (e.g., LEK in the PE space). I would recommend candidates to focus on #1-4 as you evaluate offers.

Based on this evaluation framework, I think the tiers above remain mostly intact; MBB will be strong on #1-3; as you go "down" tiers you begin to sacrifice across these dimensions to various extents. #4 is obviously highly personable.

While some people choose to ignore "rankings," I think they're important because your pay, growth trajectory and exit opportunities will be heavily guided by the firm at which you work.

Hope this helps!

 

Well - I am assuming you are in the US. I work in EU at Monitor (yes still branded as such and this is our go to market) and projects are 100% strategy (except this esg shit). On top of that, the last 6 months we have won several projects over MBB and S&, mainly in consumer goods and healthcare. 

 

Jesus, get a hobby. I have friends who beat themselves up for not landing MBB roles and it's just stupid.

I'm an MBB analyst and no way our work is superior to most of the tier 2 consulting firms. We're actually competing for the same projects with firms like Roland Berger, Kearney, LEK, EYP. I personally know we've lost some projects to RB and LEK. This industry is much more homogenous than many would like to admit. Find other things to base your self-esteem on.

 

How does the compensation fluctuate between the tiers?

 

There's a pretty significant gap between MBB/T2 and the rest. Salaries at the entry level are generally more standardized but comp progression is vastly different.

For reference, a US-based Manager at MBB/T2 could be making ~$300-375k in total comp, while a Manager at EY or Accenture Strategy is making closer to ~$200-250k.

I'm sure some of the niche firms like ZS or A&M CPI are closer to MBB/T2 numbers, but I don't have any data or experience to support that

 

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