Hours in MBB/Big 4 Consulting

Hi!

I made a thread earlier in the week, and gained a lot of great info. Repeating my background a bit for those who didn't read that initial thread:

  • I graduated in May 2015.
  • Since then, I've been traveling and teaching, and have just accepted an offer for Deloitte's BTA Program starting this Feb.
  • Since I was young, I'd wanted to pursue medicine.
  • In Undergrad, I studied Biology, loved it, and was all set to apply to Medical School.
  • I come from a blue collar family, no background in either medicine or consulting.

Should I Pursue a Career in Consulting?

During a BTA presentation, I saw the potential for a career in consulting. My two greatest driving factors are lifestyle and financial stability. I definitely want to have kids, and be there to raise them! However, having gone through financial hardship growing up, it's just become a part of my psyche to always aspire towards being financially secure.

So this brings me to my question. Would consulting offer me a better lifestyle than medicine?

Typical Consulting Hours

Typical consulting hours vary by firm, project, boss and city. A McKinsey consultant may work more hours than someone in a Tier 2 consulting firm, for example. In general, most WSO community members report a fairly positive work/life balance, albeit with lots of travel. Here are a few sample schedules.

From Certified Consulting Professional @devildog2067

I almost never work weekends unless I choose to (i.e., if the end of the week got busy, instead of working till 11pm on Friday I go home at 4pm and do some work on Saturday). That seems pretty consistent with the experience of others I've known. I average right at 60 hours/week with occasional spikes to 80.

From @robobaggio

One thing to specify is whether the above estimates include or exclude travel. I can confirm a 58 to 65 hours per week average at my MBB, but that does not include travel which can add about 10 hours. This matters more to some people (say with small children) than others. It's also worth noting that some cities have incredibly easy airport access (think Boston vs New York) and the difference can really add up over the course of a project.

From Certified Corporate Strategy Professional @pr4mence

Typical work week feels like:

  • Monday: Wake up at 6am to catch 8am flight (floatplane/helicopter) to client. Arrive at office around 9am, work until 7pm.
  • Tues-Wed: 8:30am-7pm, dinner/gym, then answer emails/random stuff until 10pm
  • Thurs: 830am-4:30pm, hope on flight back to home office, get home around 6pm, answer emails etc. until 8pm
  • Fri: 9am-5/6pm, generally super casual
  • Rarely any weekends, maybe 5 hours total (Sat+Sun) if needed

Works out to be 50-60hrs/week. Have had some late nights, but those are usually once or twice a month.

What Are the Exit Opportunities for a Consultant?

In general, exit opportunities for any consulting gig are fairly solid, especially from MBB or any of the Tier 2 firms. The WSO post on Why Consulting? Contains more details on potential exit opps, but here are some common post-consulting roles:

  • Mid-management or executive position in industry of focus
  • Analyst/manager positions at F500 companies
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Graduate studies
  • Lateral move into a boutique firm

Related Reading

Want to learn more about MBB and other consulting firms?

Check out the 2018 Consulting Industry Report for more average hours worked, compensation data, opportunities for professional growth and the most up to date information. Click the link below to get started.

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Comments (67)

Nov 19, 2015

I certainly cannot speak for the medical profession. All I can offer is that I am in Big 4 consulting now and that work-life balance, in my experience, is very positive. My current team tends to work longer hours during the week (12-14 hour days) when we travel; however, on Friday's we're done by 5:00 and we generally have all of our weekends to our significant others, families, etc.

To me it seems like consulting offers you the slightly better lifestyle. My only caution is that depending on the type of consulting you pursue, you may be expected to travel nearly 100% of the time, and that will undoubtedly reduce your time with your future children. My current senior manager has two kids at home under the age of 3, and he's starting to wish he was around for those "critical moments." It isn't easy for his wife either, as she has to be disciplinarian 100% of the time, while he's the hero on weekends.

Anyway, bottom line is if you're looking for work-life balance with strong financial upside, consulting seems to be your best route. Just make sure you won't regret not pursuing something that sounds like it has been a longtime dream. My calling in life is developing analytics and slide decks for mid-level managers - somehow that suits me. Yours could be bettering the lives of children. I suppose just try to be sure how you want to make your impact in this world. Good luck!

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter."

    • 1
Nov 20, 2015

Thank you so much for replying.

Nov 20, 2015

There's a good chance that you'll be done with consulting before kids come into the picture. You're 22 now, and without knowing you I'd assume you've got 6 years before kids. If the travel and lifestyle of consulting 6 years into your career isn't conducive to your vision of family/work balance, you'll be seasoned enough in your career to be able to exit to a nice industry gig with plenty of money and ability to be with the family.

Nov 20, 2015

Hey thanks so much for replying!! I was wondering if you could give me idea of what these exit opps might be?

Nov 20, 2015
undefined:

Hey thanks so much for replying!! I was wondering if you could give me idea of what these exit opps might be?

There are way too many things. Search through the forum

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Nov 20, 2015

Even at MBB there is variability, driven by the culture of your specific team and managers and the case you're on (a high intensity 2-week case will almost certainly have weekend work, for example).

Having said that, I almost never work weekends unless I choose to (i.e., if the end of the week got busy, instead of working till 11pm on Friday I go home at 4pm and do some work on Saturday). That seems pretty consistent with the experience of others I've known. I average right at 60 hours/week with occasional spikes to 80, the hours aren't bad at all compared to law.

Nov 20, 2015
Nov 20, 2015

I've polled 30-40 MBB'ers. Typical hours seem to be in the range of 55-70/week. 80+ for PE due diligence engagements. Weekend work is occasionally dictated by team norms, but not usually on a sustained basis. More often, a half day Sunday might result from attending a networking event on Friday afternoon instead of staying in the office.

Nov 20, 2015
brj:

I've polled 30-40 MBB'ers. Typical hours seem to be in the range of 55-70/week. 80+ for PE due diligence engagements. Weekend work is occasionally dictated by team norms, but not usually on a sustained basis. More often, a half day Sunday might result from attending a networking event on Friday afternoon instead of staying in the office.

is PE due diligence a good engagement or bad engagement?

Nov 20, 2015

Good question. Some people seek them out, some people avoid them like the plague. Like many projects, you work when the client does. In this case that equates to trench warfare. I suppose they make good resume fodder if you want to move to PE at some point, but the hours are brutal. McK and especially Bain do more of them than BCG. L.E.K. (Bain spin-off) does a ton as well. At Bain, you can opt for a 6-month rotation with their PE Group. At 2-4 weeks/project, you can rack up some serious experience in that timeframe.

Nov 20, 2015
brj:

Good question. Some people seek them out, some people avoid them like the plague. Like many projects, you work when the client does. In this case that equates to trench warfare. I suppose they make good resume fodder if you want to move to PE at some point, but the hours are brutal. McK and especially Bain do more of them than BCG. L.E.K. (Bain spin-off) does a ton as well. At Bain, you can opt for a 6-month rotation with their PE Group. At 2-4 weeks/project, you can rack up some serious experience in that timeframe.

Thanks! Do you need IB experience? How easy is it to get a PE job after the engagement?

Nov 20, 2015

1. For PE projects at a consulting firm: No. For PE jobs; IB, MBB, or previous PE experience helps a lot.
2. No idea. PE jobs in general are hard to come by.

Nov 20, 2015

I would echo everyone above. I have only had weekend work when I am on an intense project, and the managers I have had have been very apologetic about it.

I believe it also depends on the office - NYC would be more intense than other offices, all else being equal.

As far as the PE recruiting question goes, there is definitely a pipeline from consulting, although it's narrower than that from banking. There are specific PE firms that look for consultants, so your best luck would be with those. Headhunters start reaching out to you within a few months of starting work, so you won't have any problems learning about different opportunities.

Nov 20, 2015

I only rarely do weekend work and even then it is usually by choice rather than necessity (I.e. I've fucked around on a Friday and not done what I was supposed to do).

Reasonably project is about 60hrs/week....tough project is 80 hours/week. Occassionally (typically a due diligence) you might get beyond that and then it really gets into the weekends but they are rarer and usually short projects anyway.

As always, it's very individual and so much depends on office/manager/type of case etc

Nov 20, 2015

60 hours a week is pretty normal with some spikes near 70. A good case with a stable long-term client may even be a little better @ ~55.

Nov 20, 2015

I worked about 75 hours a week at McKinsey in London and I say that was pretty normal.

When I started, I used to pretty regularly work one day each weekend (I was overly desperate to prove myself). By the end I was much better at putting down boundaries and didn't used to do any weekend work except for Sunday evening, when I'd usually spend a few hours getting ready for the week.

If I had been smarter, I could have set clearer boundaries from the start and very rarely done any weekend work at all without impacting my trajectory or career.

I wrote in a bit more detail about my working pattern here: http://www.theconsultingcoach.com/articles/how-muc... (apologies for the plug!)

I previously worked for McKinsey in London and have started a blog about consulting and how to get into it at www.theconsultingcoach.com

Nov 20, 2015

One thing to specify is whether the above estimates include or exclude travel. I can confirm a 58 to 65 hours per week average at my MBB, but that does not include travel which can add about 10 hours. This matters more to some people (say with small children) than others. It's also worth noting that some cities have incredibly easy airport access (think Boston vs New York) and the difference can really add up over the course of a project.

Nov 20, 2015

Go to the /r/consulting and search "survey results" There are enough McK/BCG responses to draw some decent conclusions across geographies.

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Nov 20, 2015

10-12 is standard, unless you're on a due diligence case and/or your manager has no life outside of work

Nov 20, 2015
GSB or bust:

10-12 is standard, unless you're on a due diligence case and/or your manager has no life outside of work

For some reason I read that as 10AM-12AM-.

Nov 20, 2015

10-12 is more likely typically in by 730-8 out by 7

Nov 20, 2015

Ahh okay. One of the things that attracted me to consulting was the hours. Earlier this year I was looking at i-banking, consulting and asset/wealth management (all very different). This summer being at my internship and being around family and friends has really made me realize that i-banking is not for me. I don't mind sacrifice and working hard -- it's necessary at our age and we've had it easy for 21 years of our life so I definitely don't see harm in busting my ass for the first couple of years out of college. But I do need my occasional "me" time, family and friend time and dating time. Relative to i-banking and from what I've read in the Vault guide, consulting hours are nothing compared to i-banking (50-80 hr wks vs. 80-110+ hr wks, respectively) and what has lured me to consulting and away from i-banking. And after reading the thread "Ambition dying, dead, or just put on hold?" and reading the OP working 16 hr works days and many weekends, I'm thinking to myself, if that's the lifestyle, shouldn't I just do i-banking? I do realize hrs vary across firms, but I'm trying to get a holistic "50-foot view" before I start studying for these case studies and applying for FT positions.

Nov 20, 2015

I haven't started yet, but speaking to many of my future colleagues has led me to believe that 10-12 hours per day is pretty standard.

Nov 20, 2015

FYI, regarding my post, my manager is a workaholic, and so is his boss, the partner. So bear that in mind. Not everywhere is going to be like that. But you do have an astonishing lack of control over your life if one of those partners happens to have you on their radar at your firm.

Nov 20, 2015

very much dependent on your project and your director/partner. In my experience 10-12 hours is about right, although some projects are 8-10, and some are 12-14. In a year with a firm I am yet to work weekends. The longest day I had was 7am-1am, due to presentation due by 8am next morning, which was later cancelled.

Nov 20, 2015

I had a 2:40am to 1:00am day (due to time change)--that was one of the worst days ever. But I've been told basically to be in the office from 8-9/9:30, as a *base*. But again, I drew a bad card--the worst part is this project won't end until sometime in 2014. It's looking to be my only project in consulting, lol.

Nov 20, 2015

remember that on most projects, you'll really only be working the 4 days a week you're on the road, and maybe half of friday.

Nov 20, 2015

You guys are awesome -- thanks for the helpful feedback!

Nov 20, 2015

This was my schedule last week:

Monday: Wake up at 4:00AM to catch 6:00AM flight. Don't work on the flight Arrive @ client site around 9:45AM. Work until 7:00PM. Dinner until 8:30PM and then work until 10:00PM.
Tuesday & Wednesday: Wake up at 6:45AM and arrive @ client site at 8:00AM. Work until 7:00PM. Dinner until 8:30PM and then work until 11:00PM.
Thursday: Wake up at 6:45AM and arrive @ client site at 8:00AM. Work until 4:00PM. Leave to catch 6:00PM flight. Work on the flight. Arrive back in NYC around 10:30PM (flight delayed 1 hour....its been rough getting into LGA the last couple of weeks).
Friday: Work in office from 9:00AM until 5:00PM
Saturday/Weekend work: It varies, was just 5 hours yesterday but can go from 2-10 hours.

Equates to around 55 hours of work (excluding an hour for lunch every day) during the week

Nov 20, 2015
Optimistic Consultant:

This was my schedule last week:

Monday: Wake up at 4:00AM to catch 6:00AM flight. Don't work on the flight Arrive @ client site around 9:45AM. Work until 7:00PM. Dinner until 8:30PM and then work until 10:00PM.

Tuesday & Wednesday: Wake up at 6:45AM and arrive @ client site at 8:00AM. Work until 7:00PM. Dinner until 8:30PM and then work until 11:00PM.

Thursday: Wake up at 6:45AM and arrive @ client site at 8:00AM. Work until 4:00PM. Leave to catch 6:00PM flight. Work on the flight. Arrive back in NYC around 10:30PM (flight delayed 1 hour....its been rough getting into LGA the last couple of weeks).

Friday: Work in office from 9:00AM until 5:00PM

Saturday/Weekend work: It varies, was just 5 hours yesterday but can go from 2-10 hours.

Equates to around 55 hours of work (excluding an hour for lunch every day) during the week

Which industry are you consulting in, if I may ask?

Nov 20, 2015

This client is in the media/entertainment industry

Nov 20, 2015

Been pulling 7:30 am - 11:00am on average M - W.
~20 minutes for lunch, ~40 for team dinner.

Varied +/- 2 hours depending on whether or not there's a big meeting coming up.

Thursday is cut short due to the flight.
Friday's are laid-back.

~60 hours/wk with occasional very light weekend work (2 - 3 hours)

Nov 20, 2015

Typical work week feels like:

Monday: Wake up at 6am to catch 8am flight (floatplane/helicopter) to client. Arrive at office around 9am, work until 7pm.

Tues-Wed: 8:30am-7pm, dinner/gym, then answer emails/random stuff until 10pm

Thurs: 830am-4:30pm, hope on flight back to home office, get home around 6pm, answer emails etc. until 8pm

Fri: 9am-5/6pm, generally super casual

Rarely any weekends, maybe 5 hours total (Sat+Sun) if needed

Works out to be 50-60hrs/week. Have had some late nights, but those are usually once or twice a month.

Nov 20, 2015

These lasts couple of posts are making me smile inside!!!! LOL. Like I said, I understand that hours will vary across firms, projects and etc. but I'm glad (based on last couple of posts) that hours are turning out to be between 50 and 70 hrs vs. 80+. Like I said, working my ass off is never the issue. However, I would like my time to go the gym, see my family and friends occassionaly, reflect on my life, etc.

With that being said guys, do you feel that you all have an appropriate balance of work and play? Are you satisfied with the time you get to have your "me time" or hang out with family/friends or date or whatever else social?

Thank you all so much for your feedback!!!

Nov 20, 2015

All of these posts seem a bit on the light side of my experience.

8 - 11 is typical. I also take a red-eye about 3 out 4 Sundays. I sleep for a few hours on the plan, then work until 11 or 12 on Monday night. This is typical.

I tend to run a bit harder than others in my company, but that's a point of reference. Keep in mind MBB or similar will work longer hours than Accenture or similar.

Nov 20, 2015

Correct, I agree that this varies from project to project and from firm to firm.

To give context, I am with Deloitte S&O on the West Coast (Monitor Deloitte). My project is fairly good on the work/life balance, with many of us analysts playing sports in the summer months together, working out, going to a movie (very rare lol) or just grabbing drinks/dinner after work around 8pm. This is not always the norm, as another project in the same city but different client works significantly longer hours, much closer to 70-80/week than I do.

To conclude, as a true consultant should, the answer is "it depends". =D

Nov 20, 2015

How do the hours change as one becomes more senior? Is everyone on the junior team working the same hours? What about for a manager / principal / partner?

Nov 20, 2015

The norm on my local case (in MBB) is M-Th arrive at client site by 8:30am, work until 7:30pm, go home, eat dinner, work another 2 hours, then sleep. Friday's are 8:30-6:30 and there is rarely weekend work. This ends up being about 60 hours per week, but very crucially, unlike in other jobs I have worked, there is no downtime/facebook time during the day. I work basically nonstop.

Make sure if you ask people this question you don't frame it as "when do you leave the office?" because everyone works from home.

Nov 20, 2015

Pretty similar to what most people have posted. On this project, Monday through Wednesday is ~11 hours of in-office client work per day plus 2-3 hours of client/non-client work after dinner in the hotel room.

Thursday is around 6 hours of work, and Friday is around 4 hours of actual work and the rest is messing around in office, networking, happy hours, etc.

It really depends on the project and how well you can "navigate" your project to get a good role. Also, I try to get ahead on work early in the week so my week is mostly done once I get on the Thursday night plane.

I rarely do work on weekends, though sometimes I will spend a few hours catching up on non-client work and learning new things.

I am at a large tier 2 firm FYI

Nov 20, 2015

Anyone?

Nov 20, 2015

I would like to know as well...what IS exactly done by consultants (especially analyst ones)? From what we've done in strategy and consulting projects, I feel like it is a lot of bullshit. No offense-it just seems like lots of buzzwords and 'frameworks', but at the end of the day, either nothing is really added or its something management could have done themselves, if they just thought about it a bit.

Anyway I would love to hear otherwise.

Nov 20, 2015

This topic has already been written about. Check the Ibank and Consulting Cabaret boards. I can't remember which one.

"Cut the burger into thirds, place it on the fries, roll one up homey..." - Epic Meal Time

Nov 20, 2015

ok i will roam around searching for the threads but atleast tell me what the hours are like.

Nov 20, 2015

no

    • 1
Nov 20, 2015

Only once you make partner, or principal in some cases. Project Leaders work as much if not more than Associates/Consultants do. A lot of people say that your first year as a PL is the worst year ever. With principals it is more varied, some are basically PL's on speed (managing multiple projects with deep involvement), others can be less hands-on/more high-level, with a lot of focus on business development - these are usually close to partnership.

Nov 20, 2015

I think it gets worse continuously out of uni until about Principal level and then stays at that level. I also think that in terms of risk-return it CAN be a great career if you're in the right spot.

Nov 20, 2015

Thanks, we're talking 65+ hours per week here right?

Nov 20, 2015

M - Th is 8am to 11pm
Sometimes earlier,
Sometimes later, depending on project.
...depends on the project.

M starts ass early to catch a flight -- sometimes Sunday night if you're on the west coast and taking a redeye.
Th typically ends a bit earlier.
Generally I work 50%+ of the time I'm on a plane. Sleep another 30-40% of the time.

Fridays are lighter -- 8am to 3pm or 4pm typical, although occasionally later.

Throw in a longer team dinner once a week.

Very little weekend work.

Nov 20, 2015

This is a cop out answer, but it varies by project. I would say in general, no the hours do not get better when you become more senior - you may not be spending as much time doing the grant work, but you will have to allocate your time towards other things - managing people, reviewing work products on analyst, more meetings, proposals, etc..

You'll get more responsibility as you grow senior which will require more of your time.

Nov 20, 2015

No.

55-65 is normal. Spikes to 70+ only for big deliverables or PE DD work. Partners tend to do far less production (XLS/PPT time) and much more traveling (2-3 sites/wk), selling, and internal dev stuff.

Nov 20, 2015

p.s. pretty busy in that M-Th. I hear IB has more breaks and "waiting for work". Less of that in consulting, if what I hear of IB is true

Nov 20, 2015

It varies greatly by project, and by role.

At post MBA, I'd say 50/50 at most. Generally more like 20/80 for client interaction / making slides, doing analysis, reviewing decks, administrative stuff, etc.

i've had projects (due dilligence) where we rarely interacted with the client (5/95) and phases of this current project where more of our time was spent talking to employees, gathering information, than was spent on analyses/slide production/administrative

Nov 20, 2015

Interned there for 4 months and worked on mainly 2 detailed valuation projects in Germany. Towards the deadline hours got long (however, I was sometimes being told "you're only an intern, you don't have to work that long... yadda, yadda" from one responsible senior manager on one of the projects) and had to stay until 11pm a couple of times. But in general, I'd say I had to work maybe 50 hours per week (I often stayed longer and did additional research or just got further into all the WACC-/multiple-/DCF-models or Bloomberg to learn), with that being roughly the average hours/week for the majority of employees and nobody working on the weekends. Usually, the higher the rank, the longer the hours.

    • 1
Nov 20, 2015
Fredbird:

Interned there for 4 months and worked on mainly 2 detailed valuation projects in Germany. Towards the deadline hours got long (however, I was sometimes being told "you're only an intern, you don't have to work that long... yadda, yadda" from one responsible senior manager on one of the projects) and had to stay until 11pm a couple of times. But in general, I'd say I had to work maybe 50 hours per week (I often stayed longer and did additional research or just got further into all the WACC-/multiple-/DCF-models or Bloomberg to learn), with that being roughly the average hours/week for the majority of employees and nobody working on the weekends. Usually, the higher the rank, the longer the hours.

Awesome. Very interesting. Thanks for your response.

Nov 20, 2015

In my MBB office, the average hours were displayed on a billboard. It was 65-70. Being staffed abroad is the worst as for the hours, since you basically just sleep in a hotel and work the rest of the time.

However, hours vary depending on the office, as some of them face tougher competition from the other firms.

Nov 20, 2015

Maxcanada, are you based in Toronto?

Nov 20, 2015
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Nov 20, 2015
Nov 20, 2015