Is the work-life balance at MBB (and other MC) worth the interesting work?

I'm a practicing dentist who has been contemplating a career change either through applying to a MC job or going through the MBA route. I'm disheartened to say that dentistry isn't particularly the most captivating field as I once thought it was when I pursued the field, and I had always perceived the work of MCs (or business roles in tech, generally) pretty interesting.

As y'all maybe stereotype, work-life balance and compensation can be great in dentistry. I've read that WLB in MC can be pretty deteriorating, though the work is stimulating and compensation matches up. I can't say I know too much about post-MBA business roles in tech, though from my cursory glance, WLB is solid but compensation maybe not as much (especially compared to dentists or specialists).

Just hoping for fresh perspectives on the classic debate on work-life balance/compensation vs. "finding vigor in your work". Seems like at the end of the day everyone ends up prioritizing work-life balance in the end. What's your take?

Comments (16)

Jan 25, 2021 - 8:15pm

The work, at least in my office (EU MBB), is often not very stimulating or challenging. Most of the challenge comes from sustaining the long hours. It's worth it if you don't have a life outside of work. Otherwise, there are tons of jobs that pay almost as good in the long term that are much more adequate. 

  • Prospect in Consulting
Jan 25, 2021 - 8:49pm

pay as good in the long term, really? what jobs have good wlb but pay what a partner makes at mbb

Jan 26, 2021 - 4:24am

C-levels in corporations. A lot of them are trained in-house. The way to get there is usually much less stressful/intense, the difference is that you a few more years to get to the same place.

Still, you should not assume that you're making it that far, the same way that you shouldn't assume you'll make it to partner. 

Feb 13, 2021 - 10:18am

Making it to C-level in a corporation is much, much more stressful and intense, takes longer, and is far less likely to happen than making partner in a consulting firm.

Getting to partner is, quite frankly, not that hard (and I say that as a consulting partner). The odds of making it are pretty good. ~15% of my post-MBA starting class at BCG (roughly a decade ago) either made partner at BCG or left to other firms for equity partner offers. That was pretty much all the people who actually wanted to be consulting partners. I can literally only think of one person who really wanted to make it as a consultant and didn't.

You don't have anywhere near a 15% chance of making C level in 10 years after MBA. It usually takes more like 25 years after MBA, and for all that time you'll be making less and working more. People who make it to C-level in industry don't have better WLB than consultants do.

Jan 25, 2021 - 9:16pm

The travel can be pretty grueling - and doesn't get much better as you become more senior. Some people enjoy it, I did not. WLB doesn't really matter if you're stuck in a hotel in Tulsa

Jan 26, 2021 - 12:09am

In my experience and observation, "work-life balance" typically requires personal context. To someone who did 2-3 years in IB/PE pre-MBA, or someone who has worked in consulting since graduating undergrad, the lifestyle trade-offs of management consulting might be a bummer at times but are likely not that drastic and can occasionaly be enjoyed (maybe it's just Stockholm syndrome!). On the other hand, I have seen people who did a handful of years in a 9-5 corporate environment, pivot to consulting or banking post-MBA, and be absolutely unable to handle the time commitment and unpredictability. It's less about someone's "endurance" or "ability" to handle the lifestyle, and more about how one's mood/mental outlook is impacted by long hours/travel/fire drills etc. It's much easier to begin in a demanding industry and work your way down the "lifestyle continuum" or pivot to more interesting, equally demanding jobs than it is to shock the system in your late 20's/early 30's. I don't say this to discourage you, but if you've spent your time since undergrad exclusively in grad school or in an environment where you have a lot of control over your time and your time is respected, try to visualize your happiness levels if you give up much of that control.  

I will also add that it would be very atypical if not almost impossible to "apply for a management consulting job" and actually get it, even at entry levels, after solely practicing medicine with presumably no business background or education, especially at MBB or any comparable/Tier 2 firms. Not trying to be a dick, but I think your only route would be MBA.  

Jan 27, 2021 - 2:50am

I mean if changing fonts all night is more interesting to you than helping people to stay healthy then yeah go for it, take on $200k of debt for your MBA just so you can apply with another 1000 people for 1 spot at MBB.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Jan 27, 2021 - 3:17pm

People in MC, what does travel look like now and in a post-pandemic world? Will it resume to M-Th every week? Every other week?


Curious if firms have relayed anything on this or if anyone has an opinion

Feb 16, 2021 - 12:45pm

I don't know about post MBA MC, but MG pre-MBA actually has pretty bad compensation. You get paid much less than bankers, yet your hours can be just as bad, and you're also traveling all of the time with unpredictable schedules. Traveling sounds fun until you realize you have tight timelines requiring you to work on the plane, and don't have time to leave the hotel based in a boring city.

I'm sure you've made huge sacrifices to make it as a dentist and my biggest concern is that you're having some FOMO. I highly recommend that you take gradual steps to learn the skillset of the career you may want to transition to before throwing away a lot of time and money at an MBA. The dentists I know have amazing work life balance, maybe you can find a way to consult for pharma companies that are developing products within your dentistry practice? I think this would give you the best of both worlds, stability from your day job and being able to apply your knowledge in the way you like.

I've known MC who dislike their jobs because they felt that they were only there as a political hedge for management in case a strategy didn't pan out well.

Let me know if you have questions. 


  • 1
Feb 16, 2021 - 5:10pm

Hi there - thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I've definitely read those accounts about the grueling life about MC as well, and I'm sure it's no glamorous walk in the park. I guess my view of MC is that it would be a good transition point for me to not pay tuition while learning new skills and rebranding oneself for future roles/career that I may enjoy more.

I agree - FOMO can be a rather strong feeling. I'm trying to be cognizant of "grass is always greener on the other side" syndrome. 

As of right now, I plan to apply to advanced-degree programs such as Bridge to BCG and Bain ADVantage to get a taste of the industry as a way to test the waters before doing anything drastic. I can foresee a 3 day - 1 week program not being enough to really get a taste of the lifestyle and work, especially during WFH/virtual days. 

Do you have any thoughts on that idea, or any suggestions of other ways I can "test" or "experiment" in certain fields since there aren't too many short-term internships as the ones I've mentioned above?

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