MBB (specifically McKinsey and Bain) - direct promote without MBA?

EarLoeb's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 252

Hi guys.

Does anyone here know if McKinsey and Bain ever promote their junior team up to the post-MBA level (Associate at McKinsey and Consultant at Bain) without an MBA? Let's say if someone joined the company out of college and wants to work for 4 years before getting an MBA instead of 2 or 3... Or if someone laterals over with 2-3 years of experience without an MBA at the pre-MBA level.

Thanks in advance!

Comments (39)

May 7, 2015

Yes, both do direct to associate promotions aka analyst to associate (A2A) for their top bucket analysts. I've seen some analysts get promoted to associate and then work for 1-2 years and then go to get their MBA, sponsored by their firms. You definitely have to be a top analyst to get this though.

May 9, 2015

At at least one MBB, it's actually possible to go from Pre-MBA to Post-MBA to Team Leader (EM, PL, CTM) in 4 years... for EXTREMELY high performers.

In my system, one person has done it in the last 5 years. She's now on track to make Partner at age ~32.

May 9, 2015

A quick linkedin search should give you the answer you are looking for. Just some food for thought, but I would perhaps be a little more specific than, "has anyone ever...".
Really, nothing is impossible if you have the right attitude and relationships. There may be a preference but exceptions can and have been made in all walks of life.

Bitch please, I love bananas! If you found my advice useful, hit me up with one.

May 10, 2015

It's possible, and not nearly as difficult as people are making it out to be. In my experience, most of the analysts will either join the industry/buyside after their 2 years (if not MBA) rather than take the 24/27 month promotion. There are actually quite a few "average" analysts that are offered the promotion.

May 11, 2015

Not quite sure what you mean by "average" but at least at one of the MBB firms you have to be in the top 25% of your analyst class to even be considered for a promotion from pre-MBA to post-MBA. Even if you are in the top 25%, promotion is not guaranteed. To me, that is definitely not "average".

I agree with you that many people do not want to stay in consulting beyond 2-3 years or prefer to do an MBA even if they are considering coming back to the same firm after the MBA. That being said, I know at least a few people who were asked (forced) to do an MBA before they could come back as post-MBA.

May 11, 2015

Guess I should've clarified a bit more. I would say getting into that top 25% isn't as difficult as it's made out to be. This is all anecdotal/observations from my firm and my SO's firm, but I see the following breakdown amongst a standard starting class.

40% to 50% - Are at the "fuck this" phase and are trying to escape by any means necessary. There's probably some combination of high performers and people that actually suck in here, but that sub-breakdown has more variability

20% - People that genuinely suck at the role. They're either oblivious to a lot of things, sloppy in analysis, or have some other structural issues. Pretty evident that they will not make it.

30-40% - Folks that are actually trying to get direct promoted or are complacent enough to stick around for a 3rd year. While the majority of this group will make it, a combination of this is dumb luck, politics, project experience/performance, and ability to "play the game" (this is client services after all).

Yes, not everyone in that last bucket will actually make it, but those that really want to can and will. By and large this isn't a tremendously difficult job for someone at the lower ranks, so while it may not be guaranteed per se, it's better odds than trying out for varsity.

I think shit gets really tough during your first year at M/EM/PL when that "up or out" really starts to kick in and you see some very talented people start to get asked to leave.


For the very few who are actually trying to stay 4 years and get promoted to a manager level, I personally have not seen that done without the MBA. The managers that started as analysts were pushed out between the 3-3.5 year mark at the latest to get their MBA. The time they spent at the Post-MBA Consultant level counts towards their tenure though. So if you were at the Associate/Consultant level (whatever the Post-MBA term is at the different firms) for 1.5 years before leaving to get your MBA you would only have to be in that role for 1/2 year to get promoted to the manager level.

May 10, 2015

I know a few BCG guys who made PL (manager) with no MBA.

May 11, 2015

I believe it is quite common for European offices.

Sep 4, 2015

What IBTeaching says is mostly accurate in describing a starting class after a few years, but I have few clarifications to add from my experience of being in one of these classes and now having managed a few of them

For the first group he described (the ~40-50% that has decided to go) a small portion are, without qualification, very very good and could indeed be successful in MBB consulting if they wanted to be, but they'd rather do something else and generally go on to be stars in whatever that is too, I have a few friends like this and they are very impressive people

Another similar sized portion is a lot like the hapless '20%' group described, in that they are generally hopeless at the job and are not going to make it, no matter what -- but the difference is that they know it and are actively looking to leave, they also will pretend they did so because they didn't like the job, not that it didn't like them (at the junior ranks, roughly a third of people are clearly never going to make it because of skills in total, so call it another 10-15% in here)

The last group, which makes up the majority of 'self selecting' leavers (and is the most interesting) are those who are generally 'pretty good' (ie are very smart, can talk well, and have a good dose of eq), but are lacking a certain 'drive' or 'thickness of skin' that is needed to put in the hard work and sacrifice required for months and years on end

These folks are an interesting case to think about because you see streaks of great things from them, and often will like them a lot, but over time they under deliver to your expectations

They themselves know they theoretically 'could' do more, but when faced with the prospect of following through on perceived potential they rarely actually do it ... they can convincingly tell themselves that they could've done it, but in the end they don't

It reminds me a bit of a kid who says he could've gone to Harvard if he just studied harder, or could've been a professional athlete if he just focused on practicing more seriously

This theoretical 'could' is great, especially for the ego of the person in question, but it doesn't generally amount to much

Sometimes when these folks move on to something else and they really get fired up about it they do amazing, but more often they go on to respectable but unremarkable careers in corporate America (or non-profits as another surprisingly common soft LZ) where they do fine given that few people there work too hard or are terribly smart in comparison to folks from BCG or McKinsey, but they typically don't rise all the way up because they are incapable of pushing themselves through the incredibly long slog that working your way up the many career greasy rungs entails

Also, fwiw, this general principle (though probably not the exact percentage breakdown) of needing both the raw capability ingredients coupled with a very heavy dose of drive over the long term applies to most hyper competitive professions from what I've been able to see

And, lastly, to answer the original question: yes, it is indeed possible to get promoted to manager coming from undergrad after 4 or 5 years if you've got both of those things in abundance, but it's an incredibly hard job to do at age 26 or 27 ... you will have to directly manage smart and entitled people 3 or 4 years older than you that just came out of HBS or Wharton or the like, and they will usually be annoyed by having to work for you, you will also have to actively manage perceptions of C-suite clients that are your parents age who think you look more like a babysitter than a 'Trusted Advisor' they are paying millions of dollars for, and (most challenging of all) you will need to manage the often conflicting and at times absurd demands of partners that are diving in every now and then to tell you what they 'know' the answer is (i.e., something they just made up on the flight in)

Like IBTeaching, I've seen a few genuinely capable and hard working young promotes get flamed out by this combo, although I've also seen a few thrive under the pressure

Sep 4, 2015

No it's not obligatory, and changing offices depends on performance and the offices involved.

Sep 4, 2015

Thanks, I'm trying to decide between Bain, BCG and McKinsey and this MBA issue is a factor because I don't want to go to school again. I thought in McKinsey after 2 years almost all need to leave for an MBA or leave the firm?

Why do people leave for an MBA then? Do you know about European offices/Singapore transfers?

Sep 4, 2015

Used to be that way at BCG as well, and that has been changing. You still see many people go get an MBA because it's useful to network, a chance to learn/is interesting, is a good career break and chance to recharge, and opens up opportunities outside of consulting. If you leave consulting at the PL/EM level with an MBA, life is different than if you leave at the same level without the MBA.

Sep 4, 2015

Why life would be different leaving with an MBA at PL/EM level?

Sep 4, 2015

In my office (western Europe), BCG is triying to encourage associates to stay and direct promote to consultant without an MBA, since this is no longer a gamechanger if your plans are to stay

Sep 4, 2015

Are you in the Spanish office by any chance? What are the options for changing offices, sabbaticals etc?

Sep 4, 2015

Echo the comments above.

At BCG, it is quite common for people to stay through from Associate to Consultant level without MBA. The more uncommon step is to go from C to PL without an MBA, but that is starting to flex a little bit as well.

To the commentary on exit opps as a non-MBA, young PL/EM, I agree with everything that has been said. I'm on the cusp of that transition right now, and all recruiters I respect have basically said it takes 1-2 years before you can compete for the same level roles as your MBA-carrying peers (e.g., a 26-27 year old PL2/EM2 starts to have a similar option set, still at a disadvantage).

Makes a lot of sense to be honest. If you're super young and only have experience in one job, they better be sure you have succeeded managing someone before putting you in a director level role. As much as success in MBB is a good screening mechanism, being a successful Associate / Consultant does not require the full range of talents that would make you an effective Director.

Sep 4, 2015

But why leaving MBB for a Director role somewhere else? Why not stay in BCG, promote fast and don't do MBA?

Sep 4, 2015

Just because you can get to Consultant without and MBA more commonly, doesn't make it common to get to PL. And just because a few people make PL without an MBA, doesn't mean they'll make Principal or Partner. It's quite possible that your career will stall out, and even MORE possible that you burn out and want to leave. MOST people leave consulting; it's expected and some would say encouraged.

Sep 4, 2015

Hi Mike,

Just a word of advice: at this point in time, you really have no idea how you will feel in 2/3 years. Today, the idea of going back to school might sound tedious, but after grinding for 2 or 3 years with the consulting lifestyle, I'd say there's a good chance you'd welcome going to school.

The life of a sponsored MBA student is pretty sweet: easy-ish acceptance into top programs, paid tuition, no stress of recruiting, and the opportunity to learn what interests you. For a lot of people, that sounds pretty good.

I'd really advise you not to consider the MBA promoting prerequisites at the various firms. As others have mentioned, an MBA isn't necessarily necessary anymore...but more importantly, you really don't know what your future self will want in that respect. There are way more important things to consider when making the decision (people, practice areas, style, location).

Also, changing offices is pretty easy...but, as always, it's better to request things as a high-performer.

Hope that helps.

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Sep 4, 2015

Thank you, do they give you some money apart from the tuition fees while you are doing the MBA?

In terms of people/practice areas/style do the MBB firms differ clearly in any aspect apart from Bain more PE for example?

Also I heard that people work much more in some offices than others and that salaries can differ quite a bit due to income tax rates, etc, is it true?

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Sep 4, 2015

Any feedback to my last comment?

Sep 4, 2015

In Europe there are significant salary changes across countries; I don't think it is 100% tied to taxes (as the differences between f.i. MBB Spain and MBB Zurich pay-wise is too large to be down to purely tax). Hours also vary across Euro offices, as well as the usual differences across groups/sectors (PE tends to involve longer hours than govt work).

Sep 4, 2015

Sources tell me Amsterdam is the illest and chillest.. But idk lol

Sep 4, 2015
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