McKinsey Consulting vs. McKinsey Research

wamartinu's picture
Rank: Baboon | 132

You guys are probably aware that McKinsey has 2 divisions that they hire in: Consulting and Research (supporting the consultants). A friend of mine received an offer from McK "Knowledge Network" as a Junior Research Analyst, and wants to know how good are his exit opportunities.

I assume not that good, correct? He's not doing any client facing work, brainstorming or anything like that, he will just collect and analyse data that consultants will need/use. I also have a feeling is much easier to get into McKinsey as a researcher than a consultant, it just doesnt have the same prestige, event though its McK, right? Its like the difference between FO and BO in a Bulge Bracket.

Now that he got this offer, I'm actually thinking about applying there myself just to get that "brand name" on my CV, as I bet not too many people outside MBB know about this Research division, and they would probably think I've worked as a McKinsey consultant :) I, personally didn't know about this difference (thought that when people say they work for McK they are consultants. ie. the real deal) and when he told me he got McK, I was like no way , especially because he's non-target, average GPA, average CV, nothing spectacular but then he told me about this Research division, as "backdoor" of entering McK, so yeah I want to hear your thoughts on this particular career route!

Can I go from McKinsey research to a consultant at McKinsey

Our users have shared a variety of different opinions regarding whether or not you can successfully transition between the research role at McKinsey and the traditional consultant role. It seems as if the career change is possible but not easy or guaranteed. Our users shared their thoughts below.

User @kalice123 shared that it is a very doable transition to make:

kalice123:

I know for a fact that it's doable. There was one girl who went to a non-target school, didn't get any consulting jobs out of college but landed McK research; did that for about a year or so, and converted to a Business Analyst in her second year. I believe she stayed for a third year and is about to go to one of H/S/W MBA. That was her strategy all along because she knew she wanted to do consulting, not research, but had to do that as a stepping stone.

User @chucanes shared that it is possible but not common:

chucanes:

I worked 2 years in an European office of McKinsey. I had a friend that was offered to join as a first year analyst track after 2 years as a research analyst. This is exceptional and he had been previously staffed in some engagements so he could make the transition. I would certainly not consider that a normal path...

User @m2 shared that it is a very difficult transition to make:

m2:

The wall between FO and BO in consulting is much harder than between FO and BO in S+T. I think it's borderline impossible to make this move directly -- I have never heard of this happening.
If you think that McKinsey Research gives you a 'brand on your CV' this is right, but only among people who really have got no clue about how the business works, not really PE/startup/corporate management!

What Does a Research Analyst at McKinsey Do?

raider4ever - Private Equity Associate:

McKinsey research analysts, at least those in an industry group and not at a knowledge center, are client facing, with a per diem paid for by clients, and are a source of profit for the firm, not an expense like operations.

That being said, it is definitely not operations/administration work.

If you want to learn/have a passion for a specific industry, I would suggest there are few better opportunities than doing this with McKinsey. Also, as a BA you are a generalist, therefore you work maybe 5 months on a study in oil & gas, 6 months on a study in Insurance, 2 months on a study in consumer goods, 4 months on a study in Pharma, etc, etc...and then you leave and get an MBA without having gained in-depth industry experience. That isn't a bad thing, obviously, but research analysts in industry groups, while not getting the broad experience, get staffed on and develop expertise in the specific industry they cover, as they are immersed in this 24/7.

From people I know, if you want Pharma or Retail or whatever, this is a great launch into that specific industry and the people I know who have done it have gone on to MBA's at UChicago & Columbia. MBA creds are probably slightly less than a BA, but the McKinsey name still carries with you and partners wrote rec's for these people. After b-school (depending on where you go), things even out and you can go back as an associate or move into the industry you like or go do whatever.

I've heard the main reason it isn't well known is because there are actually very few of them and it isn't a direct campus hire-recruitment program like the BA.

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Comments (43)

Mar 3, 2010
  1. The wall between FO and BO in consulting is much harder than between FO and BO in S+T. I think it's borderline impossible to make this move directly -- I have never heard of this happening.
  2. If you think that McKinsey Research gives you a 'brand on your CV' this is right, but only among people who really have got no clue about how the business works, so maybe hot chicks, not really PE/startup/corporate management!
Mar 3, 2010

I remember reading reading on their site that it's a very rare transition.

Mar 3, 2010

I know for a fact that it's doable. There was one girl who went to a non-target school, didn't get any consulting jobs out of college but landed McK research; did that for about a year or so, and converted to a Business Analyst in her second year. I believe she stayed for a third year and is about to go to one of H/S/W MBA. that was her strategy all along because she knew she wanted to do consulting, not research, but had to do that as a stepping stone. i don't know her personally, and don't know how many others, but everything i said is a fact.

best of luck.

Mar 4, 2010

its doable, i personally know a couple of people that did

of course its better if you can land a consulting gig directly, but if you do not have any offers then go ahead

Jan 18, 2015

I worked 2 years in an European office of McKinsey. I had a friend that was offered to join as a first year analyst track after 2 years as a research analyst. This is exceptional and he had been previously staffed in some engagements so he could make the transtion. I would certainly not consider that a normal path...

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Jan 18, 2015

I worked 2 years in an European office of McKinsey. I had a friend that was offered to join as a first year analyst track after 2 years as a research analyst. This is exceptional and he had been previously staffed in some engagements so he could make the transtion. I would certainly not consider that a normal path...

Jan 18, 2015

I worked 2 years in an European office of McKinsey. I had a friend that was offered to join as a first year analyst track after 2 years as a research analyst. This is exceptional and he had been previously staffed in some engagements so he could make the transtion. I would certainly not consider that a normal path...

Jan 18, 2015

I worked 2 years in an European office of McKinsey. I had a friend that was offered to join as a first year analyst track after 2 years as a research analyst. This is exceptional and he had been previously staffed in some engagements so he could make the transtion. I would certainly not consider that a normal path...

Jan 18, 2015

ive heard of bain guys going to PE shops and there are some PE shops out there that look to hire consultants..dunno about McKinsey but id imagine the exit opps would be the same as bain though i do know the kids who went to McKinsey and completed a few years there went to bschool right after.

Jan 18, 2015

research analyst is a researcher... How much do you like research?

Jan 18, 2015

its for the consumer goods practice which is a sector I have a lot of interest in. I don't see myself as a career researcher; 2-4 years in and an MBA is my current line of thought. I was hoping someone could shed some light on this.

Jan 18, 2015

Is to ask people who are in the program now what their exit options or b school opportunities were. I can't imagine that they are that great for just a researcher...

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Jan 18, 2015
patekphilippe:

Can anyone elaborate on these positions? I guess the are somewhat "back office", but they seem far more interesting than operations.

What is the compensation and hours like? Is there much travel, if any?

Are there good exit opps to Equity Research or IB after covering an industry for a few years as a McKinsey Research Analyst? What about b-school?

Your frat brothers and alumni should be able to get a BA job. Don't give up on front office just yet.

Jan 18, 2015

McKinsey research analysts, at least those in an industry group and not at a knowledge center, are client facing, with a per diem paid for by clients, and are a source of profit for the firm, not an expense like operations.

that being said, it is definitely not operations/administration work.

If you want to learn/have a passion for a specific industry, I would suggest there are few better opportunities than doing this with McKinsey. Also, as a BA you are a generalist, therefore you work maybe 5 months on a study in oil & gas, 6 months on a study in Insurance, 2 months on a study in consumer goods, 4 months on a study in Pharma, etc, etc...and then you leave and get an MBA without having gained in-depth industry experience. That isn't a bad thing, obviously, but research analysts in industry groups, while not getting the broad experience, get staffed on and develop expertise in the specific industry they cover, as they are immersed in this 24/7.

From people I know, if you want Pharma or Retail or whatever, this is a great launch into that specific industry and the people I know who have done it have gone on to MBA's at UChicago & Columbia. MBA creds are probably slightly less than a BA, but the McKinsey name still carries with you and partners wrote rec's for these people. After b-school (depending on where you go), things even out and you can go back as an associate or move into the industry you like or go do whatever.

I've heard the main reason it isn't well known is because there are actually very few of them and it isn't a direct campus hire-recruitment program like the BA.

I'm of the belief that no matter what you do, it is what you make it. My two cents...

Jan 18, 2015
raider4ever:

McKinsey research analysts, at least those in an industry group and not at a knowledge center, are client facing, with a per diem paid for by clients, and are a source of profit for the firm, not an expense like operations.

that being said, it is definitely not operations/administration work.

If you want to learn/have a passion for a specific industry, I would suggest there are few better opportunities than doing this with McKinsey. Also, as a BA you are a generalist, therefore you work maybe 5 months on a study in oil & gas, 6 months on a study in Insurance, 2 months on a study in consumer goods, 4 months on a study in Pharma, etc, etc...and then you leave and get an MBA without having gained in-depth industry experience. That isn't a bad thing, obviously, but research analysts in industry groups, while not getting the broad experience, get staffed on and develop expertise in the specific industry they cover, as they are immersed in this 24/7.

From people I know, if you want Pharma or Retail or whatever, this is a great launch into that specific industry and the people I know who have done it have gone on to MBA's at UChicago & Columbia. MBA creds are probably slightly less than a BA, but the McKinsey name still carries with you and partners wrote rec's for these people. After b-school (depending on where you go), things even out and you can go back as an associate or move into the industry you like or go do whatever.

I've heard the main reason it isn't well known is because there are actually very few of them and it isn't a direct campus hire-recruitment program like the BA.

I'm of the belief that no matter what you do, it is what you make it. My two cents...

I've been told the roles would not be client facing, and I would be working out of the McKinsey office pretty much 90% of the time. I'm not sure how the billing works out and who picks up the tab for the research, but I'm guessing you probably know more about this than I do and you're right. Can you elaborate on what you meant by client facing?

Lastly, I've heard this is a 40 hr/week type job. Is this also correct?

Is the interviewing process as intense as the standard McKinsey interviewing process for BAs?

Jan 18, 2015

From everything I know, the job is definitely not 40 hrs a week and you have the opportunity to serve on client teams & know explicit-confidential info. on what's going on with clients (therefore client facing as opposed to back office support)

I believe it varies from role to role, industry to industry. I also heard those in knowledge centers have more of a 9-5, no frills experience while those in industry groups are relied on much more heavily as they will most likely know more about the industry than the generalist pre-partner consultants.

I know my friends had to take the multiple choice test, had case interviews, etc.

what/where is the job you have interviewed for?

Jan 18, 2015
raider4ever:

From everything I know, the job is definitely not 40 hrs a week and you have the opportunity to serve on client teams & know explicit-confidential info. on what's going on with clients (therefore client facing as opposed to back office support)

I believe it varies from role to role, industry to industry. I also heard those in knowledge centers have more of a 9-5, no frills experience while those in industry groups are relied on much more heavily as they will most likely know more about the industry than the generalist pre-partner consultants.

I know my friends had to take the multiple choice test, had case interviews, etc.

what/where is the job you have interviewed for?

Thank you for all of the useful advice.

The job is within an industry group, not at a Knowledge Center. I don't want to give out more details as I don't have an offer yet.

I think this job would hold excellent exit ops to B-School like you said, and I feel the work would be intellectually stimulating on the daily. We'll see how it all pans out.

Jan 18, 2015

like i said, of the people I know, one went on to Columbia B-school & the other is at Chicago GSB.

Pay is light and some there will be plenty of bs work I'm sure(like every entry-level job everywhere and much more than some people would care to admit) but it sounds like a slam dunk if you really like that industry and plan on moving on to b-school in 3-5 years, regardless.

Jan 18, 2015

1) Recruiting process is different in that you do not come in with a class like BAs or Associates. There are significantly fewer research analysts and recruiting happens as positions become available/a need arises. Additionally, not all practices are identical in what they look for opposed to generalist BA/Assoc; some are more ambitious in wanting someone smart with quant/qual abilities akin to a BA, others place more weight on research background and industry knowledge. Otherwise, still do screening & case interviews, along with the written exam.

2) Not a set program length, though seems most people stay 1.5-3 years: some use it for an education in business/exit ops and others are lifers who enjoy it & want to grow into practice expert roles.

3) Externally - as long as you are ambitious, presentable, and knowledgeable, you work for McKinsey and everything that entails, period. Internally, you are likely to be considered "below" Consultants; however, performance is the great equalizer. A great research analyst trumps a decent BA and is more visible and sought after by Partners. However, if you work at a "Center" (not in a Practice) then - internally, speaking - this topic becomes a bit more difficult to market.

4) At senior levels, the Knowledge path merges into consulting (see #2). Until then, options for b-school and pre-MBA buyside or strategy positions are certainly available within your sector, IF you've utilized what McKinsey offers and built up the right skill set. Further, seems headhunters are still after these folks, as well.

6)Of the people I've know who have done it at a junior level and left for grad school: two went to Kellogg; one to Chicago GSB; one to CBS; one JD at Georgetown.

7) Base is akin to BA at junior level, but does not increase as dramatically unless one moves into a Specialist/Expert role, at which point pay structure is identical to consulting. Ultimately, for a research analyst staying a few years vs. a BA - you won't be paid nearly as much.

Jun 24, 2016

I know it's been a while but can you elaborate more on, "However, if you work at a "Center" (not in a Practice) then - internally, speaking - this topic becomes a bit more difficult to market."

What's the difference between a 'center' and a 'practice'?

Jan 18, 2015

Thank you for the great comment!!!

Jan 18, 2015

McKinsey no question

Jan 18, 2015

Agreed. McKinsey is a great name.

Also, the auto industry is something that is very interesting in my opinion.

You'd be surprised at what you can learn sub specializing in any industry, so I'd jump at that opportunity. Congrats!

Jan 18, 2015

frankly, McKinsey research is not top bschool material. I might be wrong.

bschool actually would appreciate a consulting role at a smaller consulting firm much more than a research role at McKinsey.

Jan 18, 2015

I'm at McK and I'm not sure I'd advise you to do the research analyst thing. They are back-office and it doesn't seem like it would be very fun. I try not to be abusive but there are definitely some consultants that will ask for ridiculous things with extremely tight deadlines and it is generally expected that the RAs will get it done regardless. Just be sure you understand what the job entails.

Jan 18, 2015

I don't know exactly what you will do at McK, but it's like working in back-office at GS I guess. If I were you, I will take corporate finance at big 4 and try to move to IB within an year or so. I've seen it before. At least at big 4, you will develop modeling skill, which is really important to IB.

Jan 18, 2015

McK any day of the week. It will give you the best opportunities for MBA. Look at any McK office and look at their teams, 90% have an M7 MBA

"If you survive to my age and you rack up a CV like mine, you can look at HR and say, "Fuck you. I don't try out."- Eddie

Jan 18, 2015

Research is not consulting. I'd tell you to do Big 4. You don't build any expertise as a research analyst, you compile research reports, industry data, etc, and email it off to teams when they request it. You most likely won't learn anything on the job thats useful for IB or PE.

Jan 18, 2015

Thanks guys.

Let me sum up the above:

Yes for McKinsey:
1. the brand is gold,
2. the power of McKinsey alumni,
3. possible (maybe illusionary and thus useless) expertise in Auto industry.

No for McKinsey:
1. it is back-office role, therefore no client-facing opportunities.
2. It is not consulting, therefore there is barely any chance fo me to build up (strategic) modeling and case analysis skills.
3. Big 4 Corp Fi seems more relevant to IB jobs, especially for M&A advisory team.

Would it make any difference if both of these jobs are based in Asia ? Again, I really appreciate your insights. Let the thread flow.

Jan 18, 2015

Asia means a more definite "no" to McK.

Jan 18, 2015

It sounds like you hit the wrong recruiting window. I'd ask the recruiters re: what timing should look like for you given the May graduation, express interest and follow-up at that time. Not familiar with recruiting for that particular role, but what you heard is what we tell people when they apply for something too early or are otherwise ineligible at this time.

Jan 18, 2015

what location did you apply for?
generally speaking, i think the jobs that they hire immediately for are the knowledge centers, of which there are only like 6 in the world

it really doesn't help that McKinsey is huge

Jun 24, 2016

Depends what kind of research. If it's Equity/Fixed Income etc. might be a good way to build a foundation in the basics of analysing capital, and could be a good stepping stone to banking after b-school. McKinsey brand opens a lot of doors too.

Mar 3, 2010
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Mar 4, 2010
Mar 3, 2010