T2 Consulting VS Big 4 Consutling

I'm a freshman at IU Kelley interested in pursuing a career in management consulting, based on prestige, lateraling, and work culture which type of consulting is better? I personally feel like Big 4 companies like Deloitte/PWC take the edge compared to companies like LEK/Kearney. But please feel free to give your input. It is early in my college career to be thinking about this but I would like to get an idea of which direction to head in. MBB is my goal but I may need to have a backup plan. Thanks

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Comments (17)

  • Associate 3 in Consulting
Sep 8, 2021 - 11:58am

T2 (S&/EY-P/ATK/LEK/OW) pay better and generally offer more interesting work vs B4

It's also a lot easier to get a B4 offer vs a T2 offer in general

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  • Associate 3 in Consulting
Sep 8, 2021 - 12:49pm

On an overgeneralized & oversimplified level, you're going to be getting more strategy work / figuring out what companies should do, vs operational excellence / implementation / helping them do them

Note that T2s are usually more specialized to a few industries and/or types of work that they're really good at, while B4 will kind of do everything (but an individual employee will not -- you won't get a generalist experience at a B4)

Beyond that, for T2s you need to learn what each firm actually does through online research & networking, and for B4 you need to remember that you'd be hired into pretty specific teams/groups that you'd want to learn about before accepting an offer

In general, MBB > T2 > B4 is not a controversial statement from a post-college offer perspective, so if you can get the T2 offer you should almost certainly accept it over a competing B4 offer unless you hate the firm's specializations

Sep 8, 2021 - 1:18pm

Thank you so much for that explanation, really helped clarify the differences between the two. Also would you happen to know about the work cultures at T2 and Big 4 firms? Thanks

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  • Associate 3 in Consulting
Sep 8, 2021 - 1:25pm

Happy to help

Unfortunately here's too much variance to reliably generalize T2 vs B4 working culture (you'd need to compare a single T2 firm vs a single group in a B4), but at a high level strategy consulting (i.e. T2) = higher pay, longer hours, more stress. Networking is how you can develop some understanding of group cultures

Also worth pointing out that T2 firms are usually "up or out" (i.e. if you don't get promoted in a certain standard timeframe you're let go) whereas this may or may not be the case in a B4 group 

Sep 8, 2021 - 1:29pm

Thank you once again and I understand that it's difficult to generalize the cultures. However what are some T2 firms you view as stable and a good starting point, or should I just consider all of the T2 firms to be so? Also what are your thoughts on boutique consulting firms such as the Keystone Group?

  • Associate 3 in Consulting
Sep 8, 2021 - 2:11pm

IMO, the T2s are S&, EY-P, ATK, LEK, and OW. Some people will add ZS, ACN Strategy, and what was formerly Deloitte S&O, but insofar as they're not at parity on winning cross offers against T2s AFAIK, I do not (doesn't mean they can't be a good place to be though -- e.g. ZS is about as good as anybody in pharma)

In terms of which T2s to consider -- my advice would be all of them for now. They're highly, highly competitive. Also pursue B4/ACN/ZS/any other big name brands at your school - this industry can be super competitive until you get some momentum, and all of them would be good jobs to get out of college

Boutiques - ultra high variance in terms of what you'll get, but almost always it'll be less desirable vs T2 and most of the time less desirable vs most B4 groups. Some pay well, offer interesting work, and have smart colleagues. Others will not be a great experience. Hard to gauge outside in, but do networking and see where former interns/employees exit (if you see people moving from the boutique to a B4 without a promotion, interpret that as the employee signaling they thought the B4 is a better place to be than the boutique). Also remember to check comp, it's a pretty big signal as to who they're competing with for talent (i.e. if a company pays $65K, they won't win any cross offers vs B4s, and should be considered accordingly)

Another note on boutiques - do not fall into the trap of working for a tiny/local boutique firm because you think you need consulting industry experience on your resume ASAP. Getting some stronger name brands on your resume is more important early on, i.e. you should be shooting for a F500/equivalently strong name brand internship your sophomore year, vs some local tech implementation shop 

Sep 8, 2021 - 3:23pm

Kelley Alum here: IU leads you to believe it's Big4-or-bust. They push the B4 simply for recruiting and a formula that works well in Kelley's favor.

Deloitte is definitely a different animal compared to the rest of B4 consulting, but it's still the Big 4 in terms of culture. I recently switched from MBB to a "T2" firm and the cultures are much better than what a PWC or an EY would offer. Projects are significantly more interesting, pay is usually better, and it's less bureaucratic. 

Kelley does not do a great job on recruiting to T2 firms, none of them actually come to campus (except LEK). IU alums at those firms are really willing to connect via LinkedIn, so reach out and you'll likely get a response. 

In terms of "T2 firms", here are my thoughts:

ATK: great people, very strong culture fit in interviews, lots of non-business people (pros and cons), operations focused in the US, top-tier pay. 

LEK: great people, strong IU network, sweatshop, not as much travel, interesting projects in consumer goods and life sciences

S&: Lots of project variety, access to PWC resources, but I've heard of culture issues and clashes.

ZS: I don't consider them T2.

RB: solid people and projects, very Europe focused (good if you're trying to go there), small firm benefits in the US. 

OW: not to familiar with them, but I've heard of solid PE and Automotive practices

Sep 8, 2021 - 9:20pm

Glad to hear a fellow Kelley chime in, I greatly appreciate your input, thank you for going in depth on the various cultures of the T2 firms. I heard that LEK recruits on campus how are the exit opps for start ups/product management roles from LEK and the other T2s? If we could connect over linkedin that would be great, I would be happy to PM you.

Sep 8, 2021 - 9:36pm

If you look on LinkedIn, you can see what former LEK people are doing: FAANG, Big Pharma, startups, pretty varied. The other T2 firms don't actively recruit at Kelley, but LinkedIn is a good start for networking. 

Feel free to PM. Good luck!

Sep 11, 2021 - 7:29pm

Main Reason #1: I was able to move into a very specific practice group that I was interested in. 

Main Reason #2: I wanted to move to a smaller firm, where things were a bit more personal and friendly, rather than just a rat race. The evaluation systems were brutal and I was sick of trying to be the 1% of the 1%. Knowing every partner on a first name basis in your office and being able to pass your HR person and ask a quick question in the hallway is really nice. 

Minor Reasons: pay was better, more freedom to pick projects, people were more down-to-earth, less up-or-out culture

Sep 10, 2021 - 8:55am

T2 will be better across most areas and is the obvious pick 90% of the time because they pay so much more. However, if you are genuinely interested in tech consulting type work, Accenture, followed by Big 4 will be better. Tech consulting isn't as interesting as it might sound given its name (think implementing big enterprise software for a years on end).

You might think that the size of Big 4 will lead to more diverse projects, but that won't be the case since they tend to force you into a specific domain the minute you join. The main benefit of T2s, is that they pay so much more than Big 4. Because the pay gap between T2s and Big 4 is so large, there's almost no reason to choose a Big 4 over T2. For example S& pays 50-70% more than PwC at the Senior Associate level. In terms of pay, S& Senior Associate = PwC Senior Manager. You can argue T2s work more hours and have a more stressful job, but if you're in consulting, you're going to be working hard anyway. 

Big 4 really only has 1 notable advantage over T2, and its mainly that its brand name is more recognizable (but not necessarily better). People who know consulting will know that T2 firms are better, but Big 4 is more broadly recognized and in some industries, people lump all consultants together, without much knowledge of consulting firms and prestige. Generally, for Corporate Strategy exits, T2 will place much better than Big 4, because most people in Corp Strategy are ex-consultants and they know which firms are better. For MBA admissions, T2 will definitely place better also. However, for more general exits to a wider array of functions, Big 4 can actually edge out T2. Outside of the consulting bubble, the average person doesn't really have an opinion of Deloitte vs Kearney, but they might not even recognize the latter.

TLDR: Big 4 has some advantages over T2, but you'll almost always be better off joining a T2 over Big 4. One of the biggest reasons for this is simply that T2 pays so much more. 

Sep 20, 2021 - 6:39am

I do agree that T2>B4 but I will highlight for future forum readers that if you get into a good group at B4 (strategy or ops) people in my country tend to have very strong exit ops.

Sep 20, 2021 - 11:04am

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