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Pros and cons of Big3, Tier-2, Big4, consulting boutiques, in-house consulting

9 months ago
March 3, 2022
Roland Berger
Hello everyone!

It is known that if you like consulting, you can do it in a wide variety of different places: Big3 (MBB), Tier-2 consulting companies (Kearney, Roland Berger), consulting divisions of the Big4 (KPMG, PwC, EY, Deloitte, consulting boutiques, small consulting firms, in-house consulting in large industries companies, and so on.

And how do I know where I will be better? What are the pros and cons of each option and among the one direction (e.g., between McKinsey, BCG, and Bain)? Is there a difference depending on the geographic region?

I get very different ideas from different sources. Please share your opinions, especially if you are consultants with experience.

Thank you all!
7 answers
9 months ago
I heard that in tier2 the workload and the culture are the same as in big3, but the salaries are lower. But I didn't work there myself, so I can't be sure.
9 months ago
Heard the same thing from my friends from big4
9 months ago
I'd say that the only true path to determine if you are the right fit for the job is to interact with as many people as possible. And I highly urge you to visit friends who work at these firms and chat with them after hours. Also, I recommend you to take a tour of the office and meet people there.
9 months ago
I also recommend you communicate with different consultants and HRs (not just one!) from various companies. It is pretty simple to do - they regularly arrange events where they will be happy to tell and explain everything to you. So you will understand where you will be better
9 months ago
I guess the choice depends on your goals. If you want to get a high level quickly (2-3 years) and then go somewhere else, then probably the big3 will most successfully give just that. If you are set for a long career in consulting, you should pay attention to tier-2 and consulting industry boutiques.
9 months ago

I can talk a little about the differences between the big three companies. I prepared for the interview and received offers from all three offices in one of the European countries. After much doubt, discussion and brainstorming, I decided to join BCG. Here are the main findings of my research on how MBB differ:

1. First of all, by type of work, type of people, exit opportunities, working hours, salaries, etc. These, in my opinion, are the most critical parameters, but they are the same or in many ways similar among these firms.

2. The essential thing that firms use as a differentiator is their corporate culture. And although the culture of all consulting firms is similar in many ways compared to other industries, there are some cardinal differences between these firms:

McKinsey: A clear vision of yourself as the very best. My impression is that McKinsey considers itself the undisputed best among consulting firms. Most of those hired have excellent grades and extracurricular achievements;

BCG: everyone feels like they're working with friends, and it's supportive, and the up and down was very subdued, almost non-existent;

Bain: they have a much higher turnover rate than the other two firms, and there is even a perception that Bain consultants are heavily overworked.

To sum it up, the fundamental differences between firms are minimal. Each has something different: McKinsey has arguably the most recognizable brand globally, BCG has a supportive and collaborative culture, and Bain has fast growth and great people. These things, of course, vary from office to office - this is just my perception.

Good luck to everyone with your choice!
9 months ago
Thanks, great thoughts and tips!