Big consulting’s big payday: $200K starting packages await Northwestern MBAs

BY Sydney LakeJanuary 27, 2022, 5:42 PM

Weber Arch at Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Illinois, as seen in July 2020. (Jose M. Osorio—Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Getty Images)

In 2021, MBA graduates earned a median salary of $115,000—which is 77% higher than workers who hold only a bachelor’s degree, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey. Graduates of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University fared even better—they reported a median base salary of $145,000, which doesn’t include any bonuses or benefits.

Kellogg, which Fortune ranks as having the No. 5 full-time MBA program in the U.S., produces candidates who are hired en-mass by some of the nation’s top consulting, finance, and tech firms—which helps explain why starting salaries are much higher than the country’s baseline.

One-third of Kellogg’s 2021 graduating class went into consulting post-grad, and many of them were hired by the top three firms in the country: McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., and The Boston Consulting Group. These companies alone hired a total of 109 MBA students last year from Kellogg—more than 20% of MBA students who were seeking employment upon graduation.

“Top consulting firms continue to seek to hire Kellogg talent due to the leadership skills and management foundation developed at Kellogg,” Liza Kirkpatrick, assistant dean of career services, tells Fortune. “Consulting firms often hire Kellogg talent due to the unique blend of leadership qualities that our graduates are known for, such as the creativity and collaboration with the ability to rise to a challenge, make an immediate impact, and confidently navigate change.”

How much consultants make and why

Kellogg’s 2021 grads who went into consulting made a median base salary of $165,000 with $30,000 in bonuses, according to the school’s employment report

Management Consulted, a company that offers prep and training for professionals entering the industry, reported that the big three firms—Bain, McKinsey, and BCG—all offered starting base salaries of $165,000 in 2021, with bonuses bringing pay packages to nearly $240,000. Median base salaries at the three firms are jumping to $175,000 who start in 2022, according to data collected by Management Consulted’s clients who received written job offers.

Consulting firms will pay up for MBA grads because they “expect a lot from their employees, and providing bonuses is one way to motivate them to perform at the highest levels,” Don Lowman, a senior client partner and global leader of Korn Ferry’s Global Total Rewards business, previously told Fortune. 

Why Kellogg students make strong consulting candidates

MBA curricula not only focus on the technical skills of business like finance and accounting, but also allow students to explore communications, teamwork, and leadership. 

“Kellogg students learn how to challenge the current thinking of global challenges in a collaborative setting with a diverse group of students. They work to develop the skills to be pushed out of their comfort zone while being supported by the community around them,” Kimberly FitzGerald, vice president of global recruiting at Bain & Co., tells Fortune. “These skills make Kellogg students attractive to Bain.”

Top consulting firms like Bain are looking for candidates from programs—like Kellogg—that “develop leaders and collaborators who are also analytical and creative thinkers,” FitzGerald says. 

“Being able to create long-lasting relationships with top MBA programs helps us continue to hire strong team members,” she adds.

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