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MBA and it's Alternatives for Consulting

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December 13, 2021
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7 minutes
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

Are you thinking about doing an MBA to impress recruiters at top consulting firms?

If yes, then you have landed on the right article. Rest assured, you’re not the only candidate with this question in their mind. A lot of aspiring consultants are ready to do whatever it takes to get their foot inside the door.

But is an MBA really worth it? Does it really help you get a consulting job? Or is it so that universities have created a hype to increase admissions?

In this article, we will scrutinize how exactly an MBA helps when it comes to the management consulting career path.

So do you need an MBA to be a consultant?By the end of this article, we will mention a quicker and cheaper alternative to an MBA. It’s recommended that you stick till the end.

How an MBA Helps You Get a Consulting Job

Candidates pursue an MBA for a myriad of reasons: Some want to upskill themselves, some want to have a glimpse of the student life again, some want to get better at running their family business, and then, there are candidates who want to go on the management consulting career path.

If you’re one of those people who want to have a leg up in the recruitment pool and find success in consulting, pay attention because you’re about to find out how exactly an MBA helps you get your desired consulting job.

1. An MBA makes you a pre-selected candidate for an interview

An MBA prepares you for success in consulting right from the get-go. While studying for an MBA degree, you will learn about various consulting frameworks and models that consultants use in real life. You’ll be well-versed in industry-related topics such as the Blue Ocean Strategy, North Star Metric, ADKAR Change Management Model, etc. And this makes the job of recruiters a heck of a lot easier. They know that an MBA graduate is easier to train as compared to someone who doesn’t have any idea about any consulting frameworks.

2. You get to network with actual consultants

Consulting firms often sponsor their employees’ MBA programs. For instance, top-tier consulting firms like McKinsey and BCG are some of the biggest sponsors at London Business School. So, if you manage to get a seat at a renowned business school, it is likely that the person you aspire to be may be sitting next to you as a classmate. By networking with them, you can surely gain a competitive advantage. Even if they don’t recommend you to their seniors and serve you a consulting role on a platter, you can still learn a lot from them. Ask them to give some interview tips and teach you how to polish your CV—they can at least help you with that in return for a free coffee.

3. You can earn a higher salary if you have an MBA on your resume

The base salary for candidates with an undergraduate degree in the Big Three consulting firms ranges from $90,000-$100,000. And for candidates with an MBA, the base salary is $165,000 and the signing bonus is $30,000. This means that the time and money you spend on an MBA may be worth it after all because the degree will pay for itself in the future.

"Sometimes during the two-year curriculum, every MBA student ought to hear it clearly stated that numbers, techniques, and analysis are all side matters. What is central to business is the joy of creating." - Peter Robinson

Do you need an MBA to be a consultant?

Now that we have discussed how an MBA can be a useful weapon for gaining success in consulting, it’s time to examine how an MBA may be of no use in certain scenarios. Once you enroll in an MBA course, not only will you have to pay the fees to the teaching institute but you will also incur another cost—the opportunity cost.

The dictionary definition of opportunity cost is the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. So, if you chose to do an MBA in hopes of getting onto the management consulting career path, you will probably have to give up your full-time job, startup, or side hustles. These can be counted as missed opportunities.

That being said, let’s discuss the circumstances in which an MBA degree may be futile.

1. An MBA won’t help if you don’t have the right motivation

Even if you graduate with honors, have a high GPA, and recommendations from top university professors, you may not be able to walk the management consulting career path if you don’t have the right motivation. In the consulting fit interview, the recruiter will want to know why you want to become a consultant. And if you give answers like: “I am looking for a high salary” or “I want to learn from experts and start my own consulting firm”, you may never hear from that company again.

The right motivation to become a consultant is a genuine passion for solving problems, wanting to be part of a highly competent team, and learning from the best. If that’s your motivation, then you may not necessarily need an MBA, given you have the right consulting skills.

2. An MBA doesn’t necessarily help in a case interview

In a consulting case interview, you will be asked to solve problems live in front of an interviewer. These case studies are usually real-life projects from the past. The aim behind this interview is to ensure that you can offer practical solutions to real problems and actually provide value to clients. Now, the thing is, MBA programs are not specifically designed to train you for consulting case interviews. It is something you have to prepare for with external help.

3. An MBA from a mediocre institute may not be desirable by top consulting firms

“Can an MBA help me get into consulting?” is an incomplete question. The complete question can be divided into two parts.

  1. “Can an MBA from an average university help me get into consulting?” The answer to that is highly unlikely.
  2. “Can an MBA from a top-tier business school help me get into consulting?” The answer to that is maybe.

Before you waste two years and a lot of money on the wrong school, you should know having an MBA is not enough. Big consulting firms don’t compromise with quality. That’s why it’s better to go for an undergrad consulting apprenticeship and gain some practical experience instead of spending two years on a course that won’t really help you get anywhere.

An Alternative to an MBA Degree

The management consulting career path may be difficult to tread. The screening process is really tough and competition is high. That’s why you need to do all you can to have a better chance at getting into a top-level consulting firm.

One way to do this is to go for an MBA. As discussed at length in this article, an MBA does help you build networks and command a higher salary. Not only this, but it also helps you familiarize yourself with theories and frameworks that consultants use on a daily basis. An MBA also teaches you how businesses work, how they provide value to customers, and what problems they usually face. All this knowledge certainly helps in your consulting career.

However, you don’t always need an MBA to gain industry knowledge or network with consultants.

You can meet industry professionals by attending events or through online methods, such as social media marketing. And as far as industry-related knowledge is concerned, you can also gain it by taking shorter online courses, such as the ones at the Consultport Academy. It’s a much cheaper and time-efficient way to train yourself for both consulting fit and case interviews. The Consultport Academy is guided by professionals who have worked with top-tier consulting firms and the courses are designed accordingly.

Once again, if your sole purpose to do an MBA is to increase your chances of getting hired by a top-tier consulting firm, make sure you only choose a university that is trusted and liked by these firms. Otherwise, you may be wasting time and money.


  • An MBA degree teaches you theories and frameworks that consultants use on a daily basis. That’s why candidates with an MBA are easy to train when they’re actually hired and this is the reason why recruiters prefer them.
  • While pursuing an MBA from a top business school, you will have a chance to network with top consultants because big consulting firms often sponsor their employees’ MBA degree.
  • Having an MBA can help you earn a higher salary. The average salary of an MBA graduate at the Big Three consulting firms is $165,000 per annum.
  • An MBA doesn’t help if you don’t have the right motivation to become a consultant. Your motivation will be tested at a consulting fit interview. So, an MBA is not always enough, you also need valid reasons for joining the consulting firm.
  • An MBA is not designed to train you specifically for a consulting fit or case interview. You should probably take external courses for that.
  • An MBA from an average school may be of no use. Try to get into top business schools if you really want to use your MBA to get your dream job.