Why McKinsey? Seven reasons to work for McKinsey

McKinsey & Company is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious of the “Big Three” consulting firms.McKinsey has a reputation as the most selective firm, with a strict hiring process that only hires the best of the best.

So, what drives hundreds of thousands of people to apply for McKinsey each year? And, what is it like to work for McKinsey?

This article will discuss seven reasons aspiring consultants choose to work for McKinsey and some notable differences between McKinsey, Bain, and BCG.

What are the reasons to work for McKinsey?

Below are the seven factors that attracted many talents to McKinsey.

Access to international work and clients

In 2022, McKinsey has over 38,000 employees, staffed in over 130 offices worldwide. This means McKinsey has the widest reach among the three MBB firms. Their global staffing model allows flexibility in case selection and staffing across different regions. 

At McKinsey, the main focus of staffing for projects is to match consultant expertise with clients’ needs. That means when clients look for a specific skill set in their industry, McKinsey will prioritize matching that talent to their case, regardless of location. 

For example, if you are an expert in supply chain optimization staffed in New York, and a big FMCG company in Switzerland needs your help, McKinsey will gladly pay you to travel halfway across the globe.

For those with an affinity for travel and cultural exposure, this is a great chance to travel and work across the globe. Nonetheless, it is not 100% guaranteed. Your chances of working internationally or being transferred to a foreign office depend on skill-set matching, the focus of your home base, and the clients’ demand in each region.

Wide range of academic backgrounds and industry expertise

McKinsey’s mass-market approach allows the firm to cover and provide consultancies to many different industries: education, pharmaceuticals, government projects, etc. Hence, they need a diverse range of experts from different academic backgrounds to provide field knowledge and insights combined with industry-unique problem-solving skills.

Therefore, don’t stress too much about having previous business backgrounds or an MBA before applying to McKinsey. As long as you are among the top performers at your school and have a basic understanding of business, you can become a consultant for McKinsey.

You can gain all the business, operational, and management knowledge you need later while working for McKinsey through your mentors, colleagues, and training classes. 

Furthermore, McKinsey's Advanced Professional Degree (APD) recruitment program targets postdocs pursuing an advanced degree. APDs typically join McKinsey as generalists or expert consultants if they have a specific function or industry to focus on, such as digital, analytics, or operations. 

Personal career development

Aside from the great pay and the great reputation, management consulting is especially attractive because of the fast, high-level, and well-rounded personal development that lasts a lifetime. 

McKinsey's consultants are trained to excel in a diverse range of skills and to be comfortable with steep learning curves. As soon as you enter the firm, you’ll be assigned a Development Group Leader to provide advice and help you navigate your career path. You will also work with a Professional Development Manager at your base office for all training and staffing activities.

Furthermore, McKinsey's “Up-or-Out” policy promotes competition for high-achieving consultants: either move up the ladder every two years or leave the firm so others can rise. It is unsurprising to see a consultant become a partner after ten years at McKinsey. 

Even when a consultant has to leave the firm, they have many luxury exit opportunities thanks to the networking while working for McKinsey, along with the knowledge and prestige that McKinsey gives to its personnel. 

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Ample exit opportunities

Read more: Consultant exit opportunities

Ex-consultants' exit options include corporate management, banking and finance, public-sector work, NGOs, start-ups, and independent consulting. 

The prestige and network that consultants gained during their time at McKinsey opened many doors at the most prestigious organizations in the world. Being associated with the McKinsey makes your CV much more competitive for prestigious roles around the world. In fact, ex-McKinsey works at all levels for many governments and Fortune-500 companies.

McKinsey has many government contracts and projects at Fortune-500 companies. Working in those projects gives you practical experience and the chance to network with decision-makers there. As long as you stand out, a competitive offer to pull you out of McKinsey is always ready, which can be 100-200% higher than your salary at McKinsey.

Even when an ex-McKinsey wishes to pursue more independent roles at NGOs, start-ups, or independent consulting, the knowledge and prestige of being an ex-McKinsey can help them a lot in their new career. 

Vast knowledge database

Past knowledge and data are some of the most helpful tools for a consultant, and McKinsey keeps an extensive library of past cases, including data, real-life applications, results of strategies, and frameworks used to approach the problems.

There’s also the McKinsey Global Institute - a distinct research division of McKinsey & Company. Their job is to conduct market and academic research across different fields, and provide insights that help clients and consultants solve problems.

They also publish McKinsey Quarterly - a magazine with the company’s own research, focusing on management and organizational theories.

Even if you can’t find your answer in these resources, you can always ring up one of the many industry experts, PhDs, or Masters employed at McKinsey. There’s always someone willing to sit down and chat to help you get to the bottom of the problem. 

Doing things ‘the McKinsey way’

While you may not need to be from a business background, you are expected to act and think the McKinsey way. After all, learning how to present data and insights in graphs/presentations is crucial to convince others. 

At McKinsey, you will also be taught important logical and problem-solving skills that have been tested in real-life cases with clients, such as:

  • The 80-20 rule

  • The MECE Principle

  • A hypothesis-driven approach with the issue tree

The way a McKinsey consultant thinks and approaches problems is exactly why so many organizations and individuals want McKinsey consultants to help optimize their operations and solve unique problems in their businesses.

Generous compensation

Read more: McKinsey’s Salaries and Benefits

There’s hardly any entry-level job that pays as much as consulting. Yes, the hours are terrible, and the job is physically and mentally draining, but your paycheck would be pretty sweet. And as the most prestigious firm in consulting, McKinsey has many perks to attract new hires.

Traveling for a McKinsey consultant is a fact of life, whether regional or international. And similarly to other top management consulting firms, McKinsey's travel policy is very generous.

For flights, an upgrade to business, or even first class, is always available, if your project’s budget allows. And once you land, accommodation will be paid for in high-end hotels, but this will depend on the availability in each region.

But generally, McKinsey can afford a reasonably comfortable traveling experience, to ensure its consultants can do their job. There are also generous reimbursements for daily expenses like food, taxi, laundry, etc.

Salary wise, in 2023, a senior consultant at McKinsey’s US office is around $125,000 to $207,000 a year. This number is 25% lower compared to salary for the same position at BCG. Though circumstances may vary, this figure could indicate that McKinsey has to cut some costs at the bottom of their corporate structure, as their consultant count is the largest among the MBB.

And while this is the lowest salary in the Big Three, it’s already much higher than what senior consultants can make at Big 4 or boutique consulting firms.





















Table 1: Senior-level consultant salary at MBB, June 2023. Source: Glassdoor.com

For management level positions at McKinsey (most likely an Engagement Manager, or EM), it’s a different story. McKinsey’s manager-level employees earn on average 20-40% higher than their counterparts at Bain and BCG.

As you progress further through the ranks at McKinsey, you’ll depart from consulting works in general, and move towards the inner functioning of the firm and office itself. Your works start to touch on the sales and revenue of the office, which in turns can yield better salary.





















Table 2: Manager-level consultant salary at MBB, June 2023. Source: Glassdoor.com

Source: Glassdoor. Figures in this chart represent the highest available data points.

Why choose McKinsey over other MBB firms?

After some research, you realize that the ‘Big Three’ consulting firms have many similarities regarding their compensation, benefits, learning opportunities, and exit options. But to compete for clients and employees, each has taken a different approach to separate themselves from the rest. Below are a few points that make McKinsey different from Bain or BCG.

Extensive global reach and international presence

Looking at the figures, McKinsey is the dominant force among the ‘Big Threeconsulting firms. With over 130 locations across the globe, McKinsey is more involved in business practices across the globe. They can also afford their consultants more international opportunities than the other two MBB firms.

All three MBB firms have a strong presence in Europe and the US. However, in developing regions like Latin America or Sub-Saharan Africa, McKinsey has a much stronger presence in these areas. 









Number of employee




Revenue (2021)




Table 3: Comparing the size of MBB firms

McKinsey’s focus on education and public sectors

Each firm in the MBB tries to differentiate itself from competitors through its focus industries. McKinsey had been more involved in the education and public sectors than the other firms. BCG is stronger in banking and retail, while Bain has its dominance in private equity.

However, recently, McKinsey has been approaching the mass market, which has increased their presence in numerous industries like healthcare, pharmaceutical, agriculture, semiconductor, etc.

In function, McKinsey is the strongest MBB firm in strategy, organization, and operation consulting. Furthermore, to adapt to changing times, McKinsey is developing more functional expertise in sales and marketing, data analytics and coding, and operational excellence to provide better services.

McKinsey is the most prestigious and selective firm

In general, the recruiting process at McKinsey is somewhat more selective than the other MBB firms. All three MBB firms target graduates and undergrads at the top of the university ranking charts. However, McKinsey has a shorter, more exclusive list of higher-ranking schools, while Bain and BCG have a broader range of targets.

If you choose to work for McKinsey, it is a recognition of your achievements and academic performance. Not only that, you would also be working alongside a crop of high-achieving and high-performing consultants, which drastically expands your networking and learning capabilities.

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