Hi, whilst I did not work as an engineer myself I studied Engineering Science (bachelors and masters) and considered being an engineer so hopefully the answer is insightful.
1. Should I apply for a BA position with 3 years of experience or work 1-2 more years as an engineer + get an MBA, then apply for an Associate position? If BA, why? If Associate, why?
Given that your ultimate goal is to move into an investing role, I'd suggest moving sooner rather than later - i.e. apply for the pre-MBA role rather than the post-MBA role. The majority of buy-side firms will not evaluate your BA / Associate experience differently, and you will likely have to apply for junior roles (“Associate” or equivalent, e.g. “Investor”)
Your route may look something like this (5-7 years)
3y engineering > 1-2y consulting (BA/JA) > 1-2y MBA > buy-side role
rather than this route (7-8 years):
4y engineering > 1-2y MBA > 2y consulting (ASC) > buy-side role
If you do pursue this route, then you may:
- Strengthen your overall MBA application given your experience as both an operator (as an engineer working in industry) and as an external advisor (as a consultant) which should increase your odds of a better school
- Allow yourself a better opportunity to recruit successfully for buy-side roles whilst doing a MBA
For additional context, the specific role you apply to depends which location you are applying to. For example, in London with 3 years of experience you would apply for a Junior Associate role. For US offices you would likely have to apply for a BA role.
The significant down-side of this route is potentially needing to take a step-down in pay as a BA / JA. This may be a significant limiting factor, and if so the other route should provide higher income security.
2. I read somewhere that if one is not selected, he/she needs to show a significant improvement before reapplying. Considering this, how should I start preparing for applying to management consulting? Should I prep for case interviews before submitting applications?
There are four main elements which you should have prepare for ahead of applying for management consulting roles:
- Case preparation
- Personal experience interview (PEI, or “fit” at other firms)
- Screening tests (e.g. Mck imbellus game, logic tests)
You should prepare all four in advance of submitting applications because:
- When application season begins, (assuming this is during the typical BA / JA application cycle), you will have to submit a number of applications so its best to be fully prepared as you may have less time to do case prep / adjust your CV
- Once you begin to submit applications, invitations to screening tests will come almost immediately
- When you pass the screening tests, you will likely have multiple interviews in a short period of time
In the unfortunate scenario that you do not receive an offer that you are excited about taking, there are two main options:
- Continue with the same plan: keep up your preparation and apply for a BA / JA role in the next cycle (typically every 6-12 months)
- Pivot to applying post-MBA:
A case coach can advise you on how to best prepare for consulting interviews, but I would also encourage you to meet mentors and peers in both consulting / relevant buy-side roles who will be willing to advise you and share their perspectives.
Best of luck!