Is Doing an MBA or MiM Worth It For a Consulting Career?

In the competitive world of consulting, candidates are constantly seeking ways to stand out from the crowd and increase their chances of being recruited by top consulting firms. One popular path many consider is pursuing an MBA (Master of Business Administration) or a MiM (Master's in Management) degree. These advanced degrees are known for their ability to enhance skills, expand networks, and boost career prospects. Not everybody needs one, however.

The question is: Is it worth doing an MBA or MiM to boost your profile for consulting applications, or are there better alternatives to consider?

This article will provide an in-depth analysis of this question and a thinking framework to assess whether you need such a degree or not. But first, story time.

1. Storytime

I have worked with close to 200 candidates in the past two years, I’ve noticed many of them aspire to an MBA as a gateway into the firm of their dreams.

One particular candidate was already working in a Big4 consulting firm and wanted to transition into McKinsey. He explained to me his 3-year plan of working to become a top performer in his firm, saving for an MBA, applying to 10 business schools, eventually graduating and then finally applying to McKinsey.

He didn’t need any of that. He just needed to apply directly to McKinsey. His profile was good enough already.

Often, if we have a goal, we create a set of milestones ahead of us that would help us get closer to our objective. But many times, these are obstacles, not milestones, and we disguise them because we are either afraid of commitment or scared of going for what we always wanted to do.

Some candidates would benefit a lot from having a business degree. But very few of them. Most candidates need to develop a smart application strategy and a fantastic application package (CV, cover letter, referrals) and then re-think their personal story – who they are, what they stand for and what they are after. Crafting your personal story is where working with a great coach can make a critical difference.

Let’s dig deeper into how you can assess whether you actually need further education.

2. Understanding the Consulting Industry's Perspective

To make an informed decision about pursuing an MBA or MiM to boost your profile for consulting applications, gaining insight into the consulting industry's perspective on advanced degrees is crucial.

  • Research on the Value of Advanced Degrees:
    Numerous studies and reports have examined the value placed on advanced degrees like MBAs and MiMs in the consulting industry. A survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) revealed that 92% of employers in consulting value the skills gained from an MBA degree.
  • Firms Value a Combination of Factors:
    When evaluating candidates, consulting firms prioritise a combination of factors such as problem-solving abilities, analytical thinking, leadership potential, and cultural fit. Demonstrating these skills and qualities through your experiences and achievements is essential, regardless of whether you hold an advanced degree.

  • Evolving Trends in Consulting Hiring Practices:
    The consulting industry is dynamic and hiring practices have evolved over time. While an MBA was once considered a near-requirement for consulting roles, the landscape has shifted. Firms are now placing greater emphasis on practical experience, industry knowledge, and specific skills that align with the needs of their clients. This trend is driven by a desire to provide clients with more diverse and specialised perspectives.

3. Assessing your Needs, Career Goals and Profile

Next, before deciding whether pursuing an MBA or MiM is worth it to boost your profile for consulting applications, it is essential to assess your career goals and evaluate how these programs align with your aspirations.

Assessing your Needs, Career Goals and Profile
  • Self-Reflection on Career Goals:
    Begin by reflecting on your long-term career goals and aspirations. What drives you to pursue a career in consulting? Are you seeking opportunities to work with diverse clients, solve complex business problems, or drive strategic change within organisations? Understanding your motivations and goals is critical to assessing whether an MBA or MiM is the right path to achieve them.
  • Evaluation of Current Profile:
    Take a critical look at your current profile and assess its alignment with the requirements of the consulting industry. Consider your educational background, work experience, skills, and achievements. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your profile and identify areas where you can enhance your qualifications to become a more competitive candidate. Assess whether you possess the skills consulting firms are looking for or if there are gaps that need to be addressed.
    You can discuss your profile with a coach or industry expert and seek their advice. This evaluation will help you determine if pursuing an advanced degree is necessary to acquire these competencies.

  • Seeking Knowledge and Experience:
    Consider the knowledge and experience you aim to gain through an MBA or MiM program. These programs offer valuable learning opportunities in strategy, operations, finance, marketing, and leadership. Assess whether the curriculum and experiential components of these programs align with your learning objectives and provide the skills and knowledge you need to excel in consultin.

  • Networking and Industry Exposure:
    Networking plays a crucial role in the consulting industry. Consider whether your current network provides access to professionals and mentors within the consulting field. Assess the opportunities an MBA or MiM program can offer to expand your professional network and gain exposure to consulting firms through alumni networks, internships, and recruiting events.

  • Personal and Financial Considerations:
    Evaluate the personal and financial implications of pursuing an advanced degree. Consider factors such as the duration of the program, the cost of tuition and living expenses, potential lost income during the study period, and the return on investment. Determine whether you can commit the necessary time and resources to complete the program successfully.

4. Benefits of Pursuing an MBA or MiM for Consulting

  • Development of Business Acumen and Leadership Skills:
    MBA and MiM programs provide a comprehensive curriculum covering various business disciplines, including strategy, finance, marketing, operations, and organisational behaviour. By immersing yourself in these programs, you can develop a strong foundation of business knowledge, enabling you to approach complex consulting projects with a strategic mindset.

  • Expansion of Professional Networks:
    One of the significant advantages of pursuing an MBA or MiM is the opportunity to build a vast and diverse professional network. These programs attract talented individuals from various industries and backgrounds, providing you with access to a valuable pool of future business leaders and potential consulting contacts. The connections you establish during your studies can prove instrumental in securing referrals, accessing job opportunities, and gaining insights into the consulting industry.

  • Access to Recruitment Opportunities:
    Many top-tier consulting firms actively recruit from MBA and MiM programs, viewing graduates as valuable assets to their organisations. These programs often have established relationships with consulting firms and offer dedicated recruiting events, company presentations, and on-campus interviews. This direct exposure to recruiters and decision-makers can significantly increase your chances of landing a coveted consulting position upon graduation.

  • Experiential Learning and Consulting Projects:
    MBA and MiM programs frequently incorporate experiential learning opportunities, such as consulting projects and case competitions, where students can apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings. These experiences allow you to tackle complex business challenges, work in diverse teams, and develop practical consulting skills. Engaging in such projects can demonstrate your ability to handle consulting assignments and provide tangible examples to showcase during the recruiting process.

  • Brand Reputation and Prestige:
    Attending a reputable business school for your MBA or MiM can lend credibility and prestige to your profile. Top-tier consulting firms often have preferred partnerships with renowned schools, and having the institution's name on your resume can capture the attention of recruiters. The school's reputation can be an initial screening factor, giving you a competitive edge in the selection process.

  • Opportunities for Career Switching:
    If you are considering a career switch into consulting from a different industry or functional role, an MBA or MiM program can facilitate this transition. These programs provide a platform to acquire the necessary business knowledge, skills, and industry exposure to successfully pivot into a consulting career. The extensive alumni network and career services of business schools can offer valuable guidance and connections to aid in your career switch.

5. Alternatives to Consider

While pursuing an MBA or MiM can be a viable option for enhancing your profile for consulting, it's important to explore alternative paths that can bolster your chances of success in the industry. Here are some alternatives to consider:

alternatives to consider
  • Gaining Relevant Experience:
    One of the most effective ways to enhance your profile for consulting is by gaining relevant work experience. This can be achieved through internships, co-op programs, or full-time positions in industries or functions that align with consulting.
    By working in roles that involve problem-solving, data analysis, strategic thinking, and client interaction, you can develop transferable skills that are highly valued in consulting. Seek opportunities to tackle complex business challenges, work in cross-functional teams, and demonstrate your ability to drive results.
    Internships in consulting specifically are a great opportunity since they signal to recruiters that another firm has already vetted you, plus you likely possess the skills they are looking for.
  • Consulting Projects and Case Competitions:
    Engaging in consulting projects and case competitions can provide valuable hands-on experience and demonstrate your consulting capabilities. Many universities and professional organisations organise case competitions where participants solve real-world business problems and present their recommendations to a panel of judges.
    Participating in such events allows you to showcase your problem-solving skills, teamwork, and ability to deliver impactful solutions within a limited timeframe. Some universities offer consulting projects as part of their coursework, allowing you to work on real consulting assignments for organisations.

  • Networking and Industry Events:
    Building a solid professional network is crucial for success in consulting. Attend industry conferences, seminars, and networking events where you can connect with professionals from the consulting field. Actively engage in conversations, seek mentors, and build relationships with individuals who can provide insights and guidance.
    Networking platforms like LinkedIn can also be leveraged to connect with consultants, join relevant groups, and participate in industry discussions. By proactively networking, you can gain valuable industry insights, access hidden job opportunities, and secure referrals from individuals already working in consulting.

  • Online Learning Platforms and Resources:
    In today's digital age, numerous online learning platforms offer courses and resources designed to enhance consulting skills. Platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy provide access to courses on topics such as business strategy, data analysis, financial modelling, and problem-solving methodologies.
    These platforms offer flexibility, allowing you to acquire valuable skills at your own pace. Additionally, there are online communities and forums dedicated to consulting where you can engage with like-minded professionals, share insights, and learn from experienced consultants.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, the decision to pursue an MBA or MiM to boost your profile for consulting applications should be carefully evaluated. While these degrees offer several potential benefits, they are not the only path to success. It is essential to consider your career goals, profile, financial considerations, and alternative options before making a decision.

By taking a holistic approach and aligning your choices with your aspirations, you can make an informed decision that maximises your chances of success in the consulting industry. And if you want to diversify against risk, I’d recommend you apply for further education AND for consulting jobs. Feel free to reach out for support on either of them.

7. About the Author

Cristian

#1 rated and most recommended McKinsey Coach | 97% success rate

  • Professional Experience: McKinsey & Company, Writer & Entrepreneur
  • Languages: English
  • Location: Germany

After graduating from Oxford, Cristian gained several years of experience at McKinsey. Until today, he was working in eight different countries and nine different industries and founded his own consultancy, Writer & Entrepreneur.

Cristian is the highest rated McKinsey coach on this platform by both rating and recommendation rate. Though he specializes in MBB and particularly McKinsey, he is the perfect coach to help you apply to these companies.
With his 5-star rating, the expert has the highest recommendation rate of the coach.

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