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Difference between MBA and Undergrad/Masters

Anonymous A

HI guys,

I am a masters student from Europe (not MBA) and have been practicing interviews over this platform with candidates across the globe. What I understand is essentially the MBA candidates are tested on the same things such as case and fit part. The case skills remains almost the same and the difference comes into the fit part. Many MBA candidates come outside of consulting field so even they would have to learn things from scratch.

Then why is there a difference between salaries, titles between them?

Can their expereinces help them if too much?

Thank You


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replied on 11/13/2017
Ex Bain and A.T. Kearney (7 years in consulting) / Now Private Equity / 200+ real cases / Landed all Big 3 offers


The key difference is related to having previous work experience or not.

On the one hand, candidates with pre-experience European Master such as MSc, are interviewed for an entry level position (titles differ by firm: analyst at McKinsey and AT Kearney vs. Associate Consultant at BCG and Bain). On the other hand candidates with MBA (which is a post-experience master) are interviewed for a more senior role (called Associate at McKinsey and AT Kearney vs. Consultant at BCG/Bain).

To answer to your first question, it is true that candidates are tested on the same areas (fit + case) and are expected to check the same skills. Nevertheless, a MBA candidate is expected to go deeper on certain skills (such as structuring the approach and communication) and at the same time to show a higher degree of maturity and independence. As a matter of fact Associates are expected to deliver a more ‘senior’ type of work compared to analysts: on real projects Associates will be more independent and usually own a specific stream and manage 1/2 analysts (hence the difference in salaries). For your ingo, it takes about 1.5/2 years to get to Associate from Analyst.

Regarding previous work experience, it definitely helps on the fit part and on certain skills for the case such as maturity, business sense, knowledge of a specific industry, communication...

I hope this helps, please feel free to contact me for any additional info.




Vlad replied on 11/13/2017
McKinsey / Accenture / More than 300 real MBB cases / Collected all Big 3 offers / Harvard Business School


Agree with the previous comments. I would add several points:

  • At Mckinsey, an associate (post-MBA position) is a short-term role. In a year or so you'll start leading a project as an Associate and after the first successful project, you'll become a JEM - junior Engagement Manager. After leading several successful projects as a JEM you'll get promoted to an Engagement Manager. There is also some flexibility in timing for these 3 roles
  • The analyst is an entry role, well-defined and with a strict time frame

As for the interviews, I would prepare in the same way for both roles. Interview difficulty will be the same, though the acceptance rates depend very much on a country, particular office, and your school:

  1. I've seen many times a situation when BAs were overprepared (case clubs very popular among students), while experienced hires were underprepared (lack of time and information about consulting interviews). In this case, the competition among BAs applicants was much tougher than among associates.
  2. It depends on the org pyramid in the particular office. For example, there may be enough BAs but not enough associates, so the acceptance rates for associates will be higher.
  3. MBA hiring is different for different schools. For example, at Stanford and Harvard, you can meet many people with 2-3 MBB offers, while it's not the case in other business schools. I also can't say that people doing MBA have lots of time to prepare. I believe that brand matters and they hire more people in top schools in general.


Julien replied on 11/13/2017

Hi there,

Basically two reasons: experience and education.

Before understanding the differences in salaries, let me recap what undegrad and grad mean, although you may have already come across these terms. To do so, let's look at the US system.

In the US, after graduating from high school, people go to college and pursue undergraduate studies to get a bachelor's degree, typically in four years (not three as in Europe). Once they graduate from college, they're gonna work 2 to 5 years. Then, they apply to graduate schools (Medical, Law, Business etc.) and specialize into one field: MBA is one of the possible options. From that perspective, Europe's MiM programs are sort of pre-experience MBA.

Now, it is true that these MBA candidates bring in valuable experience to consulting firms. They know how to behave in the workplace, they already have a track record than consulting firms can look at, they've been trained etc. In other words, they are less risky candidates. However, experience does not fully capture the reasons behind the salary gap. After all, they can have worked in fields remotely connected to consulting like engineering (although you could arguably find transferable skills in any field).

The main reasons MBA candidates are aggressively pursued by consulting firms is that they got an MBA. Consulting firms, rightfully I think, believe MBA education is superior to other pre-experience program. A well-seasonsed public is more demanding and challenging: course content is of high-quality. Plus, not all but many MBAs are well-regarded and prestigious, and the admission process is very selective, much more so than for undergad. Hence, MBA applicants demonstrated they had what it took to get into these top schools.

Hope it was helpful,

Kind regards,