Differences in Associate and Analyst positions at McKinsey?

associate BA vs Associate McKinsey
New answer on Jun 10, 2020
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Anonymous A asked on Sep 16, 2017

I was rejected by McKinsey with a feedback that my problem solving skills are insufficient for an Associate level position. They mentioned that if I were applying for an Analyst role, they would gladly accept me.

The question is: what are the differences between those roles? What exactly McKinsey expects from Associates in terms of problem solving that isn't required for Analysts?

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Anonymous replied on Sep 16, 2017

Hi there, business analyst and associate is largely a similar role. In general, you are the content leader, ie nobody knows the specific client situation and topic better than you, not you manager, not your partner. However, there is different level of quality and robustness required when comparing BAs and Associates.

I will take a shot at 3 key differences of expectations at problem solving:

1) independence - as BA you could be guided, as an Associate you develop ideas and solutions indendependently and contribute from Minute 1 (you can do that as BA as well, but as an Associate thats a must)

2) ability to make sound decisions - you are navigating ambiguity constantly, you need to be comfortable making backed up decisions and fast as an Associate, you can get away with little bit of hesitation and insecurity as a BA

3) robustness of your ideas - as an Associate you have either been at the Firm for 2-3 years or came from intereting industry/vertical hence you come up with out-of-the-box solutions, whereas as a BA you are likely coming out of school and again, you can get away with less depth, given your professional experience beforehand

I am sure there is a tonne of other differences and best BAs can outshine poor performing Associates, but these 3 areas are in my view key differentiating factor, given similarity of the roles.


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Originally answered question:

BA vs Associate at McKinsey

Content Creator
replied on Apr 15, 2018
Former BCG Principal and decision round interviewer

BAs (McK) / As (BCG) usually are expected to excel in secondary research and modeling (not only excel nowadays: alteryx, tableau, GeoAnalytics tools are expected to be learned on a case by case basis) and in their ability to build self standing, insightful slides from their analysis; and to have good client management skills (manager level).

Associates (McK) / Consultants (BCG) have a very similar role to their junior counterparts in the sense that they also own modules/workstreams in a case vs the overall case itself. Modules that are usually assigned to an Associate/Consultant require more senior client interaction, have more politically sensitive topics that require ability to influence client actors based on not only data. In my experience I would say that, by their second year into their job, a mature BA/A and an average A/C can be interchangeable in 3/4 (if not more) of modules/workstreams.

Hope this helps,


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Originally answered question:

BA vs Associate at McKinsey

Content Creator
replied on Apr 15, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (3.900+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I would sum up the differences as follows:

Analyst: this is the entry level in consulting, right after graduation or with 1 year of experience somewhere else.

  • Tasks mainly involve working on Excel and Power Point
  • You are not supposed to have real client-facing responsibilities apart for data collection. Sometimes you may interview directly middle managers for that reason.
  • You will work under supervision of a Senior Associate or Engagement Manager

Associate: this is a post-MBA position. You can also reach the position after 3-4 years as Analyst.

  • Task involve presenting/interacting with middle managers (more to build relationship and align on how to proceed with the project), Excel and Power Point presentation and junior resources management
  • You will start to have client-facing responsibilities. Towards the end of the period, you will be challenged as an actual Junior Engagement Manager to start to lead parts of the project and manage junior resources
  • You will work under supervision of an Engagement Manager or Principal

In terms of depth of the analysis and big picture: BAs are expected to solve tasks, while Associates are expected to solve problems. At Associate level you should have a far more clear vision of the overall project big picture and conduct your analysis accordingly.



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Content Creator
replied on Sep 17, 2017
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Completely agree with Jacub. I would add several points:

  • An associate is a very short-term role. In a year 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

Answering your question - if you were invited for an interview as an Associate, it probably means that you are an experienced hire. I don't think it is possible for you to get an analyst position with that experience. Moreover, the interview guidelines are not that different for these roles. If you had problems with problem-solving - you'd better reapply for the similar role in a year, being more prepared.

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Ishita on Oct 09, 2020

Hi, Could you please help me understand this situation... I applied online, I got a problem solving gaming test and cleared it, then within 10 days I got an interview for round 1.. at this stage my application was for BA role ,as in the job description it was written undergrad/1-3 years experience or a Master's degree, therefore as I am currently enrolled in a non-MBA masters degree I applied to this role.. closer to my round 1 interview as I asked my recruiter since both BA and Associate interview process is same, if I can be put on the associate route for interview further.. since I have already 5 years of work experience prior to my masters. The recruiter told me that it was a mistake from their side that they missed on my years of experience, and now that I have pointed it out to them, they wont be moving with my interview further,, since I do not have any plans for MBA soon and I want to join this company , could you please suggest me what should be my next steps regarding the scenario? Thanks in advance!

Anonymous replied on Jun 10, 2020

Dear A,

A business analyst ussually owns an analysis while an associate owns a part of the client problem. The analyst ussually is just out of undergrad while the associate has some experience and probably has an MBA. An additional difference is a material difference in annual compensation.

Hope it helps,


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Anonymous C updated the answer on May 28, 2020


To add on top of previous comments, in a nutshell: associate comes after analyst for McK.




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