Engineering to Consulting & BA vs Associate

Bain BCG Case Interview Engineering Engineering and Management Consulting MBA Experience McKinsey
New answer on Jul 25, 2022
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jul 21, 2022

Hello,

I am an engineering consultant in the pharmaceutical industry with a bachelor's in Chemical Engineering. I have 3 years of experience as an engineering consultant.

I am considering a career shift from being a project engineer in an engineering consulting firm to being a consultant in a management consulting firm like McKinsey/BCG/Bain. The reason for the shift is that I want to work at the higher level of the project value chain - working on strategies for capital allocation rather than working on the very technical side of engineering. I eventually want to be an investor (portfolio manager) working in the asset management business. I believe being a management consultant will help me understand businesses better. I also recently passed CFA Lv1 to build a foundation in finance and economics, and I plan on preparing for Lv2 and 3 in the near future.

Considering my goal above, I would like to ask for your advice on two things (I'll have McKinsey as an example to describe positions):

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?

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?

Thank you.

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Sheng
Expert
replied on Jul 22, 2022
Currently at Mckinsey - Multiple offers at MBB / Tier 2

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.

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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.

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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:

  1. Case preparation
  2. Personal experience interview (PEI, or “fit” at other firms)
  3. Screening tests (e.g. Mck imbellus game, logic tests)
  4. CV 

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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!

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Anonymous B on Jul 23, 2022

Pretty sure your McKinsey employment contract inhibits you from getting paid to do interview coaching...

Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 22, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

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?

Both! Apply now and see what happens! You can always apply in 2 years. (By the way, network before you apply)

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?

You're saying 2 separate things here.

If you apply now, to re-apply later you will have to show progress! Get promoted in your current job, gain some consulting experience (through academies, etc.)

In regards to prep, yes 100% you need to prep before submitting apps. You need to be about 80% case ready before you apply. It takes a long time to get ready, so make sure you're committed before you go down this pathway!

As you start prepping, here's some material to support you:

Here's some case reading: https://www.preplounge.com/en/articles/how-to-shift-your-mindset-to-ace-the-case

And some fit reading: https://www.preplounge.com/en/articles/tell-me-about-yourself-interview-question

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Moritz
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 21, 2022
Unearth your spike & get the offer |ex-McKinsey | 120+ coachings & interviews @ McKinsey | ESADE MBA | Transition Expert

Hi there,

Your profile is probably going to be of interest to MBB. Whether or not it's the best path to achieve your goals is a separate discussion and for now let's just assume that “yes”.

Here's my take on your questions:

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?

It doesn't matter so much because consulting firms have a habit of changing your application internally to whatever they think is most suited. You may apply as a BA and get bumped up to Associate or vice versa. Then there's also Junior Associate roles, which may be most suitable for you. From the outside, it looks like BA is the way to go. That's because 3 years isn't that much experience and you're competing with people like myself, who joined McKinsey as an Associate with 7 years international O&G experience + MBA.

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?

First of all, you need to make sure to put together a killer application that ideally someone from MBB files in your name, which is the much talked about referral. This requires probably more time and energy than you might think and this should be your focus for now. Clear recommendation is always professional coaching for this or at least a professional CV review, which is money very well spent - I promise! Coaches will then be able to guide you in terms of how to get started with the actual preparation, assuming that you'll get invited. I won't go into too much detail but there's plenty of great material on PL that you should have a look at.

Feel free to reach out if this is something you'd like to discuss sometime - happy to support!

For now I hope this helps a bit. Best of luck!

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Jul 25, 2022
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT | Market Sizing | Former Head Recruiter

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?

You may apply to an MBA right now. Waiting 2 years makes you LESS valuable and less likely to get into a top school.

But if you want to move into Consulting, you should apply now to an associate position. If that doesn't work, you go for the MBA. Why? Because this way you double your chances (if not triple, given the summer internship) of getting into consulting.

The rank… let them decide.

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?

Yes, you MUST start preparing for case interviews before applying, particularly given your background. You don't need to be done with your preparation, but you should have already started and have an idea of how far you are from having a good case interview performance.

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 24, 2022
#1 rated and most recommended McKinsey Coach | 97% success rate (tracked) | Honest feedback: no sugar-coating

Hi there, 

Career progression is quite fast within MBB, so it might make sense to just apply now if long-term you're interested in consulting anyway. If you happen to fail, then you could continue working, get an MBA and apply again. 

Best,

Cristian

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Ashwin
Expert
Content Creator
updated an answer on Jul 22, 2022
Ex Manager Bain and company | INSEAD

Hi there,

You can apply for BA position considering your experience. I would not recommend you to do an MBA just to get into MBB, it is a significant long-term investment in terms of time and money so be clear about what you want to get out of an MBA program. 

A coach can guide you better after assessing you if you need to do case practice before applying or can apply and prepare simultaneously. 

All the best in your career. 

 

(edited)

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Udayan
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 21, 2022
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

An easy way to do this would be to apply now and see if you get interviews. Suppose it does not work out, you can do an MBA and re-apply. If you do an MBA the 2 year rule is waived and you will be able to interview again.

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Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 21, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Your profile is very attractive! Mck, as an example, is hiring tons of people for their Pharma and live Sciences branches, where you would totally fit. Furthermore, the CFA is a huge differentiating factor, one that very few with your background have. 

I would apply as an associate and see how it goes, you are for sure too experience for a BA role. U mention also the posibility of doing an MBA: I always recommend everyone to have very good reasons for doing one, not just the “posibility” of making a potential MBB move after - after all, is a huge money and time commitment. 

Hope it helps!

Cheers, 

Clara

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