Realistically speaking, if you start as an Associate (either as an MBA hire or Exp Hire):
- Associate (ASC) to EM >> the quickest I have seen: 1 year; on average: 2-2.5 years
- EM to Associate Partner >> the quickest: 1 year; on average: 2.5-3 years
- Associate Partner to Partner >> the quickest: 1 year (election happens only once a year, but usually you won't get another acceleration if you already have that from ASC to EM and EM to AP); on average: 3 years
I know a person who got hired as an Associate and became a Partner in only 4 years (1 yr as ASC, 1 yr as EM, 2 yrs as AP), but he was already a Director in one of Global Bank. He should be directly hired as an AP, but Partners admitted that he was hired a bit lower to ensure he has what it takes to be a consultant and don't want to overpay. He proved that and got accelerated.
However, If you are an MBA hire - the chance to get the same treatment might be extremely slim. If you are really smart and can adjust very quickly - I think you might be able to achieve in 5.5 - 6 years (2 yrs ASC, 1.5-2 yrs EM, 2 yrs AP). What to do:
- Accelerate your learning & culture adjustment from 1 year to 6 months (become a thought leader on your area of expertise)
- Become Jr. Engagement Manager (JEM) right after 1 year instead of 1.5 years
- Get yourself into a strong Senior Partner or Partner network in your year 1 - they will vouch for you and make sure you will always get projects
- Build a strong fellowship with your junior (analyst, associate, etc) after you become JEM
- Develop a solid relationship with your key clients (C-level) after you become a standalone Associate (6 months after joining)
Having those things will definitely help you to accelerate your career, but won't guarantee. As there are multiple non-explainable factors to evaluate for ASC to EM designation and EM to AP designation or even Partner election.
The common one (and what we keep telling our prospect/candidate) is usually 7 years from Associate to Partner (2.5 yrs ASC, 2.5 yrs EM, 2 yrs AP).
Hope this helps!