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McKinsey Business Lines

McKinsey McKinsey & Company
New answer on Sep 30, 2023
2 Answers
14.6 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Mar 04, 2017


I'm wondering about the different business lines within McKinsey, and any differences in the interview process, work demand, salaries, career path, seems like the true strategy portion of the firm might fall within the Strategy/Finance group, however I have heard generalists within the Operations group also are deemed as strategy consultants move between groups? Do some groups receive higher compensation or bill at higher rates? I'm assuming implementation is less costly to clients? I've seen various industry professionals and MBAs in all groups so I'm curious the pros and cons of working in all the business line.



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Anonymous updated the answer on Mar 07, 2017

Historically, McKinsey only had two tracks in its core consulting work (what we call "client service"): the Generalist track, and the "Non-Electable" Practice Expert track. In addition to those was the Research track, which performs some (but not only) client service, the "Knowledge" Expert track. Recently, the Practice Expert track has added an "Electable" branch

1. Generalist track: (Senior) Business Analyst, (Junior/Senior) Associate (=MBA), Engagement Manager, Associate Partner, Partner, Senior Partner - this is the classical track, as such you belong (and are hired/reviewed) by an Office (e.g. New York Office). There a few exceptions to this rule, where for historical reasons Practices were allowed to hire and review: the biggest of which are the Operations Practice and the Business Technology Office (BTO)

2a. "Non-Electable" Practice Expert track: (Junior/Senior) Analyst, Specialist (=MBA), Expert, Senior Expert, Master Expert

2b. "Electable" Practice Expert track: (Junior/Senior) Analyst, Specialist (=MBA), Expert, Expert Associate Partner, Expert Partner

The difference between those two is that "Electable" Experts get Additional Award (= Firm profit share) in exchange for more demand requirements. Compared to track 1, (i) you get more time to evolve between roles (and hence lower raises since the scale is roughly similar), (ii) you technically cannot become a Senior Partner (although it has happened), (iii) you belong to a Practice (either horizontal e.g. Marketing or more rarely vertical e.g. Automotive), which is in charge of your reviews and hence will ask you to balance client work with practice contributions. In practice, Expert consultants serve a larger number of clients on a narrower topic range (which they have to consistently develop).

Interviews for 1) and 2) are technically the same but respectively performed by Offices and Practices. In practice it is quite easy and frequent to switch between those tracks (1 and 2, and 2a and 2b) while at the Firm.

3. Research track: (Junior/Senior) Research Analyst, Knowledge Specialist (=MBA), Knowledge Expert, Senior Knowledge Expert, Director of Knowledge. Knowledge staff primarily supports consulting teams remotely, although they do sometimes get staffed. They have lower pay for similar roles, all belong to Practices (horizontal or vertical) and the interview process is different altogether. Consultants sometimes switch to the Research track, but the reverse is more rare

Recently, McKinsey has introduced new roles with the McKinsey Solutions umbrella. There are too many to list out but as you mention Implementation has a pretty similar scale as the above roles:

4. Implementation track: (Junior) Implementation Coach, Senior Implementation Coach (=MBA), Implementation Vice President, Implementation Senior Vice President, (next would be a Partner equivalent, but I have never met one). In this track, you work on longer studies that require ongoing implementation commitments. Pay is a bit lower than 1&2 but higher than 3.

To your specific question about the Operations practice, this is where it gets a bit tricky. You could be focused on Operations work and be any of those roles:

  • Generalist consultant (track 1) who just happens to do a lot of Ops work although he was hired, belongs, and is reviewed by an Office
  • Operations Generalist (track 1) - belongs to Ops practice but can go all the way to Senior Partner on classical track
  • Operations Practice Expert (track 2) - belongs to Ops practice but goes through track 2 and will have to fulfill more practice commitments than 1
  • Operations Knowledge Expert (track 3)
  • Implementation consultant (track 4), which are most often Ops-focused

BTO follows the same logic as Ops.


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Anonymous B on Mar 26, 2022

Just wanted to share the clarifications I got throughout my interviews (done during the past couple of months with Partners). I got my offer for a Sr Knowledge Analyst (equivalent to a Junior Associate). I didnt accept the offer before ensuring I got the differentiation correctly. Mckinsey today has two consulting tracks, the generalists (traditional) and the expert (called knowledge). The research track professionals are known as Capabilities and Insights, not Knowledge. This at least applies to the Middle East offices. Best of luck to all!


Content Creator
replied on Sep 30, 2023
Ex-McKinsey Associate Partner | +15 years in consulting | +200 McKinsey 1st & 2nd round interviews

Hi there,

To some of your questions:

Q: Do consultants move between groups? 

They can but it is not frequent. Once you are in a group you start specialising on certain topics and build a solid networks (which are two key among other to have a solid career at McKinsey)

Q: Do some groups receive higher compensation or bill at higher rates? 

No. The only difference is that certain groups recruit expert profiles and those cannot reach to Senior Partner (only to Expert Partner)



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