yes, there are differences in the two paths. If you join right after B-School, you will go in the traditional career path of a post-MBA - Consultant at BCG or Associate at McKinsey. From here, you will move through the usual career steps as if you joined the company from entry level – at the following link you can find as an example the career path at BCG and the time required for each step:
If you join after some years in the industry, your entry level will depend on the experience that you have accumulated in the meantime. At BCG, you usually do 3 to 6 months in the position below the one you are targeting, and then move up if everything goes well. In particular, at the two extremes you would have the following:
- if you join after 2 to 5 years without MBA, you may start as senior associate (the equivalent of the position you would have after two years starting as a new graduate), and become a consultant (second step – post MBA position) after 6 months.
- if you join after several years of consulting in another firm, you may even join as Principal (the position before the partner level). This actually happened to one person while I was at BCG (which brought some people in the company to think whether that was fair, given that the position is so close to partnership).
In general, coming form the industry, the more years of experience you have, the higher the position you may reach. At the same time, it would be more challenging to join a firm after several years of industry experience, unless you have the specific skillset the company is looking for at that moment for a project or practice.
Hope this helps,