Roles and Seniority at McKinsey / BCG / Bain

Bain BCG career progression McKinsey roles seniority
Edited on Oct 10, 2023
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Anonymous A asked on Apr 17, 2020


I am a little bit confused regarding the different roles that exist in the big consulting firms. It seems like roles such as "Principal" or "Associate" mean different things across different companies. It also seems that the names change over time? Any kind of structured overview would be highly appreciated. 

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updated an answer on Apr 18, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers


Yes you are right - there are certain roles which have the same name but differ slightly. However, the general career progression on the "classical" consulting track is almost identical across the three MBB firms. Here is a structured description of the levels:

Level I

McKinsey"Business Analyst" (BA) [or "(Junior) Fellow" in some markets like Germany)


Bain“Associate Consultant” (AC)

Description: First two years out of undergraduate degree.

Level II

McKinsey“Associate” (ASC)



Description: first post graduate school role (but with roughly 10–30% as direct promotes from Level I across firms).

Level II b

McKinsey“Junior Engagement Manager” (JEM)

BCG“Senior Consultant” / ”Acting PL”

Bain“Case Team Leader” (CTL)

Description: third year after grad school and bridge to Project Manager role. Not a “formal” promotion at the firms, but definitely a precursor for promotion/designation.

Level III

McKinsey“Engagement Manager” (EM)

BCG“Project Leader” (PL)


Description: 3–7 years after grad school and responsible for day-to-day oversight of teams and main contact for client project leader. This is a formal promotion and a significant career turning point at either firm. Reaching Level III sort of proves full mastery of the general consulting toolkit in MBB quality, including team management and operational client management.

Level IV

McKinsey“Associate Partner” (AP) (formerly called "Associate Principal")


Bain“Principal/Senior Manager”

Description: after 2–4 years as a Project Manager (Level III), signals greater focus on relationship management and commercial skills. Time is split across several teams to give content and context guidance. Partner case is built.

Level V




Description: on average 6–8 years after grad school. Highly engineered, formal promotion process involving a committee decision with broad spectrum of Partners from multiple global offices with stringent interviews and performance documentation process.

Level VI

McKinsey“Senior Partner” (formerly called "Director")

BCG“Senior Partner”

Bain“Senior Partner”

Description: effectively, Partners with tenure. Exact mechanics are a little vague, but generally Partners with 4+ years experience in the role with a consistent track record of client impact, commercial success, and meaningful IP development.

Cheers, Sidi


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Anonymous replied on Apr 18, 2020


Sidi's answer is very comprehensive.

Just one minor point on the recent change BCG made to level 4 and level 5. The principal level in BCG used to be 4 years, but now that 4-year has been broken down to 2 tiers. The first 2 years still under the title of "principal", the 3rd and 4th year though, would be under the title of "partner". And level 5, the original "partner" is now "managing director and partner" in order to be differentiated from the 3rd/4th year principal (now "partner").



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Anonymous on Apr 20, 2020

Exactly ! New partner role is a non equity partner

Anonymous replied on Apr 20, 2020

Hi all,

Let me very specific regarding BCG roles (and correct at the same time:)). Things moved recently and roles depend on career track as well.

Generalist track

- Associate

- Senior Associate

- Consultant

- Project Leader

- Principal

- Partner (equivalent to former Principal between 3-4 years tenure) - /!\ non equity partner

- Managing Director & Partner

- Managing Director & Senior Partner

Expert track

No associate / senior associate roles in this track


Project Leader

Associate Director (equivalent to former principal role for both generalist & career tracks)

Partner & Associate Director (equivalent to former Associal Director role)

Partner & Director (equivalent to former Director role)

Note : experience for each could slightly depend on office but roughly within Generalist track 4-5 years to reach PL role, 2 more years to reach Principal, 2 more years to reach Partner, 2 more years to reach Managing Director & Partner, 7-9 additional years to be Managing Director & Senior Partner.

I let ex (& recent) McK or Bain provide such information :)

Hope it will helps,


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Content Creator
updated an answer on Oct 10, 2023
ex Jr. Partner McKinsey |Senior Interviewer| Real Feedback & Free Homework between sessions|Harvard Coach|10+ Experience

In the world of top consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, and Bain, career progression is structured and titles can vary between firms. At the entry level, you'll find Business Analysts (BA) or Junior Fellows at McKinsey, Associates at BCG, and Associate Consultants (AC) at Bain. As you move on to post-graduate roles, the titles shift to Associate (ASC) at McKinsey, Consultant at BCG, and Consultant at Bain. The mid-level phase includes roles like Junior Engagement Manager (JEM) at McKinsey, Senior Consultant or Acting Project Leader (PL) at BCG, and Case Team Leader (CTL) at Bain. Moving up the ladder, you'll reach Engagement Manager (EM) at McKinsey, Project Leader (PL) at BCG, and Manager at Bain. The next level, typically focusing more on relationships and business development, includes Associate Partners (AP) at McKinsey (formerly Associate Principals), Principals at BCG, and Principals or Senior Managers at Bain. Finally, the top tier is Partner level, where you become a Partner at McKinsey, BCG, or Bain. For those with extensive experience, there's the Senior Partner level, represented by Senior Partner at McKinsey (formerly Director), Senior Partner at BCG, and Senior Partner at Bain. Each level signifies a significant career stage, demanding different skills and contributions within the firm's ecosystem.


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Content Creator
replied on Aug 19, 2022
50+ successful coachings / Ex-Mckinsey JEM & Interviewer / Industry + Engineering background

Hey anonymous,

Let me just add to this conversation that McKinsey also has expert roles, that are equivalent to the generalist roles (e.g. Specialist = Associate, Expert = EM, …).
In addition there are expert roles that also offer development into a Partner role (if they are client facing) - often via an Expert Associate Partner Track (to become Expert Partner or Partner - equivalent). 



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Anonymous replied on Apr 18, 2020

Sidi's answer is correct and Emily's correction on BCG's latest leveling changes also correct.

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Anonymous replied on Apr 18, 2020

Hi there,

Adding to the Sidi's answer (which is already quite comprehensive): even within one firm Level 1 positions vary depending on the office. For example, in some countries at BCG there's another position of Junior Associate (the starting one after your undergrad) and then Senior Associate (before promotion to Consultant). So, here's a full list of possible BCG positions:

- Junior Associate – post-undergrad position, only exists in some offices especially in Europe (usually 6-12 months)
- Associate – standard starting position in most offices (usually up to 2 years depending on the office and whether or not other Level 1 positions exist there)
- Senior Associate/ Junior Consultant – exists in some offices, the name varies by the office (usually 1 year)
- Consultant – post-MBA position (usually 2 years)
- Project Leader – first Manager position (usually 2 years)
- Principal – responsibilities vary and can be closer to those of a Project Leader or a Partner depending on your seniority, industry, client and even overall office dynamics (now broken down into Principal and Partner as per Emily’s note, 4 years together)
- Partner and Managing Director – that's the usual "Partner" role with a big chuck of sales responsibilities
- Senior Partner – highly tenured Partners (to put into perspective, in smaller offices there’s usually only one or two Senior Partners)

Hope this helps!
Best regards,

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Anonymous on Apr 20, 2020

Hi, Junior Associate, Junior Consultant, do not exist at BCG.

Anonymous B replied on Aug 27, 2023

A lot has been said, i'd just like to add the point that while generally speaking, the main career levels are quite standardized for these firms across the globe, there will be regional nuances to take into account. Here a few examples..

  • Some regions have junior associate / fellow level, other regions don't but rather have a Senior Associate instead
  • For BCG, Business Analyst only exists for select offices, where localization requirements are high but the local talent pool may not have fully matured
  • Tenures for different career levels can vary significantly - in one region, SBA / Associate level can be 18 months in some places, in others, 2.5-3 years.

This should hopefully clarify further.

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Anonymous replied on May 15, 2020

Dear A,

Sidi's answer is very broad and correct, Emili's addition also.



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Sidi gave the best answer


McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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