What part of the world do you reside in? If you’re in the U.S then my answer will be relevant, if not then it may be questionable.
See my post here; this gives some perspective to my comments below:
I read all the answers posted so far, and while some of them have an element of truth, I question if some are region specific answers or some are comparing based on the perspective from a few years ago.
If I focus on the U.S market, on average customers who are seeking business consulting services are looking for a complete end to end solutions. The market for just strategy is starting to saturate. Without going too deep, some points to confirm this is true:
Mckinsey- In past few years has created new practice areas, Design, Insights, Digital, Ventures e.t.c
Bain- Also created digital, IT e.t.c
BCG- Created Digital Ventures which houses, project management, product management, digital transformation, design labs etc.
Now BIG 4 firms, with exception of KPMG decided to grow inorganically by acquisition (DSO-Monitor, PWC-Booz, EY-Parthenon) and now all have a strategy practice. Note that a lot of the areas MBB are investing majorly in the main areas of competency of the Big 4 +Accenture & IBM- not a big 4 but worth mentioning.
Compete for work:
Prestige-wise MBB is still king, but in regards, to Big 4 doing all implementation and operation type work only this is factually not correct in the U.S at least. Take look at the most prestigious firms per vault
If you want the narrow comparison of “strategy based firms” see below:
Compete for Talent:
In regards to Pay, Total base + End of year bonus at MBB Vs. the strategy practices at big 4, on average they are relatively same (Same for Accenture): Can compare pre and post MBA here:
Yes prestige helps here for MBB, but as for exit options it’s a mixed bag, you can say on average MBB’s will break into some areas other might find more difficult, but a quick search on LinkedIn shows a lot of Booz&Co. (PWC-Strategy&) partners across all MBB’s, also searching for partners at BIG 4 also reveals various Alums of MBB (some will argue they were low performers e.t.c- Maybe or maybe not)
You would also note they all recruit mostly from the same school (take a look at the firm’s website, on the MBA career sections most list the schools they recruit from), am sure again folks will argue MBB gets the top of the class (Maybe, Maybe Not)
If your question is more which one to pick between MBB vs. Big 4, then this is a personal decision. A lot of areas need to be evaluated in light of your future goals as well as your personal preferences. If all you care about is prestige, then absolutely go MBB.
This could be more thorough, but I think it gives a balanced perspective of the U.S landscape. Let me know if you need more light shed on any particular area.