MBB (Big Three) Consulting Firms Comparison (2024)

In management consulting, MBB stands for McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company, the three most prestigious firms in the industry (also known as the “Big Three”).

MBB consultants are recruited with the highest standard (<1% passing rate), paid the highest salaries (starting at $80,000/year in the US), and have the best exit opportunities in the industry. Landing a job at one of these MBB firms is the dream of almost every aspiring consultant. But how do you know which MBB consulting firm is right for you?

This article compares three MBB consulting firms in-depth based on eight notable criteria.

Table of Contents

Overview of MBB (Big Three) consulting firms

Comparison of MBB firms by eight criteria

Overview of MBB (Big Three) consulting firms

McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Bain & Company - colloquially called MBB or The Big Three - are considered the three most prestigious firms in the management consulting industry.

McKinsey is considered to be more prestigious than BCG and Bain. McKinsey & Company also has the most employees and the highest revenue, followed by BCG and Bain. Its personnel reimbursem*nt also reflects this - McKinsey’s personnel usually get better salaries and benefits than BCG’s and Bain’s.

M – McKinsey & Company

Founded in 1926, McKinsey is the oldest and the most prestigious firm of the Big Three. McKinsey is renowned for its efforts to build high-performance, data-driven, efficient problem-solving.

The company is also famous for its “one-firm” principle, which rigorously incentivizes the sharing of best practices, revenue, and human resources across offices. This principle enables McKinsey to assemble the best people for any given task across any office worldwide.

These two mutually supportive strategies, combined with high salaries and benefits, have consistently strengthened McKinsey’s reputation as one of the best consulting firms to work for.

B – Boston Consulting Group

Founded in 1963, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a pioneer in thought leadership, embracing a transformational approach to problems through leading-edge management consulting, technology and design, and corporate and digital ventures.

Maintaining a top-ranked leadership consulting reputation is what sets it apart. BCG’s famous slogan is “Unlocking the potential of those who advance the world”.

The hierarchy at BCG is considered a flat structure, which is not as top-heavy as McKinsey's. This made BCG an excellent choice if you want to work in a supportive, caring system, with valuable opportunities for outstanding mentorship and talent development.

B – Bain & Company

Bain & Company was founded by Bill Bain, former vice president of Boston Consulting Group, in 1973.

What sets Bain apart is its customer-centric approach to doing business, which focuses on client results rather than reports.

Bain has cultivated a frat-like mentality among all its employees, defined by the motto “A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail”. Bain is an excellent choice if you want to work in a supportive environment with a flat hierarchy.

MBB (Big Three) Consulting Firms Comparison (1)

Comparison of MBB firms by eight criteria

Below is an in-depth comparison of McKinsey, BCG, and Bain based on the eight essential criteria: Working culture, Area of focus, Compensation, Career progress, Exit opportunities, Size and prestige, Recruitment process, and Target schools.

Working culture

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between McKinsey, BCG and Bain is working culture. If you happen to be offered a job by more than one MBB firm, you might want to opt for one that best suits your personality and background.

McKinsey working culture

Read more: Why I choose McKinsey

Intellect over experience, fact over gut feel, logic over emotions, hyper-rational, structures and frameworks - these are the backbones of a high-performing culture at McKinsey.

At McKinsey, structuring is deeply imprinted in every consultant’s thinking and problem-solving approach. Feedback is frequently given, and a can-do spirit drives McKinsey’s consultant to view nothing as impossible. This is how McKinsey’s consultant comes out on top of the industry.

BCG working culture

Read more: Why I choose BCG

BCG, on the other hand, is a culture of leadership, openness, mutual respect, people-focused and flexibility.

One distinctive feature of BCG is the culture and people at BCG are somewhat "nerdy", with the environment being quite academic. Any bookworm or academic enthusiast will feel like they belong there.

BCG emphasizes team effort when working on projects and focuses on client partnership to deliver distinctive solutions. Former consultants often cite the supportive working environment as their favorite thing at BCG.

Bain working culture

Read more:

Of all MBB firms, Bain is probably the one that puts the most effort into creating a comfortable, homey work environment. Spaces are designed to accommodate the varying workspace preferences of everyone to perform their best. Whether you work better alone in a quiet room or among others, Bain goes the extra mile to ensure your needs.

The motto “A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail” is widely propagated at Bain - people will roll up their sleeves to help struggling colleagues, even if they are not on the same team. This frat-like culture has made Bain one of the most desirable workplaces in the industry,

Bain also lets its personnel have the chance to build meaningful relationships with colleagues at various social occasions like office parties or Bain’s edition of World Cup events.

Area of focus

While all three MBB firms have a substantial presence in many industries, each firm differentiates itself from competitors through its focus industries. McKinsey is more involved in the education and public sectors than the other firms. BCG is stronger in banking and retail, while Bain dominates private equity.

In function, McKinsey is the strongest MBB firm in strategy, organization, and operation consulting. Furthermore, to adapt to changing times, McKinsey is developing more functional expertise in sales and marketing, data analytics and coding, and operational excellence to provide better services.

However, despite the efforts of McKinsey, BCG is still considered the strongest in the digital field, with an established presence through BCG Digital Venture.

Meanwhile, Bain's focus on private equity clearly differentiates them from the other MBB firms, as they have long dominated this field.


Read more: Salary of top consulting firms

MBB consultants have the highest salary, along with access to the best perks and benefits in the consulting industry. However, in general, McKinsey is the most generous in compensation for its consultants.

MBB entry-level consultants can earn around $140K-200K annually. MBB manager-level consultants can earn about $300K-400K annually, while MBB partners can even make it up to millions of dollars.

All three MBB firms enjoy a vast amount of top-tier benefits in the industry, including (but not limited to) health insurance, life insurance, tuition assistance, childcare reimbursem*nt, employee discounts, employee stock options, and using company-owned vehicles for personal use.

The perks and benefits offered by McKinsey are generally more comprehensive and generous than those offered by two other MBB firms and others in the industry.

Career opportunity

Read more: Career path at top consulting firm

While all three MBB firms provide impressive opportunities for their consultants throughout their careers, it is worth noting that career progression in MBB differs depending on each firm.

Learning opportunities

A typical MBB consultant is welcomed with the best learning opportunities. These opportunities include having excellent mentorships or developing high-performing habits through exposure to a problem-solving culture. Not to mention, consultants spend a large chunk of their time working with top executives across many industries.

Aside from top executives, consultants also work alongside the best industry-specific experts and high-achieving, multi-background colleagues. Anyone who can leverage this incredible network is set up for huge assistance in advancing their career.

Career progression

Career progression will look slightly different depending on whether you are working for McKinsey, BCG, or Bain. You can take a look at the summary below.

MBB (Big Three) Consulting Firms Comparison (2)

Of course, each MBB firm will have its own initiatives for moving employees up and down the ladder. However, all three share the same rule of thumb: Up-or-Out! This means a consultant has to climb up to a better position in a certain amount of time. Many consulting firms practiced this system to promote a competitive environment for their personnel.

Read more: Up-or-out in consulting

Exit opportunities

Ex-MBB consultants have a lot of exit options. They can either enter corporate management, banking and finance, public-sector work, NGOs, start-ups, or even independent consulting.

If your resume shows that you are a MBB ex-consultant, it will radiate credibility and prestige in the eyes of future recruiters. An MBB brand name automatically shows you are a candidate of high caliber because recruiters know you have previously made it through a very rigorous selection process and have accumulated highly differentiated combinations of skills.

With that being said, below are six common post-consulting exit options:

  • Occupy a CEO chair: Often dubbed “CEO factories”, alumni from MBB companies are often hired to run the biggest companies in the world. Out of three MBB firms, McKinsey has a slight edge over this. According to one estimate, McKinsey alumni have a 1 in 690 chance of securing a CEO position at one of the 1,187 publicly traded companies valued at a minimum of $2 billion in market capitalization.

  • Entrepreneurship: Commonly chosen options are starting a company (usually if one can secure funding from angel investors) or joining Venture Capital. The latter deals with unicorn start-ups and has more exposure to businesses outside the Fortune 500 list.

  • Enroll in MBA programs: All MBB companies offer sponsorships to employees wishing to continue their education. Of course, sponsorship recipients are expected to serve their respective companies for at least another two years upon returning.

  • Enter civil sectors, social enterprises, or policy: MBB consultants are often sought after by reputable non-profits such as The Gates Foundation. You can take a look at career transition stories to the social sector here.

  • Enter an industry: Entering organizations that were previously consulting clients.

  • Independent consulting: The reputation of being an ex-MBB consultant can help pushing one's independent consulting career.

Read more: Consulting Exit Opportunities

Size and Prestige

In general, McKinsey is considered the most prestigious firm in the consulting industry, followed by BCG and Bain. This is somewhat reflected in the size of the three firms: McKinsey has the most extended worldwide reach, while BCG lagged behind McKinsey in presence in developing regions, and Bain has the smallest size.




Number of offices




Number of countries




Number of employees








Comparing MBB firms by size, 2022

However, keep in mind that each firm has its own strengths. McKinsey had been more involved in the education and public sectors than the other firms. BCG is stronger in banking and retail, while Bain has its dominance in private equity. If you prefer one industry over others, you may want to consider each firm's area of focus before deciding which one to aim for.

Recruitment process


Recruitment ratio is usually less than 1% in most MBB offices. This is why MBB consultants take such pride in their “MBB consultant” label, because getting into an MBB consulting firm is a feat in itself.

Each MBB candidate will have to pass through three rounds: Resume, Screening tests, then Case Interview. Every round is uniquely challenging. This is because for each round, MBB consulting recruiters set unusually high expectations.

  • Consulting resumes are expected to adhere to a set of internal rules of the consulting world, which differs significantly from normal resumes.

  • Screening tests require a level of commitment and seriousness, which candidates have to show whether they have the potential traits of a consultant. Mathematical skills are needed to go through those tests.

  • The case interview expects all candidates, business or non-business backgrounds, to solve business cases. Case interviews usually last 30-45 minutes each, and there can be up to 6 cases per interview.


Among MBB consulting firms, two key differences should be noted regarding the recruitment process.

  • First, each MBB firm deploys different screening tests. Bain uses aptitude tests (Bain SOVA test or Bain Online Test, depending on your applying office), while BCG uses a chatbot to perform mock case interviews (BCG Casey), and McKinsey uses gamified tests (McKinsey Solve).

  • Second, while recruiters at each firm employ both Interviewer-led and Candidate-led formats in case interviews, BCG and Bain recruiters usually prefer Candidate-led interview, while McKinsey usually employs Interviewer-led interview. Keep in mind that the format depends on the interviewer's preference and is NOT an enforced policy.

Case interviews are a challenging part of the recruitment process, with a success rate of only 10-20%. It is important to practice and get practical advice on where you should improve. Book a coaching session with our former consultants now to increase your chance of getting an MBB offer.

In case you are new to the principles of case interview, join our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program in advance.

Target schools

Read more: Consulting target schools

MBB consulting firms mostly target top-tier business schools in each region. If you come from target schools, you have a better chance to enter one of the MBB firms.

Remember that no official statement from any firm about their target schools exists. However, some parties have conducted surveys to assess the universities that have produced many consultants for MBB firms.

For example, if you come from North America region, you can refer to the tables below, with statistics based on data from Wall Street Oasis (WSO) users in 2022 on the top three universities with the highest proportion of employees in MBB.

McKinsey & Company



University of Toronto


University of Michigan


Northwestern University


Bain & Company



The University of Texas at Austin


University of Virginia - UVA


Harvard University


Boston Consulting Group



University of Pennsylvania


Yale University


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


MBB (Big Three) Consulting Firms Comparison (2024)


MBB (Big Three) Consulting Firms Comparison? ›

Each firm continues to try and differentiate itself by offering sector and function-specific practice areas. McKinsey boasts huge Education and Digital practices, BCG offers a robust Digital Ventures practice, and Bain

Bain & Company is an American management consulting company headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. The firm provides advice to public, private, and non-profit organizations.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Bain_&_Company
rules the roost when it comes to working with private equity firms.

Which of the Big 3 is the best consulting? ›

McKinsey & Company

The company is consistently ranked as the #1 most valued brand in the consulting industry, making it the most prestigious company on the list. Since its founding in 1926, the company has grown to over 38,000 employees across more than 120 offices around the world.

Which MBB is most prestigious? ›

Overview of MBB (Big Three) consulting firms

McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Bain & Company - colloquially called MBB or The Big Three - are considered the three most prestigious firms in the management consulting industry. McKinsey is considered to be more prestigious than BCG and Bain.

What are the Big 3 MBB consulting firms? ›

The three consulting firms widely regarded as constituting the Big Three or MBB are McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company.

Is McKinsey more prestigious than BCG? ›

MBB firms have much higher prestige scores (vault 2023)

This list bases its data on surveys of working consultants, who are allowed to rate other firms but not their own. While McKinsey reaches the score of 9, Bain and BCG are both above the score of 8.9; the highest score of the Big 4 group is only above 7.1.

How does Deloitte compare to MBB? ›

MBB firms are the most prestigious

According to Vault, in North America, the three MBB firms are the three most prestigious firms. Meanwhile, Deloitte stands at rank 4th, PwC Advisory at 6th, EY Consulting Practice at 9th, and KPMG Advisory at 12th.

Which of the Big 4 is most prestigious consulting? ›

Prestige. In general, PwC and Deloitte are considered the most prestigious of the Big 4. If you ask most people about prestige, they'll probably rank PwC/Deloitte > EY > KPMG. This is reflected in pricing, for example.

How much better is MBB than Big 4? ›

In the industry, MBB are known to be the most prestigious and among the highest-paying firms. The Big 4 are less prestigious but still decently paid.

Why is MBB so prestigious? ›

These firms are the most prestigious consulting firms because they hire top graduates of highly competitive undergraduate and M.B.A. programs, solve the toughest business problems (industry disruption, mergers & acquisitions, new product development & launches), and serve industry-leading clients.

Is McKinsey better than Deloitte? ›

McKinsey & Company scored higher in 2 areas: Compensation & Benefits and Career opportunities.

How is Oliver Wyman different from MBB? ›

The most obvious distinctions for Oliver Wyman is that it is newer, and therefore smaller, than M/B/B. Oliver Wyman was originally founded by two partners from Booz Allen, and then expanded by merging with Mercer Management Consulting.

Can you move from Big 4 consulting to MBB? ›

If you're a consultant at the Big 4 or another tier-2 firm, you may well have experience that the top-3 firms will value, and the ability to get up and running as an MBB consultant relatively quickly. However, a successful application is by no means guaranteed.

What are the best consulting firms not MBB? ›

The next group of management consulting firms people think of outside of MBB is usually Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG. Together, they are known as the “Big Four.” This name, Big Four, refers to their position in not only management consulting, but also in accounting.

Does McKinsey only hire Ivy League? ›

McKinsey does favor elite colleges, both for undergraduate and MBA programs. But there are many elite schools that are non-Ivy. Examples include Stanford, MIT, Univ.

Why choose BCG over McKinsey? ›

BCG generally falls somewhere in between – competing with both McKinsey and Bain by striking a balance of expertise and creativity – and when selling, they are “more creative” than McKinsey and “more seasoned” than Bain.

Why Bain over BCG or McKinsey? ›

So in summary, if you have a Bain career versus McKinsey or BCG, you can expect to have: A different and stronger local office culture. You can also expect to travel less. And finally, you can expect to do more specific types of work that will give you a higher volume of projects, such as for private equity work.

What are the top 3 consulting firms? ›

MBB is a shorthand way to refer to the “Big 3” strategy consulting firms, McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company.

What is the most prestigious consulting firm? ›

McKinsey & Company

Who is the Big 4 in consulting? ›

The global professional services firms EY, PwC, Deloitte and KPMG make up 'the Big 4'. These firms provide consulting services in four core areas, including strategy. The strategy teams of the Big 4 are small, elite units, each with only a few thousand consultants globally.

Is McKinsey one of the Big Four? ›

The Big Three is one of the names given to the three largest strategy consulting firms by revenue: McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Bain & Company. They are also referred to as MBB. The Big Four consists of the four largest accounting firms by revenue: PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG.

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