McKinsey is one of the most well-known and prestigious firms on the planet.

Think the Goldman Sachs of management consulting.

Headquartered in New York, McKinsey employs over 27,000 staff, spread across close to 130 offices, worldwide and works with 90% of the world’s top companies.

McKinsey “alumni” also go on to make up a hugely disproportionate fraction of Fortune 500 CEOs.

Not a bad place to work, then!

Whether you are reading this because you want to join the thousands of other McKinsey hopefuls writing up their applications each year or want to learn more about life at such a prestigious firm, you might be curious about what a McKinsey consultant’s career path is like.

The Right Candidate

On the whole, McKinsey’s career path is similar to that at any other high-end management consulting firm.

As a top company, McKinsey attracts the best talent in the market. If you want to keep up, you need a flawless resume and cover letter that earns you the interview.

To build your resume, you need to start early. You particularly should have a standout performance in the core subjects, like engineering or economics, preferably from a top-level college an equivalent ofIvy/Oxbridge level.

Besides stellar performance in academics, you need excellent soft skills and experience from a top company in a related industry. For fresh graduates, internships from a leading management consulting firm or a role at a top affiliated firm will suffice.

McKinsey equally considers entrepreneurial skills or even charitable experiences.

Before you draft your resume, network with McKinsey alumni to learn a few things about it or talk to its current employees. It may prove difficult to come across such people, though, as the company has a discretion culture. But you can learn about the firm and your target position through other sources.

Making the Cut

Excellent papers from a celebrated college, great recommendations in extra-curricular activities, and even internship experience from a blue-chip company alone won’t earn you a straight pass at McKinsey.

Still, your application has to undergo screening. Here, at least half of the applicants fell by the wayside, based on their resumes.

Further, the McKinsey Digital screening test automatically separates the wheat from the chaff, eliminating even more candidates from the race.

So, to settle for the best, McKinsey simulates the open job position in an interview setting. Candidates then face case studies to work out over a limited period. Two rounds of such interviews separate the best candidates.

Well, if you ever wonder why the application success rate at McKinsey is as low as 2%, then there you have it. The path to becoming part of the company is gruesome. Learn about the company and the position on offer long before the interview.

Climbing the Ladder… And Earning More

As the leading management consultancy firm, McKinsey pays handsomely. But your specific earnings depend on several factors, among them your office geographic location.

Since its employees attract a massive number of suitors, the firm uses big pay rises to make the positions attractive and help retain top talent.

The entry-level at McKinsey is a Business Analyst, which requires you to have an undergraduate or master’s degree. As an analyst, you take home a basic salary of about $80,000 annually, with a performance bonus of up to $12,000. Also, you get $5,000 as a signing bonus.

But you can also join as an associate. However, it would help if you had an MBA, Ph.D., or considerable relevant experience. An associate takes home a basic salary of about $150,000, with bonuses such as signing and performance pegged at $25,000 and $45,000, respectively.

With an up or out policy, McKinsey encourages employees to work extra hard. It takes you about one and a half a year to three years to get to the next level. Of course, the new position comes with a significant pay rise.

From an associate, you climb up to an engagement manager, an equivalent of a project leader. However, you must have worked with them for some time now to take this lucrative role. Its remuneration includes a basic salary of $200,000 and a performance bonus of nearly half this amount.

Still, ascending from an engagement manager, you take the role of an associate principal. Here you are a senior project manager, so you are entitled to up to $300,000 annual income as a basic salary and a maximum of $200,000 as a bonus on performance.

The highest achievable level at McKinsey is the partner, whose basic salary is $300,000 – $600,000, and a performance bonus of not less than $300,000.

Does Everyone at McKinsey Have an MBA?

McKinsey puts a premium on industry experience, but it also values education. Nonetheless, you don’t need an MBA to join McKinsey. An undergraduate or a standard master’s degree is enough for the entry-level.

All the same, an MBA from a top business school like Harvard, can undoubtedly tilt your fortunes. But a degree earns you the same spot as a Ph.D., meaning you may get a straight pass to associate level.

Since consulting requires more specialist knowledge, it is prudent you get an MBA to help you deal with client problems.

The Buttigieg Effect – Exit Opportunities from McKinsey

From famous politicians to leaders in every industry sector, McKinsey alumni consistently go on to great things.

Indeed, the fact we refer to them as “alumni” shows that a McKinsey career doesn’t end when you leave the firm’s employment.

Indeed, this jump-start for a career is one of the primary reasons many people want to work at McKinsey in the first place.

Nevertheless, owing to the gruesome nature of consultancy, a reasonably large number of employees leave when they get great exit opportunities. Most people use the firm and management consultancy as bouncing bags to propel them into excellent career options.

By working diligently at a high ranking firm like McKinsey, you become a darling of many firms and command a higher salary in your relevant field. For instance, an associate in the oil and gas industry would exit for a better position in an oil and gas firm.

Many people would leave consultancy not just for better pay, but better working conditions as well. Some also go for top finance roles that often pay more for fewer working hours.

In a few words

If management consulting is a challenging career, it is twice as tough at McKinsey. The company goes not only for the brightest applicants but also for those who show excellent interpersonal skills. If this is the path you want to take, you should have started like yesterday!

Working at the firm has its rewards, from huge bonuses and handsome base salaries that grow exponentially with rapid promotions and enormous exit opportunities. The company is like a platform to market yourself. Once you are there, your career glitters long after you leave.