Bain & Company hierarchy and salary data

the image is the cover for an article on salaries and the hierarchy in bain

Last Updated on January 24, 2024

Two of the most common questions we get from our coachees are:

  • What is the hierarchy like at Bain?
  • What can I earn at each level?

We want to use this opportunity to answer both questions in this article.

Introduction to Bain

Bain & Company was founded in 1973 by Bill Bain, a former consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. The firm was established as an alternative to traditional consulting firms, with a focus on results and a more hands-on approach to problem-solving. In the 1980s, Bain & Company played a key role in the development of the “private equity” industry, working with firms such as KKR and Blackstone on leveraged buyouts and other investments.

In the 1990s, Bain & Company expanded its services to include strategy consulting and e-business consulting. The firm also opened offices in Europe, Asia, and South America. In the 2000s, Bain & Company continued to grow and expand, establishing itself as one of the top management consulting firms in the world. Today, the firm has offices in over 50 countries and serves clients in a wide range of industries.

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Bain Hierarchy

At Bain, the career levels are typically organized into the following categories, starting from the bottom of the pyramid:

Associate Consultant

These positions are typically for recent graduates with little to no professional experience.

As an Associate Consultant, you will be part of a typical client engagement team of three to five consultants, and your primary duties will be conducting research (e.g., data collection, interviews), analyzing data (with Excel, Alteryx, etc.), and creating PowerPoint slide decks. More senior ACs handle entire workstreams on their own as well as own working-level client relationships. Consultants and Case Team Leaders will direct you. Associate Consultants are in their role for two years before promotion.

Consultant

Candidates with a postgraduate degree (such as an MBA or a Ph.D.) or those who have been promoted from the position of Associate will become Consultants at Bain. Candidates with three years of full-time work experience in relevant roles will also start as Consultants in most offices

As a Consultant, you will be accountable for a specific stream of work within your project and responsible for its associated deliverables. At the more senior end of your Consultant stint, you are expected to take on the tasks of a Case Team Leader. New entry Consultants are in the role for three years before promotion. Consultants who joined as ACs are promoted after two years.

Case Team Leader

Case Team Leaders at Bain are in charge of overseeing a consulting project from beginning to conclusion. They are full-time on-site with their team. Their tasks include organizing the project’s workstreams, managing the Associate Consultants and Consultants on the team, being the main touchpoint with clients, and upward-managing the leadership of the team. CTLs are responsible for achieving the engagement’s objectives. At this level, you are required to actively participate in internal training, recruitment, and assistance with business development for Principals and Partners. CTLs stay in their role for two to three years before being promoted, leaving the firm (this is the point in a consultant’s career where most people exit), or switching to the expert track or another non-consulting role in Bain.

At this level, consultants start to specialize either in a particular business function (e.g., Strategy and Corporate Finance) or a particular industry practice (e.g., Banking)

Principal

As a Principal, you’ll start to focus more on client management and business development and less on the day-to-day project delivery of those projects. You are managing several engagements at once while also establishing new or expanding existing client relationships. You continue to focus on particular industries and/or functional areas at this point of your Bain career. Your main contact in each of your teams is the Case Team Leader and you are advising the team and providing directional guidance. Principals are usually in their role for two to three years before making Partner or leaving the firm. This is the most difficult time in your consulting career and the time when the highest percentage of consultants who want to progress to the next level are asked to leave.

Partner

Partners are owners of the firm. Their focus is on building strong relationships with clients as trusted C-level advisors. They are on the speed dial of their CEO contacts. Partners assist clients with project scoping, project team setup, and identifying areas where Bain support would be most beneficial.

Although Partners are not heavily involved in the day-to-day labor, they offer assistance and insight into the project’s most difficult parts. Some partners are more hands-on than others and visit the team once per week for common problem-solving sessions and client presentations. Partners stay in the firm for a couple of years before becoming Senior Partners.

Senior Partner

Senior Partners are the most senior leaders at Bain. They are responsible for managing the overall direction and strategy of the firm, as well as leading and mentoring other members of the team. Senior Partners are in charge of multiple engagements at once, own the client and CEO relationship as well as engage in other firm administrative functions (e.g., leading certain functions such as recruiting). You will rarely see a Senior Partner in the team room and sometimes only attend the most important CEO meetings. Senior Partners usually stay with the firm until the end of their career and on average (purely observational) retire around the age of 55.

What Does Up Or Out Mean?

It is not uncommon for consulting firms, including Bain & Company, to have an “up or out” promotion policy. This means that consultants are expected to be promoted to a higher level within a certain time frame, usually after two or three years. If they are not promoted, they may be asked to leave the firm. The goal of this policy is to ensure that the firm is staffed with high-performing consultants who are ready for increased responsibility.

This type of promotion policy can be challenging for some consultants, as it requires them to consistently perform at a high level and meet specific goals in order to advance within the firm. However, it can also be seen as a way to encourage consultants to continuously improve and develop their skills.

The State of Bain

It is difficult to determine the exact revenue of Bain as the firm is a privately held company and does not disclose its financial information publicly. However, Bain is widely considered to be one of the most successful and well-respected management consulting firms in the world, and it is known to generate significant revenue through its consulting services.

According to reports, Bain’s revenue has increased significantly in recent years. For example, in 2021, the firm was estimated to have generated revenue of around $5.8 billion with roughly 13,000 employees.

Keep in mind that top-tier management consulting is a highly profitable business with large margins, so it is safe to assume that a significant amount of this revenue translates into profit for the partners of the firm. How does this financial success affect the different levels of the hierarchy?

Bain Salary

It is no secret that top-tier consulting firms pay exceptionally well, which is one way to balance the high-pressure, long-hour daily grind. Bain is no exception. We have compiled a salary overview for the different levels below (based on US 2024 average figures).

While Associates to Principals are remunerated with a base salary and a variable bonus component, Partners as owners of the firm are mainly paid through their dividends.

RoleBaseBonusTotal
Associate Consultant110,00030,000140,000
Consultant180,00050,000230,000
Case Team Leader220,00060,000280,000
Principal260,000100,000360,000
Partner450,000+
Senior Partner1,000,000+
Bain Salaries (USA, 2024)

Please be aware that this data is not an exact science as differences are common and we are currently seeing more frequent adjustments due to high inflation levels.

Bain Interview Process

The interview process at Bain & Company is tailored to identify candidates who exhibit the skills and qualities necessary for success in the competitive field of consulting. A notable aspect of Bain’s selection method is the incorporation of the Bain SOVA Test. This online assessment is designed to evaluate a candidate’s cognitive abilities, including numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, and logical thinking. The Bain SOVA test presents a range of questions and scenarios, challenging candidates to demonstrate their analytical skills and problem-solving capabilities. This test is crucial in Bain’s hiring process as it provides an objective measure of a candidate’s potential to thrive in the demanding and fast-paced environment of consulting.

Following the Bain SOVA test, candidates proceed to the Case and Fit Interviews, which are pivotal in Bain’s overall assessment strategy. The Case Interview involves candidates tackling complex business scenarios, requiring them to showcase their ability to analyze data, think strategically, and provide practical solutions. This stage tests the candidate’s consulting acumen, focusing on their approach to problem-solving and their capacity to deliver clear, concise insights.

Complementing the Case Interview is the Fit Interview, which delves into the candidate’s personal experiences and interpersonal skills. Bain places significant emphasis on cultural fit, seeking individuals who demonstrate leadership, teamwork, and adaptability. The Fit Interview allows Bain to assess how well a candidate aligns with the firm’s values and ethos, ensuring a well-rounded evaluation of both their professional competencies and personal attributes, vital for identifying individuals who are not only analytical and strategic thinkers but also effective collaborators and leaders.

Assisting You in Securing a Position with Bain

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Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any inquiries. We are committed to assisting you and can offer a bespoke program designed to facilitate your entry into Bain.

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