Two of the most common questions we get from our coachees are:
- What is the hierarchy like at BCG?
- What can I earn at each level?
We want to use this opportunity to answer both questions in this article.
Introduction to BCG
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was founded in 1963 by Bruce Henderson, a former associate at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Henderson had worked on a number of high-profile projects at McKinsey, including the development of the first comprehensive long-range plan for the Ford Motor Company, and he was convinced that he could build a successful consulting firm of his own.
In its early years, BCG focused on helping companies in the manufacturing and industrial sectors improve their operations and increase profitability. The firm quickly gained a reputation for its rigorous analytical approach and its ability to deliver results for its clients.
In the 1970s, BCG developed the growth-share matrix, which became one of the company’s most well-known and influential tools. The growth-share matrix is a graphical representation of a company’s business units or products, plotted on a grid based on their market share and growth rate. It is used to help companies allocate resources and make strategic decisions about which business units or products to invest in or divest from.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, BCG expanded its services and presence globally, and it began working with clients in a wider range of industries, including finance, healthcare, and technology. Today, BCG is one of the largest and most respected management consulting firms in the world, with offices in over 50 countries.
At BCG, the career levels are typically organized into the following categories, starting from the bottom of the pyramid:
These positions are typically for recent graduates with little to no professional experience.
As an Associate, 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 Associates handle entire workstreams on their own as well as own working-level client relationships. Consultants and Project Leaders will direct you. Associates are in their role for two years before promotion.
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 BCG. 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 Project Leader. New entry Consultants are in the role for three years before promotion. Consultants who joined as Associates are promoted after two years.
Project Leaders at BCG 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 Associates and Consultants on the team, being the main touchpoint with clients, and upward-managing the leadership of the team. PLs 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. PLs 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 BCG.
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)
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 BCG career. Your main contact in each of your teams is the Project 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 that want to progress to the next level are asked to leave.
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 BCG 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 making Senior Partners.
Senior Partners are the most senior leaders at the Boston Consulting Group. 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?
“Up-or-out” is a term that is often used to describe the promotion and career development process at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and other management consulting firms. It refers to the fact that consultants are expected to progress “up” the ranks of the firm and become more senior, or they may be asked to “move out” of the firm if they are not able to do so.
The up-or-out system is designed to encourage consultants to strive for excellence and to ensure that the firm is staffed with the best and most capable professionals. At BCG, consultants are typically evaluated on a regular basis, and those who consistently perform well and demonstrate leadership potential are often promoted to more senior positions within the firm. Those who do not meet these standards may be given the opportunity to improve their performance, but if they are unable to do so, they may be asked to leave the firm.
The up-or-out system can be challenging for some consultants, as it can create a high-pressure environment and make it difficult for them to balance their work and personal lives. However, it is also seen as an important part of the culture at BCG and other consulting firms, and it is often cited as a key factor in the firm’s ability to attract and retain top talent.
The state of BCG
It is difficult to determine the exact revenue of BCG as the firm is a privately held company and does not disclose its financial information publicly. However, BCG 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, BCGs revenue has increased significantly in recent years. For example, in 2021, the firm was estimated to have generated revenue of around $8.6 billion with roughly 22,000 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?
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. BCG is no exception. We have compiled a salary overview for the different levels below (based on US 2023 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.
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.
How we can help you to get an offer with BCG
As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we have specialized in getting our candidates an offer at MBB firms. We can help you by
- tailoring your resume and cover letter to meet BCG’s standards
- showing you how to pass the BCG Online Case
- coaching you in our 1-on-1 sessions to become an excellent case solver and impress with your fit answers (90% success rate after 5 sessions)
- preparing your math to be bulletproof for every BCG case
- helping you structure creative and complex BCG cases
- teaching you how to interpret BCG charts and exhibits
Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program to help you break into BCG.
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