Two of the most common questions we get from our coachees are:
- What is the hierarchy like at McKinsey?
- What can I earn at each level?
We want to use this opportunity to answer both questions in this article.
Introduction to McKinsey
McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm that advises leading organizations on strategy, operations, technology, and organization. The firm was founded in 1926 by James O. McKinsey, a University of Chicago professor who established the principle that management consultants should provide objective advice that is independent of the interests of their clients.
McKinsey has a reputation for attracting and developing top talent, and the firm is known for its rigorous and analytical approach to problem-solving. McKinsey consultants work with clients across a wide range of industries and sectors, including financial services, healthcare, technology, energy, and more. The firm has offices in more than 130 cities around the world and serves clients in all major regions of the world.
In addition to its consulting work, McKinsey is also known for its thought leadership on a range of business and management topics. The firm publishes research and insights on a variety of topics through its McKinsey Quarterly and McKinsey Global Institute publications.
Overall, McKinsey is a well-respected and influential management consulting firm that is known for its expertise in helping organizations solve complex business challenges and achieve their strategic goals.
McKinsey & Company hierarchy
At McKinsey & Company, 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. At this level, you may be hired as an associate, a business analyst, or a fellow (different countries use different titles). In certain countries, graduates with a bachelor’s degree enter as junior BAs.
As a business analyst, 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 BAs handle entire workstreams on their own as well as own working-level client relationships. Associates and Engagement Managers will direct you. BAs are in their role for two years before promotion (three years for junior BAs).
Candidates with a postgraduate degree (such as an MBA or a Ph.D.) or those who have been promoted from the position of business analyst will become Associates at McKinsey. Candidates with three years of full-time work experience in relevant roles will also start as Associates in most offices
As an Associate, 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 Associate stint, you are expected to take on the tasks of an Engagement Manager. New entry Associates are in the role for three years before promotion. Consultants who joined as BAs are promoted after two years.
Engagement Managers at McKinsey 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 BAs and Associates on the team, being the main touchpoint with clients, and upward-managing the leadership of the team. EMs 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 Associate Partners and Partners. EMs 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 the Firm.
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 an Associate Partner, 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 McKinsey career. Your main contact in each of your teams is the EM and you are advising the team and providing directional guidance. Associate Partners 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 McKinsey 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 McKinsey 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 McKinsey & Company. 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?
The Firm formally implemented an “up or out” career progression strategy in 1951. Employees that are not promoted within a given time window are asked to leave (or as McKinsey calls it euphemistically “counseled to leave”). In the past, that meant that every year, around 20% of the lowest-performing consultants were asked to leave annually.
Recently, McKinsey has partially loosened its “up or out” rule (in line with other top-tier consulting firms such as Bain or BCG). Promotion windows are lengthened (e.g., at the Engagement Manager level) and consultants are often given the option to take on an expert role, where they can specialize in a topic and support client-facing teams, rather than being required to advance through the ranks of client work at all times.
The financial state of McKinsey
It is difficult to determine the exact revenue of McKinsey & Company, as the firm is a privately held company and does not disclose its financial information publicly. However, McKinsey 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, McKinsey’s revenue has increased significantly in recent years. For example, in 2019, the firm was estimated to have generated revenue of around $10 billion, and in 2020, the firm’s revenue was estimated to be around $11 billion. This growth can be attributed to the strong demand for McKinsey’s consulting services, as well as the firm’s ability to attract and retain top talent.
Overall, McKinsey is known for its expertise in helping organizations solve complex business challenges and achieve their strategic goals, and the firm’s strong revenue is a testament to its success in this regard.
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?
McKinsey & Company 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. McKinsey is no exception. We have compiled a salary overview for the different levels below (based on US 2023 average figures).
While BAs to Associate Partners are remunerated with a base salary and a variable bonus component, Partners as owners of the firm are mainly paid through their dividends (which are equal across the globe as McKinsey follows a one-firm principle).
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 McKinsey
As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we have specialized in getting our candidates an offer at McKinsey. We can help you by
- tailoring your resume and cover letter to meet McKinsey’s standards
- showing you how to pass the McKinsey Imbellus Game with an 80%+ success rate
- teaching you how to pass the McKinsey Case Interview and PEI interviews in our 40-part video academy
- coaching you in our 1-on-1 sessions to become an excellent case solver and impress with your PEI stories (90% success rate after 5 sessions)
- preparing your math to be bulletproof for every McKinsey case
- helping you structure creative and complex McKinsey cases
- teaching you how to interpret McKinsey 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 McKinsey.
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