What does the GMAT / MBA have to do with a Career in Management Consulting / Investment Banking?
Many of you take the GMAT because you want to get your MBA.
There are lots of places you can take your career, but today we will take a look at the two most popular areas: management consulting and investment banking. Assuming you are currently in another industry and want to break into these industries, read on.There are basically two ideal times to get into these industries–it’s just the way the system works. Obviously there are exceptions, but the majority of people get into these industries via school recruiting at:
1) target undergrad programs
2) target Bschool programs
Let’s take a look at these two options
Option #1: Get in via top undergraduate school recruiting.
This is how I entered the management consulting industry with Booz & Company. Most top consulting firms with an “up-or-out” policy will want consultants from undergrad to stay for 2 or 3 years and then make a career decision: either you go get an MBA and come back as an Associate or you find something else to do. So even if you are in the management consulting industry or are on track to getting into the field from undergrad, you will eventually find yourself at a fork road deciding to MBA or not to MBA.
Talk with your company to find out if an MBA is required for upward mobility. Most management consulting and investment banking firms require it, although a few do not.
Getting an MBA is a deep decision that requires a lot of self-preparation and self-reflection that extends beyond the scope of this article. But if it is even remotely within your potential career plan within the next 5 years, it might be a good idea to get your GMAT exam out of the way as the exam score is valid for up to 5 years.
Up to 5 years.
That’s a lot of time. Say you just graduated and are starting your first job.
If you take your GMAT now, then by the end of your 2 or 3 years at your current job, you will have already completed the first major step in the MBA application process.
Trust me, the GMAT is the last thing you want to think about at the end of your 3 years as you contemplate on an MBA and have all kinds of extracurricular, social, work, and life issues to deal with.
Action Items for Option #1: Get in via top undergraduate school recruiting.Get some relevant internship experience and develop a good story showing your interest in management consulting or investment banking.
Get your offer and start learning as much as you can. Find out your firm’s policy on promotions. Some firms require the MBA to move up, others do not.
If your firm requires MBA for promotion, then take your GMAT now to get it out of the way, and then apply to MBA sometime in the next 5 years, depending on your career status.
Option #2: Business School Recruiting
A few pros with this option include entering the management consulting firm at a higher salary and generally more responsibility. If you come from another background (IT, engineering, retail, etc), then you’ll need to do the MBA route in order to have access to these recruiting channels.
Is it possible to get in directly to management consulting without doing the MBA route? Sure. But it’s definitely not as common.
With business school, not only do you have access to management consulting recruiting programs, but you’ll also have access to a variety of other career channels including investment banking, corporate business development, etc.
But be careful! Do NOT assume that getting a top MBA automatically = getting into a top investment bank or management consulting firm. Whatever your career goals are, you should definitely do your research on them NOW. Even if you decided to do the MBA, don’t just sit there and wait for the offers to come to you.
If you want to get into real estate, then call up your school’s alumni contacts and tell them you are about to attend ABC business school and want some career advice. Set up an informational interview/phone call to get their perspective.
Remember, the MBA is a great platform to be on–it increases your personal branding and opens the doors for networking. However, you still need to JUMP off the platform and end up where you want to be! Do NOT assume the MBA is a magic bullet like most people assume.Action Items for Option #2: Business School RecruitingLearn about your industry NOW–google it, reach out to your network
Take your GMAT Now (Or you when you are relatively less busy)
Sometime in the next 5 years, get into a good MBA program that attracts the recruiters you want
Now, depending on your career situation, you may be in option #1 or option #2.So what do options #1 and #2 have in common?
Both options involve taking the GMAT exam at some point.
With business school, the GMAT is required at most top schools. And even if you get into the industry through your undergrad, you still might find yourself taking the GMAT.Bottom line: Whether you are currently in management consulting or investment banking, you MIGHT find yourself in a situation where you’ll need an MBA to be where you want to be.
If this is the case, then I recommend you get the GMAT out of the way now so you can focus on the other aspects of your career going forward.
Again, make sure you do not let the GMAT or MBA get in the way of your target career. Learn as much about your target industry as you can and use the MBA to help position (not guarantee) yourself for opportunities.
19 responses to “What does the GMAT / MBA have to do with a Career in Management Consulting / Investment Banking?”
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i'm a first year consultant. Does that mean I should take my GMAT now and apply after 2 yrs? What if I decide I want to do something else?
Does Booz & Co recruit a lot in undergraduate schools? I'm in a fairly respected undergrad but haven't seen many postings from them.
If you think you are somewhat less busy now than you will be later on when you are thinking about your next career step and/or doing applications, then yes–you should get your GMAT out of the way now.
If you want to explore areas outside of consulting, it might be a good idea to try to get experience in those areas to get a feel for the industry–you probably won't get in at a high position. But after some exposure there, you can get your MBA and be in a better position to re-enter that industry in a higher position. Hope that helps!
Booz & Co has a diamond shaped hierarchy, rather than a pyramid one like Bain. In other words, Bain hires a lot more undergrads and is therefore more present when it comes to undergraduate recruiting. Whereas Booz & Co hires very few undergrads and instead focuses there recruiting on MBA level hires. Even at top undergraduate institutions, Booz's recruiting presence will not be as noticeable as it is for MBA programs.
booz hardly does..they don't show up in most schools..it's rare when they come on campus, usually they will snatch the mbas..otherwise seems like they hire for their smaller stuff in which case they don't need to go to campus recruiting
Just got an offer from Booz and Co. How often does the company sponser MBA's for the ugrad hires. What score should I aim for on the GMAT if I want to go to a top MBA program coming from a reputable company such as Booz?
Congratulations! Sponsorship for MBAs usually comes on a case by case basis. If you seem like a promising employee who shows intention of returning to Booz upon graduation and superiors see that, then there is a higher chance they would be willing to sponsor you. You would have to check with your HR.
As for GMAT score, you should generally aim for 700+ with minimum of 680 given your situation. There are exceptions, of course.
Thanks for the post, very helpful. I have always wanted to get into a top management consulting company and decided to go the option #2 route as I wanted to first get deep experience in my primary area of interest (supply chain) and then enter MC post MBA to get broader exposure (and higher salary). My question relates to the GMAT, I have taken the exam twice and frustratingly scored 660 despite my practice scores being consistently well above 700. Now my dilemma is that, although my score is on the lower side I do believe that I would get into a top program based on other aspects of my application (strong acads, community, career progression, references etc) but I have heard that regardless of MBA top MC’s will screen GMAT’s at approx 700+. Is this necessarily true? Would an INSEAD/LBS/IESE/Duke applicant not likely at least be given the benefit of an interview with an otherwise strong application or is 700+ a must for MC?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
It is generally not true that MC firms screen you based on GMAT score. While it is true there is a generally affinity towards academically oriented people with high GPAs and high GMAT test scores among MC firms, most firms do not require you to report your GMAT score.
A degree from a top MBA program is good enough. Now, if you do have a very good GMAT score, you should put it on your resume. If not, just leave it out. Like you said, there are plenty of other factors to consider. So don't worry about a sub-700 GMAT score when it comes to applying for management consulting jobs. It won't keep you out of the running.
Hope that helps!
Thanks for the reply that is good news. I have heard that Mckinsey does require you to report GMAT, are you aware of any others?
'm a second year law student at a top 6 law school (think Columbia, NYU, Chicago) interested in consulting. I took a year off after college (top 15 non-target undergrad) to help my family start a successful small side business, which I've helped to manage since. I've been accepted into my school's MBA program for a joint degree, which would take one extra year, and I'm deciding between doing the MBA, or gunning for a consulting position straight out of law school.
McKinsey recruits directly on my law school campus and has taken several JDs over the past few years. I've heard that some other consulting firms, such as BCG, are amenable to hiring JDs, although I haven't yet talked to any JD consultants other than at McKinsey. Do you know which consulting firms have been willing to interview JDs (top tier or second tier), and do they usually start them at the MBA-level as they do at McKinsey? I'd much rather go into consulting without getting the MBA, even if it means a small pay-cut, but I'm concerned that I may not be able to create enough interview opportunities with just the JD.
There are a few more reasons why I'd rather not do the MBA right now. One, my school is traditionally known for placing into finance, rather than consulting, and doesn't have the same "prestige" as does my law school (this probably gives my school away..). Two, I'm concerned that if recruiting as an MBA I'll be up against individuals with lots of work experience and may not be able to even get my foot in the door for an interview. Three, I'd like to preserve the MBA option for the future if possible, as my non work-experience stats make me a viable candidate for better schools and I may want to career-switch as some point.
Given all this, do you think looking for a consulting position straight out of the JD is a viable option, and how many more opportunities, if any, might the MBA give me?
It's certainly possible to jump to consulting with a JD. The best ones usually bring in the JDs at the MBA level. The MBA will give you the opportunity to go through the school's recruiting system. If you don't have personal connections or if consulting firms don't recruit at your law school, then you may need this channel in order to get access to an interview. Without the interview you can't get the job. My advice would be to reach out to personal contacts and work your way to get an interview if you can. Or when consulting firms come to your campus, try to work the system and get an interview. If you have no contacts, then the MBA route will allow you that opportunity though it's a longer and somewhat more competitive path.
I'm also curious if McKinsey or other consulting companies require you to post your GMAT score on your application. Supposing that they do, how would they view a Q43 V44 AWA 6.0 710?
McKinsey and other consulting companies do not require you to post your GMAT Score. Of course if you do well, you are welcome to post it – and if you are just out of undergraduate, it signals to them that you are thinking of doing 2 years and then jumping out to do your MBA. This is expected so you don't need to worry about them losing you.
If you score over 700 – as you did and your verbal/math seem decently balanced, then go ahead and include it.
With consulting companies, it's going to be more important to speak eloquently during the interview, and be able to think critically in a business way. Check out my friend's site managementconsulted.com for more info about consulting.
This blog was really great and informative. Thanks!
This post was really helpful with my business and schooling. Good work!
Thanks for this blog! Very helpful
Hi, I am interested in a career in Investment Banking/ Finance/Management Consulting. Can u please suggest schools which do not place more emphasis on work experience coz i will be completing my graduation in Mechanical Engineering next year. I am giving the GMAT at the end of this month. Please help
Are you planning on going to bschool right away? or getting some work experience from IB/Mgmt consulting?
As for schools, the work experience is pretty important. Schools outside the top 5/10 bschools will accept you with less work experience. So you have to decide what schools you are aiming for, or whether any business school is fine for your goals.
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