Where Should I Work? Bain or Boston Consulting Group

Bain or BCG

When it comes to the consulting industry, there are three top dogs: McKinsey, Bain, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG). These three elite firms offer a unique blend of prestige, expertise, and history, which make them highly sought-after employers, particularly for MBA grads. But since they’re all part of the same exclusive club, how do you know where to accept a job offer: Bain or BCG or McKinsey?

Because, let’s be honest, if you’re going to receive an offer from one or more firm, and that means you’re going to have to make a difficult choice: where should I work?

Recently, our “Where Should I Work” series compared BCG and McKinsey, which you can read about here. Now, we’re taking on Bain and BCG to compare the biggest draws and drawbacks of each company.

Bain or BCG: Internships

Both Bain and BCG have summer internship programs for current MBA candidates.

BCG “actively recruits passionate, open-minded, and accomplished students at colleges and universities around the world.” Internships are generally two to three months in length and take place around the world.

Bain offers “exciting, intensive summer” internships at the office of your choice. More than 90 percent of MBA interns at Bain will be offered a job upon completion. “More than 90 percent will accept,” Keith Bevans, the head of MBA recruitment for Bain & Company, tells the Financial Times. “What it means is that we are very selective on who comes on our summer internship programme.”

Internships at Bain lead to full-employment at a surprisingly high rate, at around 90 percent.

Last year, more than 200 MBA students were offered summer internships at Bain and more than 400 MBA graduates were hired around the world from around 9,000 applications.

Bain or BCG: Interviews

When it comes to interviewing for BCG and Bain, you can expect the interviewer-led case approach in each case. What this means is that you’ll need to be prepared to handle an intense interview process that typically lasts for two to three rounds.

At Bain, expect to be pressure-tested to see if you know what you’re talking about and if you believe what you’re saying. At BCG, expect to be assessed on your ability to respond quickly and without preparation. They love curveball questions that require candidates to come up with reasonable solutions based on a well put together thought process.

No matter what, you’ll be expected to answer some basic questions such as:

  1. Why are you interested in being a consultant at Bain/BCG?
  2. What is your knowledge of our industry and our firm, in particular?
  3. What makes you think you’ll make an exceptional management consultant? Strengths? Weaknesses?
  4. Do you know what’s going on in business and how it’s affecting the consulting industry?

Bain or BCG: Compensation

Both Bain and BCG offer healthy salaries that are close to $250,000 USD for the first year after taking into accounting signing bonuses, performance incentives, and base salary. In fact, the difference in total compensation between BCG and Bain is less than $10,000. The main difference comes from your potential performance bonus. At BCG, you can earn up to $45,000 in bonuses while at Bain you max out at $41,000. Signing bonuses are at $25,000 for each with a base salary at $167,000 for BCG and $165,000 for Bain.

FirmBase Salary (USD)Performance Bonus (USD)Signing Bonus (USD)Total (USD)
Boston Consulting Group$167,000$45,000$25,000$237,000

Bain or BCG: Work Culture

Bain, the youngest of the three management consulting firms, comes with a unique viewpoint. The firm is more likely to take large market risks and make differentiating moves. On the other hand, BCG is a little more developed, meaning the firm is a little more risk-adverse. However, BCG is still a highly creative firm with a little more seasoning than Bain.

In terms of people, both BCG and Bain hire the best and brightest minds in the industry. This means that no matter which firm you choose, you’ll be surrounded by the highest quality of candidates, which means you’ll have to do more to stand out amongst the crowd. However, considering Bain only has around 6,000 total staff globally while BCG has 14,000 staff globally, it may be relatively easier to stand out at Bain.

Bain or BCG: Locations

Bain and BCG are both based in Boston and are large enough consulting companies that they have offices around the world. Bain has 58 offices worldwide while BCG has more than 90 offices in 50 countries. So, that means if you want more diversity, BCG is going to open up your geography a little wider.

However, what really matters is the local office where you set up shop. In London, you’ll probably work on more public sector work and work in the finance industry. While working in the U.S. south might be more relaxed and focused more on the oil and gas industry.

Those working at the BCG London branch, seen above, are more likely to be involved in the finance side of consulting.

As for your travel, Bain international travel is far less frequent. You’ll probably spend most of your career working in one primary country. BCG offers more international travel, and while you’ll still have a home office, you can expect to be on-site with a client four days a week.

Bain or BCG: Career Development

BCG’s promotion timeline is a little faster than Bain’s. At BCG you can get promoted to a post-MBA role in just two years and a project leadership role in five years. At Bain, you can expect it to take two and a half to three years to make it to a post-MBA role and five to six years to earn a project leadership role. Part of the difference in promotion speed is due to Bain’s smaller size. With fewer employees, there is less room for advancement.

According to the BCG website, “we understand that every BCGer requires different resources, skills, and information to ensure constant development and maximize his or her potential.” Some of those development programs include:

  • BCG core curriculum to help you build skills in consulting, leadership, and client development.
  • Online learning tools covering more than 1,000 virtual classrooms.
  • Integration programs to help you quickly develop new skills and accelerate your career.

According to Bain, “Your opportunities extend far beyond your home office, though. You’ll team with offices across markets on cases that expose you to diverse skill sets and thinking, an important aspect of your career growth and development. And every 18-24 months, you’ll attend a global training session where you’ll learn from our worldwide managers and partners, and share perspectives with colleagues from 58 offices worldwide.”

Bain or BCG: Recruiting

When it comes to recruiting, both Bain and BCG have very stringent standards and a very set recruiting cycle. Every year, each company recruits MBA candidates from top tier universities in the fall for the internship season in the summer. From there, summer interns may go on to land an interview for a full-time opportunity. For those MBA candidates not interning with Bain or BCG, you’ll still go through the same fall recruiting schedule at your top tier university.

As for who you need to impress, at both Bain and BCG consultants have more pull and power than recruiters. So, if you want to network and land a job, cultivate your connections with consultants. It’s also essential to be at a top MBA program, which includes:

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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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