If you’re driven, capable, and want to keep your options open, you’d do well to consider taking a graduate job in management consulting.
Management consulting firms work with client organizations to improve their overall performance — which can encompass a wide range of responsibilities. As a young management consultant, you might spend half a year helping a series C startup in Brisbane come up with a more efficient approach to structuring their internal teams — and then switch gears and spend the next six months flying regularly to Mumbai while working on a hotel magnate’s international expansion plan.
In other words, you’ll cover a lot of ground — literally, experientially, and intellectually — and develop a formidable skill set. You’ll also be working alongside some of the brightest, most talented people in any industry, which may feel intimidating but is an excellent opportunity to make connections, learn good habits, and stretch your mind.
As nearly all major management consulting companies are multinational, you may even have the chance to spend several years living in another country. Fancy a stay in Rome, New York, or Singapore? That could be as simple as requesting a transfer from one office to another.
The upsides come with a price, of course. Those who succeed in the industry tend to work long hours — 60 to 70-hour weeks are common — and while the compensation can be considerable, management consulting is referred to as a grey profession for a reason. You’ll typically have to spend many years climbing the ladder in order to become a partner or a principal at most consulting groups.
Fortunately, you’ll also have other choices. That same rigorous, wide-ranging work experience will open doors if and when you decide to move on. Put in 5 years at any of the companies on our list below and you’ll be in demand, whether you choose to stay in the private sector, become an entrepreneur, or pivot to government service or NGO work.
Our list is based on a combination of factors including each firm's public reputation, the perspectives of current and former employees, and an assessment of opportunities that fresh grads will likely encounter. We also note potential downsides, which are typically grounded in team member feedback. While no rankings should be seen as definitive or set in stone, ours will give you a good overview of the top players in the field.
Please also note that while some of the firms on our list work exclusively in management consulting, others combine consulting divisions with other professional services like accounting or legal. However, all are highly regarded (as well as highly competitive) and can offer you a launchpad to a lifetime of professional success.
If you’re interested in working at the intersection of technology and business, Capgemini may be a great option. Based in Paris, France, the company is a multinational professional services firm that operates in more than 50 countries and grew out of an early IT company to become a behemoth that works not just in management consulting but in fields like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and technology infrastructure.
Well-regarded in the field, Capgemini’s good reputation is grounded in its strong corporate culture. Employees describe an ethical, supportive environment backed up by management, passionate co-workers, and a major emphasis on diversity, as well as opportunities to expand their skill sets by working on a broad range of projects. The company is also known for being flexible with work hours, although this tends to vary from project to project.
However, if you prefer a high degree of structure in your work, be aware that some Capgemini recruits report feeling like they were thrown off the deep end when starting their new roles. You may need to develop a certain degree of initiative and self-propulsion in order to succeed.
Another professional services giant, Deloitte offers divisions like accounting, financial advisory, and analytics alongside management consulting. Operating in over 150 countries, the firm employs roughly 10,000 people in Australia and works with organizations ranging from governments to financial institutions to those specializing in manufacturing or technology.
The company’s pitch to fresh grads is a chance to make a real impact on the world. Employees tend to agree that Deloitte follows through here, observing that from your first day on the job, you’ll be working on significant projects — and will be handed all the responsibility that comes alongside that.
Many also describe a diverse, supportive culture that offers real opportunities for growth — assuming you’re able to keep up with the pressure and high expectations. However, you should be aware that some new employees say the pay is below average, especially given the number of hours you may be working.
PwC, or PricewaterhouseCoopers, offers consulting, advisory, and assurance services in 157 countries. With a mission to help governments, corporations, and not-for-profits or NGOs improve their performance, the company employs roughly a quarter of a million people worldwide, including just under 10,000 in Australia.
PwC has a stated mission of working “to build trust in society and solve important problems. The emphasis on trust extends to the company’s culture, which is demanding but also offers even entry-level team members the opportunity to jump in and do meaningful work. Employees typically describe their co-workers as friendly, diverse, and sociable, and note that managers and even partners make themselves available as mentors.
At PwC, you should be prepared to work long hours, although this may vary from project to project. Some employees also decry what they describe as a lack of support and transparency from management, as well as uninspiring entry-level compensation.
With a goal of driving positive, sustainable change, KPMG operates in almost 150 countries and employs roughly 230,000 people. The firm’s management consulting division specializes in areas like improving business performance, integrating technology, and sustainability, and works with organizations across both the private and public sectors.
At KPMG, you can expect to join a brilliant, talented group of teammates and learn a lot — fast. According to employees, even upper-level management is approachable and friendly, and the company has a reputation for making a genuine effort to give back to the communities it serves. As with most top consulting firms, KPMG is also known for sustaining a strong culture, while offering what new hires describe as excellent training and mentorship options.
However, (and you’ll note the pattern here), employees also caution that you’ll work long hours, especially during crunch time. Some also complain about limited networking opportunities between different divisions of the company, meaning that you may not get much of a chance to connect with your peers in the tax and legal or auditing side of things.
The largest company on our list, Accenture describes itself as a global professional services firm that aims to harness change, “to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity.” With roughly 700,000 employees spread across 120 countries working on everything from artificial intelligence to supply chain management, Accenture boasts a formidable scope of practice — as well as considerable growth opportunities for a fresh grad.
You’ll want to note that many employees describe the firm’s culture as genuinely inclusive, with a strong gender balance and co-workers across levels of seniority who really do care about one another. You may also appreciate that Accenture is known for having high levels of transparency and a clear pathway for moving up the corporate ladder.
However, the sheer size of the company is a genuine problem for some. While that does give you lots of room to explore and try your hand at different projects, it can also be overwhelming. You’ll be a small cog in a giant machine, albeit an extremely high-functioning one.
Perhaps the most famous (and controversial) firm on our list, McKinsey also focuses more exclusively on management consulting than some of its rivals. With roughly 30,000 team members spread between offices in 65 countries, McKinsey is known for being an incredibly selective employer, hiring some of the smartest, most capable candidates in the world — and then pushing them hard.
While McKinsey has a reputation for secrecy that goes beyond the norms in the consulting world, employees also describe a caring, even genuinely nice corporate culture where you’ll rise based on the merits of your professional achievements. Many within the company seem bowled over by the calibre of people they work with. As a fresh grad, you’ll need to make the effort to ask more senior co-workers for mentorship and guidance, but most will be happy to help if you do.
However, you should note that while large multinational firms are seldom entirely beyond reproach, McKinsey has seen plenty of scandal in recent years. The company has been outed for everything from advising authoritarian regimes on how to suppress dissent to promoting highly addictive and dangerous opioid medications to involvement in public corruption.
As a subsidiary firm within EY (another supersized global professional services company that operates in 150 countries with a team of roughly 300,000), EY Port Jackson Partners combines the benefits of a boutique strategy consulting shop with the resources that come from being backed by the resources of a global conglomerate.
In a graduate job role, you’ll enjoy significant room for growth, including the opportunity to work on high-level projects alongside the senior management team. You’ll also likely appreciate what one employee describes as a collaborative and collegiate culture, plus flexible work options and the chance to surround yourself with highly intelligent, capable co-workers.
Be prepared for an intense schedule, however. Current team members report that at EY, you’re expected to work until the job is done — often under pressure and facing high expectations.
Nous Group is a bit of an outlier on our list. Founded in Australia only 20-ish years ago, Nous is younger than any of the consulting giants above and also considerably smaller, with approximately 500 employees in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, and Canada. The company is also notable for having a workforce that is over 60 per cent female, including roughly half of the partners.
While Nous does work with the private sector, it tends to focus on governments and NGOs. The company gets exceptionally high marks for culture, diversity, and overall satisfaction from many current employees. You should note that new hires describe their co-workers as both smart and kind, appreciate perks like a personal performance coach, and enjoy significant autonomy.
For some, though, that autonomy can be a burden, as they end up feeling lost in the weeds. As with other firms, high pressure and long hours are also par for the course.
Another consulting-focused heavyweight, Boston Consulting Group, or BCG, is an American-based firm with a worldwide team of roughly 22,000. The company describes itself as helping leaders in both the private and public sectors to “tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities.”
In addition to joining the other firms on our list with a reputation for a strong corporate culture and outstanding co-workers, BCG also offers better compensation than some of its peers. Employees say that their teammates are genuinely nice and rave about the growth opportunities that the company can provide as well as the emphasis on diversity.
However, you should expect your job to dominate your life. As with its competitors, long hours, high stress, and little reprieve are a standard part of the package at BCG.
Originally founded by a former Boston Consulting Group executive, Bain & Company has grown to become a major player in the space. With a mission to help, “the world’s most ambitious change-makers to define the future,” the firm operates across sectors to advise clients on everything from organizational structure to private equity and digital transformations.
Highly competitive, Bain is known for accepting only about 1 per cent of consulting applicants. If you get in the door, though, you’ll be faced with incredible learning opportunities and the kind of skilled, talented coworkers who will push you to do your best work. The company also states that it is committed to investing a billion dollars in pro bono services over the next ten years to help tackle major social challenges like education, social justice, and environmental decay.
While many speak highly of Bain’s culture and mentorship from senior team members, others describe high levels of burnout, aggressive management, and even backstabbing. You will also find that the work is consistently challenging.
Founded by a former managing partner at McKinsey after an early split in the company, Kearney is one of the oldest consulting groups still extant. Smaller than most of its peers on this list, Kearney still employs roughly 3500 people worldwide and works with Fortune 500 companies, governments, and NGOs.
Kearney is well-known for an emphasis on diversity that dates back to founder Andrew Kearney, who said, “the true strength of this firm, as in any organisation, lies in the fact that we are all different.” Today, the company seeks not only to foster an inclusive work environment, but to support not only the success of its clients but the well-being of society through development, sustainability, and educational initiatives.
While some describe the company culture as less Darwinian than some competitors, other employees disagree and say that any talk of work-life balance is essentially a joke. Many speak highly of their co-workers, but some criticize management as inconsistent, with quality varying from group to group.
With a focus on helping businesses to boost their performance and growth, L.E.K. Consulting operates in 21 locations worldwide with a team of approximately 1400. Founded in 1983 by three Bain alumni, the firm describes itself as offering, “all the benefits of a large, multinational organisation along with the advantages of being part of a close team.”
Employees rave about the culture, stimulating work environment, and their talented colleagues. The company is also known for giving new hires personal career coaching and the opportunity to work side-by-side with senior partners, giving you the chance to significantly develop your skillset.
However, some employees also note that you can expect to work an average of 70 hours a week and that the firm takes a “keep going until the job is done” mentality. Some also find L.E.K.’s resources lacking compared to larger competitors.
Headquartered in Sydney with a worldwide team of around 650, Partners in Performance was founded with a mission to help clients improve not just their business strategies but their operational performance. The company differentiates itself from competitors by noting its focus on creating permanent transformations rather than solving single problems.
Current employees praise their colleagues as fantastic, caring, and even humble. As a fresh hire, you’ll also enjoy ongoing development and training, plus a flat organizational structure where you’ll quickly get to know partner-level team members. You’ll also probably appreciate PIP's emphasis on avoiding harm in its work and the option to jump between a wide range of projects.
Like every other firm on our list, though, PIP has a well-earned reputation for long hours, high expectations, and stress. Some employees also criticize the decentralized leadership structure.
Cognizant is a giant information technology services and consulting firm with a mission to help companies “get digital done,” or integrate technology at scale in order to keep up with an ever-changing economy. With almost 350,000 team members, Cognizant is headquartered in the United States but operates worldwide, with a large percentage of employees based in India.
You’ll find that team members appreciate their co-workers, describing a kind, respectful culture that makes it easy to succeed. Unusual for the field, some also sound upbeat about the salary and work hours, while others praise an inclusive attitude that values diversity and growth.
Some employees do describe a steep learning curve, however, and complain about a degree of disorganization in the onboarding process. Others note that you may have to spend years waiting for a chance to be promoted and that climbing the hierarchy is often a matter of being willing to put in the time.