Why Do Management Consulting Firms Hire MBAs?

8 Oct

Prior to my current role, I spent many years in the traditional management consulting space. As I see it, the traditional segment of the management consulting industry values MBAs primarily because it facilitates a plug-and-play kind of model where people are interchangeable and can start working on a broad swathe of business problems. Management consulting projects can span diverse areas from operational to finance to marketing to strategy to IT management, etc. An MBA training provide consultants with some minimum common business language, culture, methodologies, and skills that they can use in the field. The traditional management consulting firms need a lot of these plug-and-play type resources since the whole consulting business model is based around selling more and more projects to solve unique business problems. This requires some level of scalability and both MBA training and the business school hiring venues directly support a volume-based model.

While its been a proven model that these consulting firms can successfully scale by hiring lots of MBAs, will the model sustain forever? Are there other models? There are other modern, consultative models emerging. And the models don’t need to be exclusive. For example, you can see this in some of the digital agency like efforts (e.g.,investigate careers at Digital McKinsey or BCG Digital Ventures). There you will see that these firms add a lot of other roles that don’t have to be MBA-types (in some cases might not even be culturally desirable, such as in the case one sometimes gets a vibe with the branding and traditional ad agencies). Roles in these newer consulting firms are positions analogous to product manager, UX design, digital marketing, data scientist, etc. plus traditional consulting roles. We are even starting to see some initiatives relative to adding in behavioral science experts, an area that I mostly play in these days.

While the MBA population is very large within the management consulting space, there are many other backgrounds both present and emerging.

This answer is reproduced from a question that I was asked on Quora.

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