The best people, the best projects, the best pay. The widest practices and deepest resources. Expertise and prestige. Influence and impact. Alumni and clients who shape industry and policy. Opportunity and possibilities galore for ambitious graduates.

Traditionally, the MBB sat atop of the Vault Consulting 50 Ranking – the gold standard for measuring which consulting firms possess the best industry reputations and provide the best experiences to employees. In 2024, the M is missing from the MBB in the Vault Consulting 50 Ranking.


Yes, Bain & Company has ranked #1 for the 4th consecutive year in 2024. However, the result feels a bit hollow with McKinsey & Company missing from the list. The Boston Consulting Company again finished as the runner-up – a spot it has claimed for 5 of the last 7 years in the Vault Consulting 50. That said, McKinsey’s absence has created a vacuum – one filled by Alvarez & Marsal, a firm that ranked 22nd just four years ago. ghSMART, which finished 20th in 2020, clawed its way to 4th in 2024. At the same time, Oliver Wyman, a Top 10 stalwart which was unranked last year, returned to snag the 5th spot.

Talk about a memorable ranking!

What happened to McKinsey? That’s hard to say. Vault itself has directed readers to its participation policy: “Some years, firms choose not to participate, for whatever reason, which may explain why they don’t appear in the Consulting 50 or Quality of LIfe Rankings. Firms may also be excluded from these rankings if they participate but don’t meet the minimums participant counts or don’t score highly enough on Quality of Life. As far as the Practice Area Rankings, all firms, regardless if they distribute the survey internally or not, indicate to us which practice areas they want to be considered for, and firms may change their selections from year to year.”

Indeed, McKinsey was sliding downward in 2023, posting lower scores in every Quality of Work and Life dimension against the previous year. That’s not to say McKinsey’s presence wasn’t felt in the 2024 Vault Consulting 50. The firm still ranked 1st in Prestige according to competing firms’ consultants. Even more, McKinsey was listed as the top consulting firm in nearly two-thirds of the practice areas measured by Vault! In other words, McKinsey may be enduring a down cycle, but the firm has the fundamentals in place to quickly return to the top.

“The firm is doing a great job of constantly reinventing itself and innovating in areas of growth (for example digital and sustainability),” writes one anonymous McKinsey consultant surveyed by Vault. “It can be sometimes slower than first movers but tends to innovate in a thoughtful manner and has a strong track record of success with innovations (transformation, operations, design, sustainability).”


This year’s results were released on February 7th, representing the 18th year of the Vault Consulting 50. The ranking is produced by Vault. An infobase platform, Vault collects employee reviews to produce rankings and company profiles in the banking, consulting, legal, and accounting sectors. In addition, Vault delivers career advice in everything from internships to employment, as well as two dozen career guides that cover industries (including hospitality, real estate, and media and entertainment), job hunting (resumes, networking, and interviewing), and education (college readiness, graduate school, MBA).

This fall, Vault surveyed consultants from over a hundred top firms, ultimately surveying 8,000 North American consultants. Using a scale ranging from 1 to 10 – where 10 is the highest possible score – Vault had consultants evaluate their own firm across 19 Quality of Work and Life dimensions and 6 Diversity measures. Using this same scale, consultants rated their peer firms for Prestige. Overall, consulting firms are evaluated against 7 of the 19 Quality of Work and Life dimensions (plus Prestige). Vault also publishes separate rankings for Prestige, Boutique Firms, and Practice Areas.

These rankings are designed to measure what matters most to consultants. Like last year, Vault notes that Culture ranks as the top priority for consultants, garnering a 40% share of first place votes. Beyond Culture, the survey sample also listed Prestige, Work-Life balance, and Practice Strength among their other priorities. At the same time, Satisfaction and Career Progress continue to gain momentum among consultants in Vault’s recent survey, which aligns with the previous year’s result.

Click on the links below for in-depth analysis and ranking tables for each area of the Vault Consulting 50.

BAIN-MCKINSEY-BCG HISTORICAL COMPARISON (Compensations, Training, Management, Outlook, etc.)

PRACTICE AREA RANKINGS (Energy, Finance, Management, Strategy, etc.)


Next Page: Why Bain Ranked #1

In this corner, wearing red, is the world champion. They have three successful title defenses under their belt. They are the fun-loving, results-driven crew who live for feedback and subscribe to the growth-mindset. Introducing Bain & Company!

In the opposite corner, wearing green, is the #1 contender and perennial runner-up. They’re the wildly creative bunch who bring personalized solutions. They’re brainy. They’re bold. And maybe the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Give it up for the Boston Consulting Company!


Yeah, Michael Buffer could have a field day kicking off the Vault Consulting 50. Last year, just .141 of a point separated Bain from BCG. This year? Well, there won’t be any split decisions. Bain more than doubled the difference with BCG – besting the Green Machine by .307 of a point. It also represented the widest distance between the two firms in six years, minimum.

Technically, Bain & Company lost ground in 2024, with its total index falling by .070 of a point. Problem is, BCG fell by .236 of a point. In fact, BCG’s score was technically lower than #3 McKinsey from the previous year.

So what happened? On the plus side, BCG’s Prestige score again beat out Bain, to the tune of a 30% weight. Still, the difference was just .033 of a point – far thinner than the .139 of a point gap from 2019. A potential reason? One BCGer surveyed by Vault points to the firm’s expectations, which quickly elevates consultants.

“BCG is a unique opportunity to gain a variety of business experiences in a short timeframe. It is a wonderful career experience for those that enjoy working in teams, moving at a fast pace, and being able to operate at a level above their current position.”


Beyond Prestige? Well, let’s just say BCG got crushed by Bain. After all, 70% of the Vault Consulting 50 weight is predicated on Quality of Work and Life measures. Among those 19 measures, BCG only posted a higher score than Bain in two of them. Problem is, neither of them – Innovation and International Opportunities – carried any weight in the ranking.

Firm Culture, long known as a Bain specialty with a 15% weight, was again commanded by Bain – this time by a 9.765 vs. 9.205 margin. In one Vault survey, a Bain consultant described the culture as “committed to people and teams…and focused on continuing to reinforce teamwork and collaboration and culture and fun.” Keith Bevans, a Bain partner and executive vice president who heads up global consulting and talent acquisition, believes ‘Baines’ stand out by “always seeking out opportunities to improve themselves – and those around them.” More than that, they are willing to forego spotlight and ego to win as a team.

“What you’ll find is that the people who are really thriving here tend to look for the positives in situations,” Bevans explains in a June interview with P&Q. “What I often tell people here is that trust is a choice. Trust in an organization that says it lives by its operating principles, where we are one team, where diversity is a strength, and where we focus on results and our True North is powerful. When you truly buy into that, you start to realize that this is actually how we do things. You spend less of your time worried about that not being the case and more of your time experiencing what it is like.”

Satisfaction – which counts for a 15% weight – is another area where Bain overwhelmed BCG – by a 9.508 vs. 8.978 of a point difference. In this area, BCG lost .238 of a point in the past year alone. When Vault surveyed BCG consultants, there weren’t a large number of satisfaction issues cropping up, however. One respondent noted that it was hard to use their unlimited sick days, while another wished the firm was “more innovative” in relation to remote and hybrid working practices. Although a handful of BCG consultants mentioned that 2023 was a rough year, they were optimistic about their leadership’s ability to guide them through the turmoil.

“BCG did not pull back,” explains one survey-taker. “We kept our target operating model intact which positions us to grow in the future very well. Decision to maintain our operating model came at a personal cost for partners. I have not heard a single partner complain. That fills me with pride.”


With Satisfaction and Firm Culture combining to match Prestige, Bain simply outscored BCG across the remaining weighted variables. Compensation (9.456 vs. 9.276), Work Life Balance (9.084 vs. 8.389), and Level of Challenge (9.408 vs. 9.092) – each worth a 10% weight – all went to Bain on the judge’ cards. The same was true of Promotion Policy (9.521 vs. 9.297) and Business Outlook, where Bain scored a 9.322 and BCG didn’t average a Top 25 score.

This doesn’t even include Formal and Informal Training, where Bain continues to set the standard for the industry. “Bain & Company is the best company on the planet for talent development,” according to one Vault survey respondent. “There is ample investment put into personal coaching opportunities, both formally and in the day-to-day work built on our model of apprenticeship, which is embedded in the company’s DNA.”

Another Bain survey respondent added that the firm was a “great place to learn and make a difference” – whether or not they intended to stay long-term or move on. That’s exactly the point of Bain according to Bevans.

“We want to inspire people because that multiplier effect that they have on their organizations and their stakeholders – that’s where the difference gets made,” Bevans tells P&Q. “I like to think we’re training that generation of business leaders who multiply their impact through the people they work with. In pro sports, you can talk about these legendary coaches and their coaching lineages. Where do their assistant coaches go and how many championships have they won because they learned from one person at the top? I like to think that the people who are working at Bain are training to win championships in the places they go after – and also training the next generation of leaders to do the same.”

Next Page: Vault Consulting 50 Ranking

Yes, Bain repeated and McKinsey retreated, but these headlines were hardly the most exciting parts of the 2024 Vault Consulting 50 Ranking. In many ways, this was the coming out party for Alvarez & Marsal and ghSMART & Company – and a warning that other boutiques like Aminad Consulting are waiting in the wings.

According to Maria Ho, head of research at Vault, Alvarez & Marsal certainly made an impression in 2024. “One firm to watch is Alvarez & Marsal, which jumped from No. 10 to No. 3 in the Consulting 50. The jump isn’t too surprising, as the firm is strong in turnaround and restructuring work and has taken on some high-profile engagements recently (for example, it advised the Swiss government after the failure of Credit Suisse). It’s also been expanding in other areas and practices.”


This year, Alvarez & Marsal’s score rose by 0.276 of a point, Just four years ago, it ranked 22nd with a 7.081 point average. In other words, the firm has moved up nearly a point in just a year. It ranked in the Top 5 in two key categories: Compensation and Business Outlook. Even more, it climbed from 17th to 20th in Prestige. Widening the lens, the firm’s Prestige rocketed from 3.897 to 5.949 since 2018. Bottom line: the word is getting out about Alvarez & Marsal.

In surveys with Vault, Alvarez & Marsal consultants describe the culture as “client-first” and “entrepreneurial” – a firm with “great access to the c-suite”, “interesting clients”, and “high employee morale.” One reason, says a consultant surveyed, is a sense of autonomy that’s different than other firms.

“Employees are given a high level of independence and leadership trusts employees at all levels to handle client interactions.”


ghSMART & Company, ranked as Vault’s top boutique firm in 2024, moved up to 4th. At the same time, Oliver Wyman returned to the Vault Consulting 50 after a year-long absence, ultimately snagging the 5th spot. Ranked 8th for Prestige, the firm operates in 60 cities across the globe. Still, the firm didn’t differentiate itself in the Work and Life categories, with its best performance coming in International Opportunities (13th). In surveys, however, culture is a recurring motif regarding the firm’s strengths. Notably, one respondent emphasized the amount of responsibility given to staff early on and the firm’s focus on teaching and growth. Another touted Oliver Wyman’s prospects in the coming years.

“Oliver Wyman is actively gaining market share since I’ve joined the firm. Most employees love the work environment and actively contribute to firm activities. OW positioning within the consulting industry is only getting better.”

Among the remainder of the Top 10, EY-Parthenon, Bridgespan Group, and Kearney each lost 2-3 spots. Their loss was the gain of Putnam Associates and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, which rose from 11th to 7th and 13th to 10th respectively – all while L.E.K. Consulting tumbled out of the Top 10 altogether.


The biggest gain? OC&C Strategy Consultants surged from 25th to 14th. Best known for Retail Consulting, OC&C ranked as the top firm for International Opportunities and 2nd for Business Outlook (and Top 5 in 5 other categories including Firm Culture and Firm Leadership). Despite being founded in 1987, the firm remains somewhat anonymous, not even cracking the Top 50 in Prestige despite its bona fides.

“We do interesting, intellectually stimulating work with a great group of people,” writes one consultant surveyed by Vault. “I have felt I can really open up and be myself around people in the firm. Compared to other consulting firms, all our work involves wrestling with thorny, complicated strategy problems. I am yet to have a project where I am not working on a challenging, complex workstream.”

Bates White Economic Consulting also made an impression this year, accelerating from 31st to 16th in the past year alone. The same can be said for Keystone Strategy, which jumped from 32nd to 17th thanks to its score improving by .178 of a point. By the same token, Charles River Associates climbed 10 spots to rank 20th. Similar gains were made by NERA Economic Consulting (37th to 21st), Epsilon (41st to 25th), ScottMadden (36th to 26th), and BPM Advisory (47th to 35th).


At the same time, 11 firms debuted in or returned to the Vault Consulting 50 in 2024. The splashiest debut came from Aminad Consulting “Aminad ranked No. 2 last year in our Boutique Rankings and is still at No. 2 this year, explains Vault’s Maria Ho. They also ranked 1st in Business Outlook, which is actually not surprising given that it’s a turbulent economy and they focus on federal government clients/contracts, which could be viewed as more stable during a downturn.”

Like OC&C Aminad didn’t make the Top 50 for Prestige – 30% of the ranking weight – which held its ranking down overall. Along with Business Outlook, Aminad ranked 1st in Firm Leadership, Firm Culture, Relationships with Supervisors, Work-Life Balance, and Health & Wellness. The firm also finished 2nd in Hours in the Office and Satisfaction – and Top 5 in 5 other dimensions, including Compensation and Benefits. Such metrics reflect a firm where staff is committed to the mission, producing results for clients, and enjoying their personal lives.

“As a potential candidate, Aminad is not a place where you stay for a few years and move on,” explains one consultant surveyed by Vault. “The culture developed by leadership has built a workplace that can be tailored to any employee needs, working habits, etc. There is a reason why Aminad’s employee retention rate is so high.”

Aminad’s size – think fewer than 50 employees – also serves as an advantage according to a different survey-taker. “While the firm is small, the opportunities for growth are endless and the leadership will support your goals for your career by empowering you to own work and stretch outside of your comfort zone.”


More than that, Aminad consultants believe the future is only looking up. “The firm is expanding its client base to have a diverse book of work, and it has successfully done so over the last few years,” adds a third respondent. “Client satisfaction is high, allowing for renewal of existing work as well.”

Alongside Aminad, SciVida made a first-time appearance at 27th. Clarkston Consulting returned to the Top 50 at 29th after finishing 47th. Among other impressive debuts, you’ll find Heidrick and Struggles (30th), LifeSci Consultng (31st), Coherent Economics (37th), and Kepler Cannon (38th).

However, the fortune of some firms came at the misfortune of others. Kaiser Associates tumbled from 20th to 36th. Eagle Hill Consulting dropped from 28th to 37th, with Health Advances making a similar plunge (35th to 45th). That said, several big names – besides McKinsey – dropped off this year’s list. They include Deloitte Consulting, Simon-Kucher, Back Bay Life Sciences, and the Brattle Group. They join the ranks of firms that have fallen off the Vault 50 Consulting list in recent years, including Booz Allen Hamilton, KPMG, Accenture, Strategy&, and Gartner.

That’s prestige – the perception of status, stature, and standing. It is reputation, respect, and renown – the aura of influence and the rarified air of organizations with a track record of success at the highest levels. Prestige translates to authority, power, and importance – doing work of consequence and gleaning the prominence that comes with it. In words, prestige draws associations to words like distinction, talent, and love. In the mind, prestige conjures up images of first-class flights to Abu Dhabi and private meetings with CEOs.

In consulting, McKinsey carries the most prestige. That’s what the experts say. When Vault asked consultants to rate their rivals, McKinsey earned the highest average: 9.021. With McKinsey, think a 100-year history of working anonymously with the most influential organizations on history-making ventures. Picture a far-flung operation, deep roster of experts, supportive teammates, and a proven method to problem-solving – all driven by facts and feedback, where the expectation is uncompromising excellence.

An anonymous McKinsey survey respondent outlined what differentiates their firm in these words: “Independence, ruthless focus on impact, training and development at all levels, client relationships, privileged opportunity to work with clients on thorniest challenges.”


For the past seven years, the Boston Consulting Group has been the runner-up to McKinsey for prestige. That said, BCG continues to close the gap, perception-wise, with McKinsey according to surveyed consultants in North America. At 8.984, BCG is just 0.37 of a point behind McKinsey. Compare that to 2022, when the gap was .272 of a point (or 2020, when it was .236). Bottom line: BCG’s value proposition is growing in the minds of consultants, with its score rising by .226 of a point since 2020. Considering BCG’s always-impressive quality of work, you might just find BCG hitting the top spot in Prestige in the coming year.

“We have had several clients come to us after being dissatisfied with Bain and McKinsey,” notes one consultant. I have seen some of the work products from Bain and McKinsey and ours are far more detailed, rigorous, and tested.”

Bain & Company has gained the most ground in Prestige in recent years, despite being holed up in the #3 spot. How much progress? This year, Bain hit 8.951, an impressive jump over 2022 (8.755) and even 2018 (8.528). You could say the same about Deloitte Consulting, which has wrangled the #4 spot for as long as the MBB has clinched the Top 3. Maybe Deloitte’s biggest advantage, says one Vault survey respondent, is the people.

“This is a huge firm full of innovators who are always reimagining the business model and looking for the next thing. They are well balanced between government and commercial clients, and the transition to remote work was nearly seamless compared to the rest of the workplace (I think they did a full changeover in two weeks and then were busier than ever). They continue to work through the hybrid work/workplace of the future challenge like everyone else, but it’s working so far and I’m confident they’ll continue to listen, adapt, and focus on the right things.”


Alas, Prestige is a perception that’s difficult to dislodge. This year, 8 of the Top 10 consulting firms held onto their spots (with Oliver Wyman and Accenture flipping the 8th and 10th spots). At the same time, 9 of the 10 firms ranked 11-20 last year stayed in this same band (Northrop Grumman dropped from 18th to 21st, while AlixPartners climbed from 22nd to 18th).

In fact, you need to scroll way down Vault’s Prestige ranking to see any real movement against last year. NERA Economic Consulting jumped from 30th to 23rd, thanks to a .310 of a point improvement. Conversely, the Analysis Group dropped from 24th to 33rd (-.218), while Putnam fell from 37th to 44th (.277). How has NERA Economic Consulting been able to break through in a conservative industry? Think old-fashioned attention to detail, says one consultant surveyed by Vault.

“Our outputs are far more consistent and accurate than most competitors. Every output faces a rigorous verification process that leads to some of the best analyses in the industry.”

In recent years, EY-Parthenon has also been gaining steam. Ranked 5th for Prestige in 2024, the firm’s score has risen by 2.27 points since 2018. Alvarez & Marsal has made similar gains over the same period, which has resulted in it climbing from 35th to 17th. The same is true of AlixPartners, which went from 40th to 18th, buoyed by a 2.136 point improvement.

Next Page: Boutique Firm Ranking

Would you rather be a big fish in a small MBA pond or a small fish in a big pond?

Small, but mighty – the boutique consulting firms. What are they exactly? Well, Vault defines them as “narrower in focus and smaller in size than the larger generalist firms that can offer advice across a wide range of practice areas and industries.” More than that, Vault adds, these specialized boutiques offer a better balance than their generalist counterparts, where new hires are often “expected to rotate through a variety of practice areas in your first two years.”

In the Vault Consulting 50, boutique firms are included in the main ranking. You’ll even find ghSMART & Company among the Top 5 there. Due to their unique nature, boutiques must be evaluated amongst themselves too. That requires a different methodology – one that erases the Prestige factor that gives larger incumbents an advantage in the general ranking.

Rather than measure different dimensions, Vault’s Boutique Ranking uses the same ones and just changes weights. Here, Firm Culture carries the most weight at 25% — up from the 15% it holds in the Vault Consulting 50. Satisfaction’s weight rises from 15% to 20%, while Work-Life Balance jumps 10 points to 20%. That said, the weights of Level of Challenge and Compensation remains fixed at 10% each. The same is true of Promotion Policies’ 5% share, though Business Outlook’s weight doubles to 10%.

The result? ghSMART duplicates Bain’s feat of holding the top spot for four consecutive years!


How dominant was ghSMART? It racked up #1 rankings in seven dimensions: Compensation, Hours in the Office, Interaction with Clients, Internal Mobility, Level of Challenge, Promotion Policies, and Satisfaction. To put that number in perspective, Bain achieved three first-place scores in three Quality of Work and Life Dimensions – and BCG didn’t even make it to #1 in any category.

As the high scores attest, ghSMART consultants have fully bought into what management is selling. In the Vault survey, one anonymous consultant listed off the best parts of the firm experience: “High impact, really meaty challenges and deep human engagement–all the while being well-compensated.” Another respondent urges prospective consultants to start at another major strategy firm before joining the firm to “build basic business acumen.” And a third consultant channels E.F. Hutton when describing the firm’s value proposition.

“ghSMART pioneered leadership advisory and remains the undisputed industry leader. What ghSMART does in the market, others follow.”

In surveys with ghSMART consultants, they cite the personalized pace, less “up-or-out” and more you earn based on “how much and how well [you] deliver work.”

“You get paid for how much value you add for our clients,” adds another consultant. “Many of us now earn more than our former colleagues who are still at MBB firms.”

ghSMART consultants are equally bullish on their training. “We have the best apprenticeship model in the industry,” adds another survey-taker. “Senior partners work with first years. New consultants have senior client exposure from month one. We have a very clear and transparent promotion process based on outcomes, not networking.”


Aminad Consulting, last year’s #2 in Vault’s Boutique Consulting Ranking, held onto its spot. OC&C Strategy Consultants leaped from 22nd to 3rd. Putnam Associates and SciVida, which ranked 14th and 11th respectively in last year’s Boutique Ranking, round out the Top 5.

Overall, 7 of last year’s Top 10 firms dropped out of that spot. Notably, Kenway Consulting fell from 3rd to 12th, while Eagle Hill plummeted from 5th to 25th. What’s more, Back Bay Life Sciences Advisor, last year’s #4 firm, fell off the ranking altogether.

That said, they could be back soon. After all, the field has been red hot in recent years, says Maria Ho, Vault’s head of research. “Among boutique firms, life sciences-focused consultancies made strong upward moves in the rankings. Life sciences-focused firms that improved their rankings in the boutique category include: Putnam, SciVida, Epsilon Economics & Epsilon Life Sciences, and LifeSci Consulting. Life sciences companies have unique, complicated issues — regulatory, patent-related, scientific, marketing, M&A, issues — that often require the help of consultants.”

Next Page: Historical Comparison – Bain, McKinsey, and BCG

In the Vault 50 Consulting Ranking, McKinsey’s absence opened the door to a head-to-head comparison between Bain & Company and the Boston Consulting Group in the Quality of Work and Life measures. Sure enough, this change revealed just how dominant that Bain has grown in the MBB space.

Last year, Bain topped its rivals across 11 of the 20 Work-Life dimensions (while tying in a 12th). BCG bested its peers in 7 dimensions (not counting a tie) followed by McKinsey at 1. The year before, McKinsey led the pack with 8 highest scores, followed by BCG (6) and Bain (6). Fall back to 2019, when Vault surveyed 21 dimensions, and McKinsey produced the highest averages in 18 of them.


This year, Bain & Company has emerged as the new McKinsey, outscoring BCG in 18 of 20 dimensions. As usual, Bain dominated in Informal (9.911) and Formal (9.812) Training, where it scored its highest marks. It also produced high satisfaction when it comes to “people” measures like Relationships with Supervisors (9.788), Interactions with Clients (9.780), and Selectivity (9.795). In addition, the firm performed well in Benefits – with a 9.779 score topping all comers. In fact, Bain & Company ranked #1 in three Work-Life Dimensions overall (Benefits, Formal Training, Informal Training). The firm also posted the 2nd-highest scores across nine other dimensions: Compensation, Firm Culture, Health & Wellness, Interaction with Clients, Internal Mobility, Level of Challenge, Promotion Policies, Relationships with Supervisors, and Selectivity. On top of that, Bain scored in the Top 5 except in two dimensions: Hours In the Office (#8) and Overall Business Outlook (#13).

The Boston Consulting Group bested Ban in Innovation and International Opportunities. However, neither dimension is where the firm shined according to employee surveys. Instead, BCG excelled in Benefits (9.736) and Interaction with Clients (9.411). In contrast, the firm’s lowest scores came in Work-Life Balance (8.389), Interaction with Clients (8.373), and Hours in the Office (Lower than the 25th-highest score, which was 8.148). Overall, BCG ranked among the top three consulting firms in 5 Work-Life Dimensions and top five across 4 others.


Going back to the 2019 Vault Consulting 50 Ranking, you’ll also find some intriguing trend lines with Bain and BCG. Notably, Bain has reaped markedly high average scores in several Work-Life dimensions including Benefits (9.779 vs. 9.436), Formal Training (9.82 vs. 8.42), and Informal Training (9.911 vs. 9.025). By the same token, Bain has experienced substantive score drops in various dimensions over the past five years: Innovation (9.174 vs. 9.705), Internal Mobility (8.850 vs. 9.443), International Opportunities (9.117 vs. 9.801), and Overall Satisfaction (9.508 vs. 9.835).

BCG’s Overall Satisfaction has plummeted even further over the past five years (8.978 vs. 9.835). And the decline is equally striking across seven other dimensions: Promotion Policies (9.227 vs 9.667), Business Outlook (Not Ranked vs. 9.50), International Opportunities (9.125 vs. 9.816), Internal Mobility (8.373 vs. 9.596), Innovation (9.236 vs. 9.615), Firm Leadership (9.205 vs. 9.692), and Firm Culture (9.205 vs. 9.592). Despite these numbers, BCG ranked 3rd and 4th for Innovation and International Experience in 2024 respectively.

In terms of Diversity, Bain also averaged higher scores than BCG in every dimension. However, the tables turn when it comes to Industry scores. Last year, McKinsey consented to be evaluated in one dimension: Management Consulting – which it naturally produced the highest score. This year, McKinsey came back – and it steamrolled Bain and BCG. In a category where competing consultants listed the best firms (besides themselves). McKinsey compiled higher percentages than Bain and BCG in every industry – 17 in all.

Notably, 70,56% of survey respondents associated McKinsey among the very best in Management Consulting. McKinsey accumulated its highest percentages in Strategic Consulting (76.87%), Retail (51.11%), Pricing, Sales and Marketing (47.36%), Operations (43.65%), and Energy (41.30%). As a whole, McKinsey earned the highest percentages in 11 of 17 practice areas. Neither of their MBB counterparts achieved a #1 percentage – though BCG finished 2nd or 3rd overall across 11 Practice Areas (something Bain did 8 times). Both BCG and Bain racked up their highest percentages in Management Consulting and Strategic Consulting. Head-to-head, BCG outpaced Bain in 15 of 17 Practice Areas – almost a complete reversal of the Work-Life Dimensions.

Next Page: Quality of Employment and Life Rankings

The best of everything: High pay and flexible hours, access to decision-makers and meaningful work, a nurturing culture and a future-centered vision. That’s what consultants seek – a place where they can ply their talents to make a difference without losing touch and burning out. These aspirations are really at the heart of the Vault Consulting 50: Where is the best place for graduates to devote their time based on what they truly value?

Pay is always popular. When it comes to the biggest checks and the best benefits, Bain, BCG, and Aminad Consulting appear in the Top 5 on both lists. At their core, these firm provide packages that are both fair and transparent, reinforcing that they are partners with the firm. At BCG, for example, one surveyed consultant points out how they know how every level of the organization is compensated. Even more, there is a “predictability” in pay progression, reducing the politics that run rampant other firms’ compensation structures. For some, the benefits are equally important. Look no further than Aminad Consulting.


“The base and bonuses are very competitive, but having a high-quality health insurance be completely covered is a huge perk,” writes an Aminad respondent. “They also have a great education stipend and encourage employees to use it.”

Looking for a high-performance culture with leaders setting the tone for the industry? You’ll find Aminad, Bain, and OC&C Strategy Group ranking in the Top 5 in both categories. At OC&C, for example, Vault respondents describe their work as “intellectually challenging and rewarding,” with a “relentless focus on getting to an even better answer” to client questions that fosters a “level of intellectual curiosity [that] is unmatched, ubiquitous, and infectious.” Bottom line, says one survey taker, OC&C consultants get to do great work with great people.

“I have felt I can really open up and be myself around people in the firm. Compared to other consulting firms, all our work involves wrestling with thorny, complicated strategy problems. I am yet to have a project where I am not working on a challenging, complex workstream.”

When it comes to leadership, OC&C consultants gush about the firm’s growth. “OC&C invested in continuing to grow our consulting team throughout all the economic ups & downs the last 3.5 years, and it has paid off – our top line grew even in down cycles, and we continued to capture share of our market as a result,” writes another survey respondent.”

How do consulting firms rank in other areas across the Work and Life spectrum? From training to work hours, here are the Top 5 firms across 19 factors surveyed by Vault.

Every company claims to be diverse. They love to toss around words like open, inclusive, equity, and allyship. In the end, which firms practice the principles they preach?

That depends on the context, but certain patterns do emerge in Vault’s consultant survey. Using the same 1-10 scoring system as the Quality of Work and Life measures, respondents assessed their firms in six dimensions ranging from race to gender to disabilities. Let’s just say only one company ranked among the Top 5 in every dimension: ghSMART.


A 30-year-old boutique focused on leadership advisory services, ghSMART ranked #1 for Overall Diversity in a repeat of the 2023 Vault Consulting 50 survey. In addition, the firm collected the highest scores for diversity in the LGBTQ+, Military Veterans, Race and Ethnicity, and Women dimensions. One reason, says a ghSMART consultant surveyed by Vault in 2022, is the firm prioritizes diversity across the operation.

“Over 55% of our consultants are women, including 53% of our partners. Over 35% of our team are diverse in some way (racial, ethnic, LGBTQ+, veterans, etc.) All of our committees have strong representation from all groups to ensure our leadership teams are diverse. Along with this, our highly transparent scorecards (job expectations) and compensation system apply equally to everyone, ensuring everybody has equal access to work and gets rewarded the same way. Our surveys with external benchmark providers tell us we are in the 95th percentile with respect to our DE&I practices.”

Aminad Consulting is another firm committed to supporting diversity. It ranked 2nd for LGBTQ+, Military Veterans, and Overall Diversity. A boutique operating in the public sector transformation space, Aminad Consulting follows ghSMART’s example of placing diversity front-and-center in the organization, be it annual DEI training or monthly focus groups designed to measure the firm’s progress towards DEI goals.

“DEI is front of mind at Aminad and driven by those that work there,” explains one anonymous consultant. “Those who choose to be a part of the DEI team host company events for thoughtful and open discussion on relevant topics. I feel that all consultants have equal access at Aminad due to the great work that the DEI team do to ensure the company upholds its commitment to DEI initiatives.”

Here are the 5 highest-ranked firms in each of the Diversity dimensions:

Last year, McKinsey requested that it only be evaluated in Management Consulting – where it ranked #1. This year, that directive changed – and McKinsey grabbed the top spot in 11 practice areas. Compare that to McKinsey’s performance in 2022, where it earned the highest percentage of votes in eight practice areas. Back then, McKinsey topped the list in Economics, Energy, Healthcare, Management, Operations, Pricing, Sales & Marketing, Retail, and Technology, Media, and Communications. Now, McKinsey has returned to the #1 spot in each of these areas according to consultants surveyed by Vault. In addition, McKinsey has added Environmental Sustainability, Financial Services, and Strategy consulting to the list. In fact, McKinsey ranked no lower than 4th among Practice Areas – and that came in IT Operations and IT Strategy.

Part of this stems from scale, with the company operating across 67 countries and employing more than 35,000 people. At the same time, McKinsey possesses a certain hunger to be everything to everyone – and never stops looking for opportunities to bolster its portfolio, says one anonymous consultant surveyed by Vault.

“As a private company with a very strong balance sheet, McKinsey is extremely well positioned in good economic cycles and in bad. It is also highly diversified across geographies and sectors with a strong longstanding client base. McKinsey approaches downturns with a through cycle mentality. McKinsey does not do staff layoffs, instead they go out and try to find the best talent available and make the best acquisitions.”

Scale also gives an advantage to BCG and Bain, which employ roughly 30,000 and 18,000 people respectively. In BCG’s case, the firm ranked 2nd in 8 practice areas, followed by 3rd-5th place finishes in the remaining 9 areas. In other words, BCG is competitive with McKinsey in every single practice area. That is less true with Bain & Company, which ranked 3rd in 8 areas and 4th-5th across another 4.

Outside the MBB, Accenture ranked 1st in 3 Practice Areas: IT Operations, IT Strategy, and Data Analytics. In addition, Accenture finished among the Top 5 in 7 additional areas. In contrast, Deloitte Consulting scored the #1 spot in Human Resources consulting, while finished 2nd in 4 areas (and 3rd-5th in 9 others). The remaining firms that claimed a #1 spot include Lockheed Martin (Defense), and Booz Allen Hamilton (Public Sector).

To produce this ranking, Vault surveyed consultants to list the top three firms in their practice areas (excluding their current firm). Here are the 5 highest-ranked firms in each of the practice areas:

Technology, Media & Telecommunications Consulting

Think back to 2019. There was no COVID and impeachment dominated the airwaves. Game of Thrones came to an end and the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team won their third World Cup.

The Vault Consulting 50 was quite different too. This year’s darlings – Alvarez & Marsal and ghSMART & Company – ranked 17th and 19th respectively (thanks to their scores rising by .822 and .839 of a point respectively.) McKinsey edged out BCG, while Bain rounded out the Top 3 (It has since added .066 of a point, while BCG has lost .216). Like now, Oliver Wyman EY-Parthenon, Putnam Associates, and The Bridgespan Group ranked among the ten-test. These would’ve been the glory years for L.E.K. Consulting and The Analysis Group, which have since tumbled out of the Top 10.

That is a better fate than what awaited Deloitte Consulting, which fell out of the Top 50 either by declining to participate or simply not reaching the bar their employees set for them. Two years ago, several big names fell off the list: Booz Allen Hamilton, KPMB, Triangle Insights, and Mercer. This year’s list is missing McKinsey, Simon-Kucher, The Brattle Group, and Blue Matter Consulting.

Still, it’s not hard to see which firms make up the leading edge. Over the past five years, The Cambridge Group, Bates White Economic Consulting, and Keystone Strategy have moved up 20-29 spots. By the same token, OC&C Strategy Consultants, Charles Rivers Associates, NERA Economic Consulting, and The Chartis Group have climbed 14-18 spots since 2019.

What has been the trajectory of your favorite firms in recent years? Check out the historical table below to see which firms are on the upswing or a downturn.

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