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by Stephan Maldonado | January 13, 2021


Today, we're thrilled to announce the release of our annual rankings of the Best Consulting Firms to Work For in North America for 2021! Vault's Consulting Rankings highlight the best firms in 42 categories and include the overall Top 50, the Most Prestigious Consulting Firms, the Best Boutique Consulting Firms, the Best Consulting Firms in Each Practice Area, and the Best Consulting Firms to Work For in key employment factors including compensation, work/life balance, corporate culture, and more.

Over the course of this past year, beginning at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and extending into the fall, Vault worked closely with more than 130 of the world’s top consulting firms to coordinate the distribution of our annual survey to employees around the world. Despite the unprecedented global upheaval, more than 16,000 consulting professionals participated in our survey across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Asia-Pacific (APAC), and Latin America. Their responses form the basis of our rankings.

These consultants’ invaluable insights give job seekers an insider’s perspective when researching their next career move. Every year, we ask employees to rate their own firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on firm culture, compensation, work/life balance, overall business outlook, satisfaction, and other employment factors. We also asked consultants to rate the prestige of peer firms and to select the strongest firms in more than a dozen specific practice areas; for the prestige and practice area rankings, consultants were unable to rate or vote for their own firms. The Vault Consulting 50 ranking is based on a weighted formula that combines each firm’s prestige rating with its scores in several key employment factors to come up with an overall list of the Best Consulting Firms to Work For.  

The Top 10 Consulting Firms in North America for 2021 are:

  1. Bain & Company
  2. Boston Consulting Group
  3. McKinsey & Company
  4. Booz Allen Hamilton
  5. EY-Parthenon
  6. Oliver Wyman
  7. ClearView Healthcare Partners
  8. Deloitte Consulting LLP
  9. PwC Advisory/Strategy&
  10. Putnam Associates

Bain & Company reclaims the No. 1 spot for the first time since 2017. The “hip alternative to McKinsey,” as one consultant at another firm said, also ranks within the first three positions for 14 of the 22 employment factors Vault ranks, including Relationships with Supervisors (No. 1) and Firm Leadership (No. 2). Of their firm, one insider told us, “Our leadership team has blown me away over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic…Ultimately, our swift and client-focused action allowed Bain to get the most out of an unprecedented period. Our business is now looking stronger than ever with a highly positive outlook...”

Boston Consulting Group holds steady at No. 2 and is the No. 1 firm for both Compensation and Benefits, with “pay that is among the highest in the consulting field and health insurance that is unmatched.” BCG—which is among “the highest echelon of consulting firms,” according to one consultant at another firm—also ranks No. 2 for Overall Business Outlook, demonstrating an admirable job of instilling confidence in its employees throughout the pandemic. “We have grown greatly despite the challenging business environment this year,” said one employee. “We are deeply invested in our clients and our team, and this genuine value-driven approach seems to be elevating us above those who would be our competitors.”

McKinsey & Company rounds out the Top 3 this year. It also ranks within the first three positions for several employment factors that are key to professional development, including International Opportunities (No. 1), Exit Opportunities (No. 1), and Informal Training (No. 3). As one employee said, McKinsey offers the “best promotion trajectory of any consulting firm…Training, particularly through informal mentorship and coaching, is unparalleled. Colleagues from all levels are truly invested in your development…deeply supportive and collaborative. This aspect of the culture is immensely valuable…The skills I've learned from others [at McKinsey] have made me a much better consultant and professional.”

Beyond the Top 10, this year’s Top 50 sees some impressive gains among other firms. Alvarez & Marsal jumps 11 spots to No. 11. Blue Matter also jumps 11 spots, moving into position No. 19. Kaiser Associates leaps to No. 21—an astounding 25-spot leap from last year’s 46th position. Pace Harmon moves to No. 36 from last year’s No. 50.

Vault Ranks the Best Boutique Consulting Firms 

Each year, Vault ranks the best consulting boutiques to showcase firms that do innovative work in their respective fields and provide enriching professional experiences for their employees—even if they’re not household names.

While there is no strict definition of what constitutes a boutique, the term generally refers to firms that are narrower in focus and smaller in size than the larger, generalist firms that consult on a wide range of topics across practice areas and industries. While the Top 50 ranking represents the highest scores of all firms that participate in our annual survey, only those that have fewer than 750 employees are eligible to be considered for the boutique ranking.

The Top 10 Boutique Consulting Firms for 2021 are:

  1. ghSMART
  2. ClearView Healthcare Partners
  3. Putnam Associates
  4. The Keystone Group
  5. Blue Matter Consulting
  6. Kx Advisors
  7. Potomac Point Group
  8. Eagle Hill Consulting
  9. The Bridgespan Group
  10. Health Advances, LLC

There are many reasons to consider joining a boutique, including work/life balance, firm culture, local staffing, and the ability to specialize. It’s interesting to note then that this year’s No. 1 boutique, ghSMART, also ranks No. 1 for Satisfaction. The firm’s quality of life is described as “absolutely outstanding.” As one employee said, “I partner with the best people in the world to drive significant impact for our clients in a challenging, fun, and diverse culture.” Another notes that “freedom and flexibility…is second to none. There is never any pressure to do anything you don't want to do, and there are always opportunities to grow and develop yourself however you see fit!”

ClearView Healthcare Partners is this year’s No. 2 consulting boutique. This small life sciences consultancy is known by others in the industry as “a leader in healthcare” and “a top biopharma strategy firm.” It is this year’s No. 1 firm for Overall Business Outlook—undoubtedly due, in part, to increased demand for its expertise amidst the ongoing pandemic. Said one employee, “We continue to maintain a thriving book of business in the COVID-19 era and have adapted to our clients' needs remarkably well.” The firm is also No. 5 in our brand-new Health & Wellness ranking. “We make significant efforts to support the health and wellness of our team members. In addition to team building and community initiatives, we have devoted a notable amount of time and effort to help employees feel supported, particularly given the isolation created by COVID,” one employee told us.

Vault Ranks the Most Prestigious Consulting Firms

There aren’t often surprises in the ranking of the most prestigious consulting firms, and understandably so. Consultants who participate in our survey are not allowed to rate the prestige of their own firms; they can only rate their peers. The firms that rank are often the standard-bearers of the consulting industry—those global juggernauts whose influence and renown all but ensure near-universal name recognition.

The 10 Most Prestigious Consulting Firms for 2021 are:

  1. McKinsey & Company
  2. Boston Consulting Group
  3. Bain & Company
  4. Deloitte Consulting LLP
  5. PwC Advisory/Strategy&
  6. EY (Ernst & Young) LLP Consulting Practice
  7. Accenture
  8. Booz Allen Hamilton
  9. Oliver Wyman
  10. EY-Parthenon

Below are the rest of our Consulting Rankings, along with the firm that ranks No. 1 in each ranking (categories marked with an asterisk are new to this year’s rankings).

Vault Ranks the Best Consulting Firms in Each Practice Area

  • Data Analytics Consulting*: Accenture
  • Defense Consulting: Lockheed Martin Corporation (IT Consulting)
  • Economic Consulting: McKinsey & Company
  • Energy Consulting: McKinsey & Company
  • Environmental Sustainability Consulting*: McKinsey & Company
  • Financial Consulting: Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Health Care Consulting: McKinsey & Company
  • Human Resources Consulting: Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • IT Operations Consulting: Accenture
  • IT Strategy Consulting: Accenture
  • Management Consulting: McKinsey & Company
  • Operations Consulting: McKinsey & Company
  • Pricing, Sales & Marketing Consulting: McKinsey & Company
  • Public Sector Consulting: Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Retail Consulting: McKinsey & Company
  • Strategy Consulting: McKinsey & Company
  • Technology, Media & Telecommunications Consulting: McKinsey & Company

Vault Ranks the Best Consulting Firms to Work For by Employment Factor

  • Benefits: Boston Consulting Group
  • Compensation: Boston Consulting Group
  • Diversity: Putnam Associates
  • Exit Opportunities: McKinsey & Company
  • Firm Culture: The Keystone Group
  • Firm Leadership: ClearView Healthcare Partners
  • Formal Training: Health Advances, LLC
  • Health & Wellness*: Putnam Associates
  • Hours in the Office: Eagle Hill Consulting
  • Informal Training: Bain & Company
  • Innovation: ClearView Healthcare Partners
  • Interaction with Clients: ghSMART
  • Internal Mobility: ClearView Healthcare Partners
  • International Opportunities: McKinsey & Company
  • Level of Challenge: ghSMART
  • Overall Business Outlook: ClearView Healthcare Partners
  • Promotion Policies: ClearView Healthcare Partners
  • Relationships with Supervisors: Bain & Company
  • Satisfaction: ghSMART
  • Selectivity: Bain & Company
  • Travel Requirements: ClearView Healthcare Partners
  • Work/Life Balance: Eagle Hill Consulting

View the complete Vault Consulting Rankings for North America. The rankings for the Best Consulting Firms in EMEA and APAC will be released next week.

We also recently published the Vault Guide to Case Interviews, Ninth Edition, which provides an inside perspective on what recruiters and interviewers expect from candidates as well as key business frameworks and more than 50 sample cases, guesstimates, and brainteasers likely to come up in an interview.

About Vault Career Intelligence

Vault, an Infobase Company, is the most comprehensive resource for employer, university, and firm program rankings, ratings, and insights. Vault’s influential rankings and reviews are sourced from directed surveys of professionals and students, and evaluate companies, schools, and internships in terms of prestige, best place to work, diversity, quality of life, compensation, and other categories. Vault offers strategic content and digital tools to help career searchers research employers, industries, interviews, and available jobs and firms. In addition, Vault partners with employers to help build their brands and assist with recruiting efforts, as well as with universities to help their students with employment placement and career selection.