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Charles River Associates
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Vault’s Verdict

Well-known for the strength of its economic research and litigation consulting capabilities, CRA tends to attract candidates with very specific skillsets. And, given its reliance on those skillsets, the firm does its best to hold onto them, providing an environment that manages to be collegial, employee-centric and high-performing all at the same time.

Unsurprisingly, insiders tend to be pretty happy with that, lauding the firm’s career development opportunities in particular. On the flip side—of course there’s a flip side—reviews suggest that compensation is not at the top of the market, although several insiders pointed out that they had made a conscious tradeoff on raw income to reap the benefits of a manageable work-life balance. With all of that in mind, this is a firm that is well worth investigating further—provided you have the requisite background, of course.

Firm Culture

“A rigorous, research-based, and collegial atmosphere with world-class colleagues applying leading academic theory and analysis to client solutions.”

“CRA has a tremendously open, kind, and accepting workforce. The ideal place for a fresh graduate to start their career (and stay for a long time).” 

“One of the strongest economic consulting firms globally with a good pedigree, but it operates differently than its peers in many ways so evaluate all aspects of each firm one is considering to make the most informed decision.”

“My practice: almost all senior staff in my practice started in a different practice at CRA. We've all moved into our current practice and built it to focus on what's important to us: the type of work we take, the emphasis on training and business development, and the kinds of people we hire. Within the protective embrace of CRA, we've built a wonderful practice.”

“The focus on diversity of thought and quality of life. Yes, we tackle immensely interesting and complex problems, but the fact that I get to do so without sacrificing other parts of my life that matter to me, and get to be challenged by people who think differently than I do, is what makes me stay.”

Quality of Life

“Best aspect - if you're very overwhelmed, your bosses are usually understanding and try to alleviate the workload. Worst aspect - hard to plan the day, at times you have to work very long hours.”

“CRA's benefits packages are world class and allow for employees to feel supported in every aspect of their lives. From competitive health & dental plans to 401(k) matching, to transportation subsidies, CRA takes care of its employees like a family. PTO is generous but it can be difficult to take off around times near project deadlines. Hours are dependent on client needs but the quantity of work is pretty employee-driven.”

“Everyone at CRA is passionate about the work we do and equally as passionate about helping new people in entry-level roles grow and learn. This translates into really high-value, impactful experiences on a daily basis, even for junior staff. Work hours can be a little long at times, but there are also weeks where things are slower. Great work from home flexibility.”

“Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the organization so far is that I can decide what my schedule is as long as I work the required 40 hours per week and attend any required meetings. This means that I can shift around my hours as I wish. Furthermore, [am able to work from home 1-2 days/week]. For me in particular, I choose to work in office so that I can meet my co-workers and get free lunch twice a week, but it is nice to have the option to work from home.”

“The firm is still working on understanding the best approach to a hybrid work structure and culture, but overall has adjusted well. I do not believe it is easy to find time to take PTO particularly when a team/sub-group/practice is experiencing staffing shortages. Also, I see the concern by the firm for employee wellness, but I still think more attention to that, particularly mental health wellness would go a long way.”


“Best: clarity of compensation drivers and target bonus range (to be fair, this is particularly true in my practice but I don't know if it's common across the firm). I am also a big fan of the benefits package, particularly health insurance (including pharmaceutical coverage) and transportation benefits.

Worst: executive pay has been capped at the same level for about 10 years, with the growth in compensation relegated to the bonus portion. While I don't think this has affected my total compensation, I would prefer continued salary growth to insulate my total compensation from inflation or other risks.”

“I do still feel like salary is at the low end of the consulting spectrum. That said, I do have a comfortable work/life balance and very good benefits, so I happily take the tradeoff.”

“I do wish that the Canadian side of the organization provided gym compensation benefits. I hear that my American peers have that as a benefit.”

“Salary progression isn't great. Base salary is below industry standard, but performance bonus is far above industry average. Bonus structure is quite transparent, tied directly to the number of hours worked.”

“We are underpaid compared to peer firms.”

Career Development

“Amazing career development opportunities for me within the firm.”

“Best: You get to work with people from many different offices, from different backgrounds and you learn a lot from your peers.

Worst: Cannot go up after a certain role without an advanced degree.”

“Clear promotional timelines early on that become more opaque at higher levels. Formal training is not too extensive, but you learn a lot on the job.”

“CRA has written guidelines with regard to the promotion expectations, targets, etc. It is very helpful in allowing everyone to understand their targets and work with their supervisor on moving forward with their career goals. CRA offers regular training sessions covering a wide variety of topics and allows staffers to choose topics they want to see on the schedule. We have several ERGs across offices that empower employees and have improved communication throughout the firm.” 

“So much is dependent on who your manager and direct teammates are. Some are absolutely fantastic, whereas others can be discouraging / actively detrimental to your growth. No one practice is unique in this. That said, if you are active at looking for growth opportunities, they are there - both within practices as well as in corporate groups like the various committees and employee resource groups. "

Community Engagement

“CRA has always been a diverse and inclusive environment where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas. And the company also recognizes that there is always room to improve, change and grow. That is what is so great about this firm. Just google Charles River Associates Mentor Programs and it is clear in the information how committed this company is to its employees and to keeping its commitment with future newcomers. At CRA everyone at every level feels that they are being respected and heard.”

“I appreciate that the focus of all D&I efforts has been on making sure everyone can bring themselves to the table and work together without having to sacrifice any part of themselves. The focus is on diversity of thought, lived experience, etc. and not on just hitting numbers. That said, I do feel like CRA is still suffering from a lot of the industry baggage related to D&I, especially with respect to flexibility around work hours, what ‘good work’ looks like, etc. - none of these are unique to CRA at all, but still something the firm (and industry) has to work on. For example, it is still the case that more opportunities are available to those that think/work in the ‘traditional’ consulting manner of long hours, regular working times, no pushback/negotiation with clients to accommodate the needs of some team members, etc.”

“Last year, CRA hired its first Chief DEI officer to spearhead DEI efforts and CRA's commitment to fostering a workplace with equal access to world-class work and advancement opportunities. She has brought many diversity initiatives to CRA and promoted conversations about these topics throughout the firm.”

“We are very focused on this, but require highly specialized talent so not always clear that there are candidates in all the above areas.”

Business Outlook

“Best: we're got a well-balanced mix of practices so that we're diversified against economic downturns. I'm also very happy because multiple different practices have parted ways with unpleasant colleagues, refusing to accept high billings as an excuse for poor behavior. Worst: We're more siloed across practices and geographies than I'd prefer.”

“Business does well financially, but is driven by key rainmakers and junior consultants who work long hours, while others do not pull their weight as much. This is largely because expectations around how hard you work are implied rather than openly talked about. Also varies a lot by office. You see a lot of attrition at the junior level since high performers usually seek more competitive opportunities, but retention is high at the senior level.”

“Our organization tends to thrive on the litigation cases. As long as there are court cases, I don't think we would be out of business anytime soon. Furthermore, as I am in forensics practice, we often work on cases involving ransomware and security breaches. I do not think malicious hackers will stop hacking soon. So even during a recession, I can still see that our services will be needed.”

“The outlook is fantastic. CRA does not set out to dominate every area of consulting. We have our niche in economic/litigation/life-sciences consulting and are industry-leaders in those areas. The firm seems to focus on organic growth and never sacrifices the quality of the product we provide to clients in favor of hasty, unwarranted expansion.”

“While I still feel like firm leadership is still stuck on / still buys into the old, traditional way of doing business / consulting, I appreciate their willingness to have these difficult conversations and work together to come up with a strategy that allows us to still sell work, retain top talent, and be a driver of change in the industry. The firm is still risk-adverse, but I think leadership is starting to realize there is an increase (and less visible) risk of not addressing the changing tides of corporate culture / industry.” 

Hiring Process

“After the resume selection, there is one 30-minute behavioral first-round interview then a second, ‘super day’ second-round interview. Our ideal candidate is one who has experience analyzing data and coming up with insightful takeaways, likes working in teams, and is eager to learn / receptive to feedback.”

“CRA's interview and callback process is efficient and well-run, especially for a firm that receives thousands of applications. Our ideal candidate is academically curious, has research experience along with knowledge of a statistical/data analysis software, and has demonstrated strong leadership outside of the classroom. Success in rigorous coursework along with extracurriculars/volunteer or work experience is a great indicator.”

“Fantastic interview process. CRA is seeking more than just intelligent, motivated candidates. The ideal candidate of course possesses those two qualities, but also possesses an inquisitive nature, a keen analytic sense - and of course - humility.”

“Quite competitive. Typically looking for high GPA economics majors from target schools. Academic research is preferred.” 

“The ideal candidate would be someone who likes to learn, is not afraid to ask questions, has attention to detail, and is able to find ways to solve problems smarter/faster.”

“The interview and callback process is simple: resume review, a screening interview (typically remote with two staff members), then a slate of interviews (4-6 interviews, with a presentation requirement for senior staff, in person or via webinar).”

Interview Questions

“Can you analyze a potential merger between two competing firms? What data would you want to have access to? What methods would you utilize?”

“Talk us through a quantitative project you conducted and describe the premise, data you used, analysis conducted, any issues you ran into, and conclusions if any.”

“We have a regular case study to walk through a assessment of competitive harm from pharmaceutical patent settlements, and a thought-process exercise to talk through considerations in a consumer products bankruptcy evaluation.”

Charles River Associates

John Hancock Tower
200 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116-5092
Phone: (617) 425-3000

Firm Stats

Employer Type: Public
Stock Symbol: CRAI
Stock Exchange: NASDAQ
President & CEO: Paul Maleh

Major Office Locations

Boston, MA (World HQ)
Chicago, IL
College Station, TX
Dallas, TX
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Oakland, CA
Salt Lake City, UT
San Francisco, CA
Summit, NJ
Tallahassee, FL
Washington, DC

Major Departments & Practices

  • Antitrust & Competition Economics
  • Auctions & Competitive Bidding
  • Analytics
  • CEO Advisory
  • Class Actions
  • Damages & Quantum
  • Energy
  • Employment & Compensation
  • ESG and Sustainability
  • Finance
  • Financial Economics
  • Financial Litigation & Regulation
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Forensic Services
  • Information Security & Privacy
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Arbitration
  • Investigation & Compliance
  • Labor & Employment
  • Life Sciences
  • Management Consulting
  • Marakon
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Risk, Investigations & Analytics
  • Services
  • Transfer Pricing