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Management Consulting or Investment Banking

I am a college student trying to decide between management consulting or investment banking. How should I decide and where should I start?

Thank you comment icon I don't have an answer to your question, but do want to chime in and say that no decision is final. If you make a choice and it turns out it isn't the right fit, you can adjust! For me, decisions about career direction can feel overwhelming because they can feel final, so it might be helpful to remember that choosing one of these options does not mean you can never do the other. Choose what makes you curious and what you think will allow you to learn the most about yourself so that you can use that information to guide your next move. Kristin Battaglini
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4 answers

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Zach’s Answer

Hi Rob,

Great question, certainly can't go wrong with either decision. A couple things to consider to help make your decision:
1. Look at current opportunities offered to see if the job description is interesting to you
2. Reach out to people currently in the job and ask what their daily life is and why they chose it. Coffee chats will also help land you an interview for consulting and IB
3. Consider location; IB is typically but not exclusively located in NYC and Charlotte while consulting is all over the country
4. Consider whether you enjoy travel, depending on the firm and position consulting can have significant travel while IB typically does not
5. Remote or in office; higher likelihood to be remote in consulting compared to IB
6. Hours; Typically IB will have longer hours than consulting
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Daniel’s Answer

Both of these industries come with pros and cons like any other job. Working in Banking for over 10 years I will shed some light from my experiences and different collogues in the field.

Two of my very close friends were in the field of management consulting. One for 20 + years and another for less than 2 years. Each had the passion to help businesses drive growth and reach their specific company goals. Each have exited the field thus far. The first individual (20 + years) became burnt out and did not have a path forward to expand unless he wanted to start his own consulting company. The second individual (less than 2 years) loved his job but was let go due to businesses cutting expenses when the economy became challenged. This field is rewarding if you are a driven person who loves to work individually and does not mind the research and amount of travel that comes with this profession.

A long time family friend has been in investment banking for 30 + years. It was a very difficult and slow start but he stuck with it and worked his way up. Speaking with him he loves the fast pace and research that comes with this field. According to him to be successful in this field you have to have a passion for reading, making decisions with little input from colleagues and stay up on everything finance/tech related. This is a very competitive and at times cut-throat field. He also committed starting off you have to be willing to work long hours and be able change course on the drop of a hat. This field is rewarding if you enjoy the grind of research, reading and constantly staying up to date on the latest news of the world.

My suggestion on how to start is in Next Steps. I have read both of these books and highly recommend.

Daniel recommends the following next steps:

For Management Consulting read the book - The 4 Disciplines of Execution
For Investment Banking read the book - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
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Holly’s Answer

Hey Rob,

Lots of things to consider here, the good thing about Management Consulting is that the domain experience you gain in Investment Banking is transferable, and probably visa versa, if you chose to go in to a finance specialism within Management Consulting. So if you make a choice then down the road want to look at the other, I doubt you will be unable to make the switch. I don't have much experience of Investment Banking, but I did work as a recruiter at IBM for a few years hiring Management Consultants across a number of industries and domains.

Consulting will provide different client projects that you will play a part in, either completing a small part of it or being a part of the whole project. You could for instance be doing something one week, and when that is over moving on to a new project. So if you like change, different projects, and can be flexible in what you are doing then you may enjoy being a Management Consultant. Some roles in consulting will require you to travel frequently to work on customer/client site, so if you are looking to be in one location only, depending on the consultancy, this may impact your decision making.

The other thing to consider about Management Consulting is there is a huge variety of careers within that, whether its as an industry expert (finance), a business analyst, project manager etc etc.

As a start I would look at the large consulting firms like KPMG, IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, they will all have careers pages with different graduate programs and points of entry, take a look at what they offer and see if anything really sticks out to you. On a similar bit of research look at some of the large investment banks that offer graduate roles, companies like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credite Suisse to make some comparisons.

Both careers have very specific career ladders and promotion cycles, often more junior roles doing the more repetitive tasks, but as your move through the ranks gaining more autonomy and accountability.

Hope that helps.
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Rebecca’s Answer

Thank you for your question. I am glad that you are interested to be working as Management Consultant or in IB.
Below are a few suggestions:
1. Explore any intern opportunities working in these careers. This can help you to understand the daily life of these careers.
2. Speak to someone who works in these industries.
3. Seek advice from career counselor in the college or your mentor (if any)
In fact, once you choose one of these careers, it does not imply that you cannot change again in the future. The most important is you can find an offering after you graduate. You can start with either one first and decide whether the career suits you.
Hope this helps! Good Luck!