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Thinking about consulting as a career, but what do you think are the main differences between consulting in a big 4 company vs MBB (mckinsey, boston and bain) ??
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OPSthrowaway
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The main differences are fairly straightforward -

Taking a role at MBB over a big 4 consulting position:
- A much higher competition for places at graduate level, with a higher calibre of applicant (do not however assume this means that anyone these days applying and succeding into big4 consulting is low calibre)
- You will be worked harder than big4, you will likely focus on strategic pieces/recommendations to board level (although they are starting to dip into the big4 consulting and delivery space) and you may not see the fruits of your labours be enacted. I find there's pleasure in identifying a business case through to delivery, but each to their own, a lot of young people are attracted to the word "strategy" as they assume it is sexier.
- If you have CEO "potential" MBB will help develop that, their alumni are well connected
- Many see it is a springboard to future positions
- You will be better paid than big4

Now, that sounds like I'm badmouthing the big4, so what would you get from big4:
- Generally a large intake (circa 60-80 this year I believe, with around 33% oxbridge)
- Good camaraderie within the intake as you join together and go through graduate programmes together
- Good salary, lower than MBB, but higher than the majority of graduate opportunities (starting circa 5-6k higher than big 4 audit)
- Chance to work on really large and complicated programmes, solving large complex problems, through to working on short strategic pieces
- Strong exit opportunities into business (often within the industry you focus in), contracting, government work, I've seen people go everywhere frankly.

Source - 6.5 years in consulting
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(Original post by OPSthrowaway)
The main differences are fairly straightforward -

Taking a role at MBB over a big 4 consulting position:
- A much higher competition for places at graduate level, with a higher calibre of applicant (do not however assume this means that anyone these days applying and succeding into big4 consulting is low calibre)
- You will be worked harder than big4, you will likely focus on strategic pieces/recommendations to board level (although they are starting to dip into the big4 consulting and delivery space) and you may not see the fruits of your labours be enacted. I find there's pleasure in identifying a business case through to delivery, but each to their own, a lot of young people are attracted to the word "strategy" as they assume it is sexier.
- If you have CEO "potential" MBB will help develop that, their alumni are well connected
- Many see it is a springboard to future positions
- You will be better paid than big4

Now, that sounds like I'm badmouthing the big4, so what would you get from big4:
- Generally a large intake (circa 60-80 this year I believe, with around 33% oxbridge)
- Good camaraderie within the intake as you join together and go through graduate programmes together
- Good salary, lower than MBB, but higher than the majority of graduate opportunities (starting circa 5-6k higher than big 4 audit)
- Chance to work on really large and complicated programmes, solving large complex problems, through to working on short strategic pieces
- Strong exit opportunities into business (often within the industry you focus in), contracting, government work, I've seen people go everywhere frankly.

Source - 6.5 years in consulting
Thank you for all that information, that's very useful. Would I be right in assuming that I would have to do all the accounting exams at big 4 but not outside of this?
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OPSthrowaway
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(Original post by Username13)
Thank you for all that information, that's very useful. Would I be right in assuming that I would have to do all the accounting exams at big 4 but not outside of this?
I can't speak for all the Big 4, however you would not have to take the accounting exams your audit colleagues would take, you can take CIMA, however that's not the same as taking the full accouting route. Plenty of other exams you can take, but more around industry/project management related qualifications. The same for MBB, there will be a heavy training focus on training, McKinsey runs a training programme called Embark and has mini-MBAs later in the career.

Essentially, no you may not have to do formal exams, but a once-you're-in-that's-it attitude won't get you far (I'm not saying that's what you have, just pointing it out)
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iBall
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(Original post by OPSthrowaway)
The main differences are fairly straightforward -

Taking a role at MBB over a big 4 consulting position:
- A much higher competition for places at graduate level, with a higher calibre of applicant (do not however assume this means that anyone these days applying and succeding into big4 consulting is low calibre)
- You will be worked harder than big4, you will likely focus on strategic pieces/recommendations to board level (although they are starting to dip into the big4 consulting and delivery space) and you may not see the fruits of your labours be enacted. I find there's pleasure in identifying a business case through to delivery, but each to their own, a lot of young people are attracted to the word "strategy" as they assume it is sexier.
- If you have CEO "potential" MBB will help develop that, their alumni are well connected
- Many see it is a springboard to future positions
- You will be better paid than big4

Now, that sounds like I'm badmouthing the big4, so what would you get from big4:
- Generally a large intake (circa 60-80 this year I believe, with around 33% oxbridge)
- Good camaraderie within the intake as you join together and go through graduate programmes together
- Good salary, lower than MBB, but higher than the majority of graduate opportunities (starting circa 5-6k higher than big 4 audit)
- Chance to work on really large and complicated programmes, solving large complex problems, through to working on short strategic pieces
- Strong exit opportunities into business (often within the industry you focus in), contracting, government work, I've seen people go everywhere frankly.

Source - 6.5 years in consulting
So at undergrad entry is MBB basically an Oxbridge firm?


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OPSthrowaway
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(Original post by iBall)
So at undergrad entry is MBB basically an Oxbridge firm?

I'm sure people on this forum (being closer to the grad process) could tell you more closely, but when i started my career 6/7 years ago, if you weren't Oxbridge MBB wasn't an option (apart from maybe one or two absolutely outstanding people from a different UK university)
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Big 4 is also much more diverse. They are increasingly a one-stop shop for all consultancy services - while MBB is focused on strategy advice, but doesn't do much execution work. Furthermore, the big 4 have particular advantage that they are experts in tax, which really complements strategy advice. MBB have for years tried to develop tax practices, but to little avail.

The heyday of MBB was after the Enron collapse and the accountancy firms rowed back from consultancy services. That era is over now, and unless another Enron happens, the Big 4 are coming directly for MBBs market share. They will out compete MBB on price and ability to deliver full service consultancy as the Big 4 are able to execute strategies, not just dream them up.

But that is not a reason to prefer Big 4 over the MBB when you are a graduate starter. But something for the junior partners to worry about...
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(Original post by Classical Liberal)
Big 4 is also much more diverse. They are increasingly a one-stop shop for all consultancy services - while MBB is focused on strategy advice, but doesn't do much execution work. Furthermore, the big 4 have particular advantage that they are experts in tax, which really complements strategy advice. MBB have for years tried to develop tax practices, but to little avail.

The heyday of MBB was after the Enron collapse and the accountancy firms rowed back from consultancy services. That era is over now, and unless another Enron happens, the Big 4 are coming directly for MBBs market share. They will out compete MBB on price and ability to deliver full service consultancy as the Big 4 are able to execute strategies, not just dream them up.

But that is not a reason to prefer Big 4 over the MBB when you are a graduate starter. But something for the junior partners to worry about...
Not necessarily, MBB is moving more towards an Operations and IT focus lately, especially McK. The pure play strategy approach just isn't as profitable for these houses anymore and they're starting to realise this.

To your other point, MBB will still remain the top. Even with all the industry consolidations, they have the ability to skirt around and innovate better than some of their smaller counterparts. Not to mention the brand name will propel you a lot further.

Personally, I think Deloitte Monitor, Strategy& Oliver Wyman etc are the next best stops after MBB in terms of clout, opportunities and type of work.

That said, the Big4 is still a solid starting point; offering advancement, pay and exit opportunities that completely outstrip most regular grad schemes.

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OPSthrowaway
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Don't necessarily agree with the above, the true heyday of consulting is over, salaries don't fly as high and day rates are driven down constantly. In part because you'll find now a lot of the clients buying consulting services (almost all of my clients for the past 3 years!) come from a consulting background prior to moving to industry. This means they know the ins and outs of consulting, they know how to drive us down on price for delivery, and know they can push us further for results than their own staff, i.e. expecting consultants to work longer hours to deliver sooner.

MBB will always have that brand power over big4 (however don't really expect anyone on the street to have heard of MBB at all, and if you work at big4 expect everyone to assume you are an accountant) a career there can definitely propel you further (can, not will), but I think over the next 5-10-15 years the service offering will change.

Consulting delivery in the big4 is being undercut by Caps/CSC/North Highland/etc/etc/etc/the list is long, and MBB will begin to be undercut by the big4 (if not already, strategy isn't my thing, I find it boring frankly). The fact that all the big4 are buying out strategy consultancy practices indicates this, clients want strategy through execution and sustainment because that way your delivery team has more skin in the game; if the strategy you've delivered is poor then you have to fix it, not really an issue if you've delivered the strategy and then buggered off, big4 and others can provide that, MBB historically have not, but are certainly moving into that space with their look into technical delivery. I'm not sure how successful they will be in that space however.

All in all that sounds like a bad picture for MBB, it isn't really, they will still be a significant cut above the big4, it's just not perhaps as rosy for anyone in the industry as it was ten years ago
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(Original post by OPSthrowaway)
Don't necessarily agree with the above, the true heyday of consulting is over, salaries don't fly as high and day rates are driven down constantly. In part because you'll find now a lot of the clients buying consulting services (almost all of my clients for the past 3 years!) come from a consulting background prior to moving to industry. This means they know the ins and outs of consulting, they know how to drive us down on price for delivery, and know they can push us further for results than their own staff, i.e. expecting consultants to work longer hours to deliver sooner.

MBB will always have that brand power over big4 (however don't really expect anyone on the street to have heard of MBB at all, and if you work at big4 expect everyone to assume you are an accountant) a career there can definitely propel you further (can, not will), but I think over the next 5-10-15 years the service offering will change.

Consulting delivery in the big4 is being undercut by Caps/CSC/North Highland/etc/etc/etc/the list is long, and MBB will begin to be undercut by the big4 (if not already, strategy isn't my thing, I find it boring frankly). The fact that all the big4 are buying out strategy consultancy practices indicates this, clients want strategy through execution and sustainment because that way your delivery team has more skin in the game; if the strategy you've delivered is poor then you have to fix it, not really an issue if you've delivered the strategy and then buggered off, big4 and others can provide that, MBB historically have not, but are certainly moving into that space with their look into technical delivery. I'm not sure how successful they will be in that space however.

All in all that sounds like a bad picture for MBB, it isn't really, they will still be a significant cut above the big4, it's just not perhaps as rosy for anyone in the industry as it was ten years ago
so whats your advice for someone who isnt oxbridge/lse?
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OPSthrowaway
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(Original post by welcometoib)
so whats your advice for someone who isnt oxbridge/lse?
A sort of flippant response is, if you're not oxbridge / lse but are interested in consulting head for anything that's not MBB or the "second tier" strat consultancies (inverted commas because second tier isn't totally fair, they are incredibly well respected and just as tough to get into)

Big 4, Accenture, PA, CAP, lots to pick from.

Personally, once you're a year or two out of uni prestige matters less and as long as you are doing interesting / challenging work, you're (I'm) happy.
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(Original post by OPSthrowaway)
A sort of flippant response is, if you're not oxbridge / lse but are interested in consulting head for anything that's not MBB or the "second tier" strat consultancies (inverted commas because second tier isn't totally fair, they are incredibly well respected and just as tough to get into)

Big 4, Accenture, PA, CAP, lots to pick from.

Personally, once you're a year or two out of uni prestige matters less and as long as you are doing interesting / challenging work, you're (I'm) happy.
Say im at either Imperial/UCL/Warwick,do you think the only way to stand a real chance for MBB is to take a postgrad MBA (US M7/LBS/INSEAD)?

That being said, MBB do come to campus at these unis.
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(Original post by Classical Liberal)
Big 4 is also much more diverse. They are increasingly a one-stop shop for all consultancy services - while MBB is focused on strategy advice, but doesn't do much execution work. Furthermore, the big 4 have particular advantage that they are experts in tax, which really complements strategy advice. MBB have for years tried to develop tax practices, but to little avail.

The heyday of MBB was after the Enron collapse and the accountancy firms rowed back from consultancy services. That era is over now, and unless another Enron happens, the Big 4 are coming directly for MBBs market share. They will out compete MBB on price and ability to deliver full service consultancy as the Big 4 are able to execute strategies, not just dream them up.

But that is not a reason to prefer Big 4 over the MBB when you are a graduate starter. But something for the junior partners to worry about...
quite exciting to hear!
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(Original post by Anonynmous)
Say im at either Imperial/UCL/Warwick,do you think the only way to stand a real chance for MBB is to take a postgrad MBA (US M7/LBS/INSEAD)?

That being said, MBB do come to campus at these unis.
Apologies for slow reply, don't get the chance/have the inclination to check this a whole lot


It's not the only chance, no, it would however give you better chance. The thing to remember is that nothing at all gives you a good chance to get into MBB, there's just **** all places and a hell of a lot of excellent people going for them. In my opinion, nowhere gives you a "real" chance to get into MBB, they just slightly improve the very slim chance.

If you worked for a few years, got an MBA from somewhere like LBS (which is still no mean feat, it was my plan originally, but life gets in the way) you would have a "good" chance of getting into an MBB type role. Although if I did do an MBA now, no bloody way would I move back into consulting, not a bloody chance.
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(Original post by OPSthrowaway)
Apologies for slow reply, don't get the chance/have the inclination to check this a whole lot


It's not the only chance, no, it would however give you better chance. The thing to remember is that nothing at all gives you a good chance to get into MBB, there's just **** all places and a hell of a lot of excellent people going for them. In my opinion, nowhere gives you a "real" chance to get into MBB, they just slightly improve the very slim chance.

If you worked for a few years, got an MBA from somewhere like LBS (which is still no mean feat, it was my plan originally, but life gets in the way) you would have a "good" chance of getting into an MBB type role. Although if I did do an MBA now, no bloody way would I move back into consulting, not a bloody chance.
thanks
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Username13
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(Original post by OPSthrowaway)
Apologies for slow reply, don't get the chance/have the inclination to check this a whole lot


It's not the only chance, no, it would however give you better chance. The thing to remember is that nothing at all gives you a good chance to get into MBB, there's just **** all places and a hell of a lot of excellent people going for them. In my opinion, nowhere gives you a "real" chance to get into MBB, they just slightly improve the very slim chance.

If you worked for a few years, got an MBA from somewhere like LBS (which is still no mean feat, it was my plan originally, but life gets in the way) you would have a "good" chance of getting into an MBB type role. Although if I did do an MBA now, no bloody way would I move back into consulting, not a bloody chance.
(Original post by Princepieman)
Not necessarily, MBB is moving more towards an Operations and IT focus lately, especially McK. The pure play strategy approach just isn't as profitable for these houses anymore and they're starting to realise this.

To your other point, MBB will still remain the top. Even with all the industry consolidations, they have the ability to skirt around and innovate better than some of their smaller counterparts. Not to mention the brand name will propel you a lot further.

Personally, I think Deloitte Monitor, Strategy& Oliver Wyman etc are the next best stops after MBB in terms of clout, opportunities and type of work.

That said, the Big4 is still a solid starting point; offering advancement, pay and exit opportunities that completely outstrip most regular grad schemes.

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(Original post by Classical Liberal)
Big 4 is also much more diverse. They are increasingly a one-stop shop for all consultancy services - while MBB is focused on strategy advice, but doesn't do much execution work. Furthermore, the big 4 have particular advantage that they are experts in tax, which really complements strategy advice. MBB have for years tried to develop tax practices, but to little avail.

The heyday of MBB was after the Enron collapse and the accountancy firms rowed back from consultancy services. That era is over now, and unless another Enron happens, the Big 4 are coming directly for MBBs market share. They will out compete MBB on price and ability to deliver full service consultancy as the Big 4 are able to execute strategies, not just dream them up.

But that is not a reason to prefer Big 4 over the MBB when you are a graduate starter. But something for the junior partners to worry about...
Thanks so much for all the help, do you have any tips for getting a consulting internship in my second year? e.g. any books, websites to increase my knowledge. I'll be doing more research into it regardless a bit later on
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welcometoib
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(Original post by Username13)
Thanks so much for all the help, do you have any tips for getting a consulting internship in my second year? e.g. any books, websites to increase my knowledge. I'll be doing more research into it regardless a bit later on
make sure you have a 2.1 first year, be a leader in an exec, have some strong volunteering work as well through uni, if not, be on a sports team, then attend networking events and bust your ass getting strong names. If youre oxbridge/lse, not needed as much. This is more big 4/accenture level.
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(Original post by welcometoib)
make sure you have a 2.1 first year, be a leader in an exec, have some strong volunteering work as well through uni, if not, be on a sports team, then attend networking events and bust your ass getting strong names. If youre oxbridge/lse, not needed as much. This is more big 4/accenture level.
(Original post by OPSthrowaway)
Apologies for slow reply, don't get the chance/have the inclination to check this a whole lot


It's not the only chance, no, it would however give you better chance. The thing to remember is that nothing at all gives you a good chance to get into MBB, there's just **** all places and a hell of a lot of excellent people going for them. In my opinion, nowhere gives you a "real" chance to get into MBB, they just slightly improve the very slim chance.

If you worked for a few years, got an MBA from somewhere like LBS (which is still no mean feat, it was my plan originally, but life gets in the way) you would have a "good" chance of getting into an MBB type role. Although if I did do an MBA now, no bloody way would I move back into consulting, not a bloody chance.
(Original post by Princepieman)
Not necessarily, MBB is moving more towards an Operations and IT focus lately, especially McK. The pure play strategy approach just isn't as profitable for these houses anymore and they're starting to realise this.

To your other point, MBB will still remain the top. Even with all the industry consolidations, they have the ability to skirt around and innovate better than some of their smaller counterparts. Not to mention the brand name will propel you a lot further.

Personally, I think Deloitte Monitor, Strategy& Oliver Wyman etc are the next best stops after MBB in terms of clout, opportunities and type of work.

That said, the Big4 is still a solid starting point; offering advancement, pay and exit opportunities that completely outstrip most regular grad schemes.

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Don't know if you guys will know this but do you know how different the exit opportunities would be for corporate finance in an investment bank compared to big 4 for moving into corporate finance/corporate development at a 'normal' company? Obviously working in an IB is more attractive but is it significant?
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username1204872
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(Original post by OPSthrowaway)
The main differences are fairly straightforward -

Taking a role at MBB over a big 4 consulting position:
- A much higher competition for places at graduate level, with a higher calibre of applicant (do not however assume this means that anyone these days applying and succeding into big4 consulting is low calibre)
- You will be worked harder than big4, you will likely focus on strategic pieces/recommendations to board level (although they are starting to dip into the big4 consulting and delivery space) and you may not see the fruits of your labours be enacted. I find there's pleasure in identifying a business case through to delivery, but each to their own, a lot of young people are attracted to the word "strategy" as they assume it is sexier.
- If you have CEO "potential" MBB will help develop that, their alumni are well connected
- Many see it is a springboard to future positions
- You will be better paid than big4

Now, that sounds like I'm badmouthing the big4, so what would you get from big4:
- Generally a large intake (circa 60-80 this year I believe, with around 33% oxbridge)
- Good camaraderie within the intake as you join together and go through graduate programmes together
- Good salary, lower than MBB, but higher than the majority of graduate opportunities (starting circa 5-6k higher than big 4 audit)
- Chance to work on really large and complicated programmes, solving large complex problems, through to working on short strategic pieces
- Strong exit opportunities into business (often within the industry you focus in), contracting, government work, I've seen people go everywhere frankly.

Source - 6.5 years in consulting
Simply not true. Not even close. For those of you not working in the Big 4 - A cursory look on linkedin will show that the vast, vast majority of Big 4 consultants are not Oxbridge graduates. From personal experience, I don't have a single colleague who I've met in consulting at my Big 4 firm who is an Oxbridge graduate, though I'm sure there are a few (as there are in all other lines of service in the Big 4).

In a nutshell, the calibre of Big4 consultants doesn't nearly match that of those in MBB. Hundreds of consultants are hired all over the country in the Big 4 each year. Recruitment is the same as in audit, tax etc. You have a couple of interviews and an assessment centre. In MBB you have to do numerous case studies, assessment centres and interviews.

The exit opportunities for Big4 consultants is subjective. I have seen a few leave and go into similarly paid roles outside the Big4, with only limited scope for progression. Big4 auditors on the other hand go into industry with much larger paypackets and scope for progression (FD/CFO). I have seen one Big 4 consultant leave within a year of joining when he realised it wasn't what it was cut out to be, only to do a masters degree to boost his credentials for jobs later on.

In my opinion, their exit opportunities are a lot weaker than Big4 auditors (ACA qualified) and MBB consultants.

The reason auditors are paid less (I certainly wouldn't say a 5-6K difference though it's hardly 3K at my Big4 firm in London), when they join, is simply due to the business model. 90% of Big4 audit trainees leave and go into much better things when they qualify with much higher pay, better hours, and well defined routes for progression. You don't have this level of attrition in Big 4 consulting, simply because the exit opportunities aren't as good.
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(Original post by Roronoa)
Simply not true. Not even close. For those of you not working in the Big 4 - A cursory look on linkedin will show that the vast, vast majority of Big 4 consultants are not Oxbridge graduates. From personal experience, I don't have a single colleague who I've met in consulting at my Big 4 firm who is an Oxbridge graduate, though I'm sure there are a few (as there are in all other lines of service in the Big 4).

In a nutshell, the calibre of Big4 consultants doesn't nearly match that of those in MBB. Hundreds of consultants are hired all over the country in the Big 4 each year. Recruitment is the same as in audit, tax etc. You have a couple of interviews and an assessment centre. In MBB you have to do numerous case studies, assessment centres and interviews.

The exit opportunities for Big4 consultants is subjective. I have seen a few leave and go into similarly paid roles outside the Big4, with only limited scope for progression. Big4 auditors on the other hand go into industry with much larger paypackets and scope for progression (FD/CFO). I have seen one Big 4 consultant leave within a year of joining when he realised it wasn't what it was cut out to be, only to do a masters degree to boost his credentials for jobs later on.

In my opinion, their exit opportunities are a lot weaker than Big4 auditors (ACA qualified) and MBB consultants.

The reason auditors are paid less (I certainly wouldn't say a 5-6K difference though it's hardly 3K at my Big4 firm in London), when they join, is simply due to the business model. 90% of Big4 audit trainees leave and go into much better things when they qualify with much higher pay, better hours, and well defined routes for progression. You don't have this level of attrition in Big 4 consulting, simply because the exit opportunities aren't as good.
you make big 4 consulting sound quite bad, where do people go then after leaving?
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