McKinsey Hierarchy

When envisioning a career in consulting, one name that invariably comes to mind is McKinsey. The McKinsey hierarchy is an organizational structure that largely revolves around the Partners, and the rest of the hierarchy is built around them. For prospective consultants aiming to comprehend the intricacies of a career at McKinsey and determine where they might fit in, understanding the McKinsey hierarchy and career path is a fundamental step.

McKinsey Hierarchy

What Is the McKinsey Hierarchy?

At its core, the hierarchy at McKinsey is a tiered system that outlines the various levels within the company. The McKinsey hierarchy serves as a framework for consultants to gauge their progression and responsibilities. Starting at the entry-level, consultants climb the ladder through merit and experience, guided by their leadership contribution and problem-solving.

The McKinsey hierarchy structure progresses through a range of roles, starting with Business Analyst (post-undergrad) and Associate (experienced hires or post-MBA), then Engagement Manager (experienced hires with 10+ years of experience) and finally Partner (including Associate Partner, Partner, and Senior Partner). While responsibilities for each role differ depending on geography and practice, one invariable attribute is that partners always lead sourcing of new projects, much like extremely senior sales professionals, while all other McKinsey hierarchy levels focus on executing the strategy projects.

McKinsey Hierarchy Titles and Salary

Understanding the McKinsey hierarchy and salary correlation is crucial for those considering a career at the firm. While exact figures vary, the general trend shows a rapid increase in compensation as one ascends the hierarchy. Partners, the pinnacle of the hierarchy, often enjoy substantial financial rewards due to their leadership roles and extensive sales efforts to ongoing and new clients.

Referencing our consulting salary reports or this Salary Guide by Strategy Case can provide further insights into the income potential at each level. This information aids new consultants in aligning aspirations with the financial aspects of the McKinsey journey. For US McKinsey hierarchy and salary, here is what you can expect to see.

  • Business Analyst: $112K base, $30K max bonus, $5k max signing bonus
  • Associate: $192k base, $45K max bonus, $30K max signing bonus
  • Engagement Manager: ~$225K base, ~$70K max bonus, signing bonus negotiated
  • Associate Partner: $340K+ total compensation
  • Partner: $600K total compensation
  • Senior Partner: $1.5M+

As you can see, Partner compensation varies widely and is extremely secretive at McKinsey and most other major consulting firms, but compensation structure for the rest of the McKinsey career path is very transparent.

What Do McKinsey Hierarchy Levels Mean for New Consultants?

It is crucial that applicants to McKinsey consulting roles understand where they will fit within the McKinsey hierarchy levels before they apply, learning about the consulting hierarchy through networking and online articles, like this one.

To better prepare you, the following is a brief overview of the McKinsey hierarchy titles and necessary experience.

Business Analyst:

This is the most junior role, usually executing smaller work streams or analysis, with the direct oversight of an Associate or Engagement manager. Apply for this role if you are either graduating from undergrad or a non-professional Master’s and have less than three years of professional experience post-undergrad.


This is the post-MBA role, and the most populated role of the McKinsey Hierarchy Levels, usually managing an entire work stream, often managing a Business Analyst and working closely with the Engagement Manager. Candidates for this role are usually either in their MBA, advanced/professional degrees (PhD, MD or JD) and have 5+ years of experience.

Engagement Manager:

Often called the “hardest role at McKinsey”, the Engagement Manager is responsible for a team of 2-5 Associates and Business Analysts and is often the central link between the consulting team, Partners, and clients. Applicants for this role will have 8+ years of experience, typically hold an advanced degree, and are often hired directly into a specific practice for their extensive expertise.


Entering the McKinsey Hierarchy Levels as a Partner (Associate Partner, Partner, or Senior Partner) is rare, but sometimes occurs through what is known as a “direct election”, a process to hire a new partner by holding a special election of partners within McKinsey. This application is usually with head-hunted professionals who have unique experience or a large client base that McKinsey finds valuable. These candidates usually have 12+ years of experience and a client book of over $3M in annual revenue.

Once within the firm, new consultants encounter the renowned “up or out” policy. This policy underscores the commitment to excellence and growth, usually progressing through levels every 2 years. If consultants are not promoted to the next level for performance issues, they are “counseled to leave” McKinsey, and will generally be supported with letters of recommendation and networking events as they leave the firm. These dynamics foster a competitive but collaborative environment, driving consultants to strive for success.

New consultants should also be aware that the unique organizational structure at McKinsey influences internal politics. The meritocratic nature of the hierarchy ensures that recognition and advancement are based on performance, mitigating traditional workplace politics, until the Partner levels. Upon reaching the Partner levels, consultants are required to build networks of support to continue staffing the best consultants, finding the highest revenue clients, and gaining internal recognition. In this way, the McKinsey Hierarchy Levels mostly revolve around the Partners and new consultants should aim to have strong relationships with multiple Partners.

Should The Consulting Hierarchy at McKinsey Affect Case Interview Prep?

Your case interview will typically position you as a consultant reporting to a combination of the Engagement Manager or the client. This dual perspective mirrors the roles within the consulting hierarchy at McKinsey. A successful candidate can transition between these viewpoints, showcasing their understanding of the client’s needs and their capability to lead and strategize to the Engagement Manager.

Furthermore, depending on the McKinsey career path that you apply to, you will have different expectations as a candidate. Business Analysts and Associates typically have very similar cases and PEIs, as discussed in the McKinsey Case Interview guide, but with higher expectations for Associates. On the other hand, Engagement Managers, a challenging role in the McKinsey hierarchy structure, will have a combination of cases, discussions on past projects, and PEI questions.


Understanding McKinsey hierarchy before you apply will give candidates an edge in their case interviews and on day 1 of the job, empowering prospective consultants to chart their career paths strategically. As you prepare your resume and practice your interview skills, remember that the McKinsey hierarchy is more than just a structure, it’s a system to understand roles and responsibilities.


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Filed Under: consulting recruiting, management consulting, McKinsey Consulting, new consultant