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by Vault Consulting Editors | September 09, 2008

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This week, Consulting magazine released its ranking of the Best Firms to Work For for 2008. The list is compiled by surveying consultants on different aspects of their firm, namely career development, compensation and benefits, culture, work/life balance, the job itself and leadership. This year's survey represents over 13,000 consultants from 205 firms. The publication notes that 2008 was the first time firms with fewer than 200 billable consultants were eligible for the ranking, and it was surprised to find that the small firms were bringing in higher total scores than their larger counterparts.

Making up Consulting's top-10 list are (in descending order): Bain & Company (topping the list for the sixth straight year), The Boston Consulting Group, North Highland, Point B, Booz & Company, Alvarez & Marsal, Milliman, A.T. Kearney, Monitor Group and Kurt Salmon Associates. The magazine calls attention to the fact that McKinsey does not appear on its list - its rankings are based on surveys filled out by a firm's consultants, and McKinsey opted out from survey participation.

BusinessWeek has also released its Best Places to Launch a Career list, based on its survey of career-services directors at U.S. colleges; a Universum survey of 40,000 U.S. college students; and a BusinessWeek poll of employers. A focal point of BusinessWeek's list is how companies are aiming to attract and retain young talent, when faced with a sluggish economy and tighter budgets; BusinessWeek notes that 2007 was the worst year for the entry-level job market since 2003. For example, at Ernst & Young, which tops the list, employees are offered extensive training and mentoring, performance bonuses and interaction with top execs - in an effort to compensate for the fact that salaries haven't risen much over the past few years. Other firms (like BearingPoint) have started full-time work-from-home programs, while The Boston Consulting Group has implemented work/life balance initiatives to formally monitor consultants' working hours. Other companies are offering employees more opportunities to work with nonprofits and rapid promotion tracks. (Read here about employee engagement specialist TalentDrain, which questioned graduates to find out more about what'll make them stick around. "Graduates want challenge and advancement and they'll vote with their feet if their organisation can't deliver," said Ron Eldridge, director of TalentDrain.)

Consulting firms that made the BusinessWeek list include BCG (#17) and Accenture (coming in at a disappointing #47 this year, after landing at #8 in 2007). The publication also gives nods to the accounting wings of Ernst & Young (#1), Deloitte (#2, which surprises some after the announcement several weeks ago about the firm laying off 900 employees in the U.S.), PricewaterhouseCoopers (#3) and KPMG (#5); and to the technology segments of IBM (#9), Cisco Systems (#31) and Siemens (#40).

And, those looking to break into consulting will be pleased to hear that the industry was named the third-highest paying industry, based on 2008 entry-level average pay, coming in on the heels of investment banking and technology.

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Filed Under: Consulting

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