Case Manager Careers

The Basics

Sometimes life becomes too difficult to handle its challenges on your own. This might be due to a medical illness, a mental health condition, old age, or a run in with the law. But in these situations, it can be hard to know what to do or where to turn for help. There might be difficulties finding a place to live or work. Relationships with your family and friends might be strained. You might need medical care or mental health services as well.

Whatever the case, relying on others – your friends, your family, or professionals – can become necessary to get your life back on track. This is where a case manager can make a significant, positive difference in your life.

What is a Case Manager?

A case manager is a human services worker that works as part of a larger team to coordinate care and services for individuals and families. Case managers serve a variety of functions, from counseling and advocacy to psychological assessment and evaluation. They work collaboratively with their clients, their client’s loved ones, community members, and other professionals to address the client’s life needs. In this regard, the term ‘case manager’ is somewhat misleading because case managers don’t manage their clients. Instead, case managers help their clients manage difficult life situations.

Case managers perform their work with the idea in mind that optimizing a person’s ability to function benefits not just them, but their family, friends, and community as well. Case managers might specialize in working with a specific population, such as adolescents with developmental disabilities or adults with a substance abuse problem, or they might work in a setting in which their client load varies widely.

What Does a Case Manager Do?

The type of duties associated with the job depends largely on the place and type of employment. For example, the day-to-day duties of a nurse case manager are quite different from those involved in being a correctional case manager.

That notwithstanding, there are many job duties that are hallmarks of case management. Case managers work with individual clients as well as a variety of other professionals and organizations to ensure the client has the resources they need to meet their goals. The client’s goals depend on the situation. For example, the client of a correctional case manager might have the goal to acquire a job-related skill during his or her incarceration. A juvenile case manager’s client might aspire to get A’s and B’s on his or her report card in the next term. Goals run the gamut from short to long term, and from major to minor, but regardless of the situation, case managers provide support along the way.

Advocacy is a critical part of the job as well because clients that need case management services are often not in a position to advocate on their own behalf. Case managers also do a lot of assessment and planning, as these activities form the foundation of each client’s treatment plan. In short, case managers function to help people have a better quality of life.

There are a wide variety of settings in which case managers work:

Nurse Case Manager

Nurse case managers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating long-term care for their patients, usually in a hospital or institutional setting. Their primary function is to provide services to keep their patients in the best physical condition. In this regard, they work proactively, rather than reactively. Nurse case managers will often specialize in working with a specific population, such as the elderly, individuals with diabetes, or patients with a serious medical condition, such as cancer.

Case managers in this field, as in other fields, also coordinate programs and services between various agencies and individuals. For example, nurse case managers are responsible for coordinating doctor’s appointments for their patients, working with insurance agencies to ensure swift payment, and arranging schedules to accommodate surgeries.

Medical Case Manager

Individuals employed as a medical case manager perform many of the same duties as a nurse case manager. Like nurse case managers, medical case managers often work with patients that have a long-term medical issue, such as HIV/AIDS, heart disease, or diabetes. Medical case managers will coordinate services for the patient, such as appointments with physical or occupational therapists, and continuously evaluate the patient’s progress to ensure their treatment plan is being followed.

Whereas a nurse case manager will offer medical treatments and diagnoses, medical case managers do no such thing. While they work in a medical setting, medical case managers do not have any training in treatment or diagnosis of medical conditions. As a result, many of their duties are administrative in nature. They often advocate on behalf of the patient to ensure they get the care they need. Medical case managers often serve as a liaison between health organizations and the patient’s family and friends as well.

Social Work Case Manager

The primary duty of a social work case manager is to assess the strengths of their client, both individually and in the context of the care system in which the client resides. Care systems can be anything from a veteran’s hospital to an outpatient mental health clinic to a hospice care center. Case managers in this field also investigate the barriers that prevent their client from achieving his or her optimal level of functioning. Common barriers to optimal functioning include physical conditions, such as amputations or medical conditions like muscular dystrophy, mental health conditions, such as the presence of a personality disorder or dementia, or economic issues, such as a lack of education or underemployment. In short, social work case managers work with an incredible variety of clients in a vast number of settings.

Most social work case managers operate from the biopsychosocial model, which seeks to identify the interplay between biological, psychological, and social factors, how they contribute to the client’s problems, and how to best address those factors. As a result, social work case managers attend not to just one specific set of issues, but endeavor to treat the whole person.

For example, for a client that is underemployed, a social work case manager would collaborate with that client to identify his or her strengths and areas of interest. Once a direction for employment is established, the social work case manager would contact local agencies like the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation or the Department of Workforce Services to determine what services and programs, such as resume writing workshops, in which the client might be eligible to participate.

The social work case manager would also provide direct services to the client. This could include practical skills such as practicing for an interview or addressing a social issue, such as anxiety the client might have regarding meeting new people. Because they operate from a holistic standpoint, social work case managers would also endeavor to address any biological issues that contribute to underemployment, such as poor hand-eye coordination.

Mental Health Case Manager

Case managers that work in the mental health field provide hands-on services to benefit the overall functioning of their clients. A primary duty of mental health case managers is to coordinate mental health services that address their client’s specific needs. This includes working with clients to determine goals, both for the short-term and the long-term, and identifying the client’s strengths and weaknesses such that an appropriate treatment plan can be devised.

For example, a case manager working with an individual that has a severe mental illness, like schizophrenia, would work with various agencies, such as the Department of Family Services and the Department of Workforce Services, to coordinate services between those agencies that help the client get re-established in the community. The case manager would work with the client in a collaborative nature, identifying resources that he or she can utilize, such as local support groups that make their mental stability a more likely success. Sometimes, case managers in the mental health field will even assist their clients with daily activities, such as grocery shopping, finding a job, or procuring a permanent place to live.

Clinical Case Manager

Clinical case management involves many duties related to assessment, planning, resource coordination, and advocacy on behalf of individuals that are experiencing major life problems. Unlike some other specialties within case management, clinical case managers help people overcome a vast array of life issues, such as poverty, mental health problems, or a developmental disability.

As in other case management situations, workers in this field use the case management relationship to work collaboratively with their client to build and sustain a support structure within which the client can be successful. There is a particular focus on identifying and propagating client strengths and resources as well. Clinical case management also places a special emphasis on being flexible in the type and duration of interventions used to assist the client.

Case managers in this context take a holistic approach to understanding their clients’ issues. For example, whereas traditional case management might seek to help a client resolve a problem, such as homelessness, clinical case managers take the view that the problem is likely due to a variety of factors. As a result, clinical case managers seek to address the presenting problem, in this case homelessness, as well as any underlying problems, which could range from a mental illness to drug addiction to unemployment.

Another example would be working with a client that has difficulty getting around his or her house. A clinical case manager would examine a variety of factors, such as the client’s age, level of health, and the presence of any physical or developmental disabilities that contribute to their mobility issues. Using that information, a clinical case manager would then coordinate services to make the home environment more accessible, such as installation of a ramp to get into the house, handles to get in and out of the bathtub, or even procuring a walker or wheelchair for the client.

Substance Abuse Case Manager

Case managers that work exclusively with clients that have a substance abuse issue primarily work to help their clients access much-needed resources such that they are able to stay clean. Typical duties of substance abuse case management are common across all case management fields. Much time is spent assessing clients and identifying appropriate interventions that will aid in their recovery. Substance abuse case managers also engage in advocacy on behalf of their clients, whether that is to access a needed service, to help their client find employment, or anything in between.

A crucial function of substance abuse case managers is to monitor the progress of their clients. This could involve periodically checking in with the client’s therapist to determine if the client is cooperating with treatment. It could also mean touching base with the client’s landlord or employer to ensure they are staying current on rent and performing well on the job. Naturally, monitoring the client’s drug or alcohol usage is important as well.

Legal Case Manager

Case managers that work in the legal field almost exclusively operate in an administrative capacity. Their primary duties are to ensure the law office – be that a private firm or government agency, such as the prosecuting attorney’s office – runs smoothly and efficiently. In this regard, legal case management is somewhat different from other types of case management because there is little interaction with the client. Apart from answering minor questions regarding the case, there may be no interaction between a legal case manager and a client. Instead, legal case managers see to it that other parties are handling the client’s case effectively.

Typical duties for legal case managers include overseeing case loads and identifying which cases should be assigned to which attorney. Once a case is assigned, legal case managers organize case files, complete required documentation, and schedule attorney-client meetings. They are often responsible for coordinating with the court to schedule hearings and billing customers as well.

Rehabilitation Case Manager

Closely related to medical case management, rehabilitation case management involves overseeing the rehabilitation and recovery process for an individual that has recently received medical health care. Duties for rehabilitation case managers are almost exclusively in the administrative realm and generally take place in a medical setting, such as a hospital or outpatient clinic, although some rehabilitation case managers will visit clients in their home to check up on their progress.

Rehabilitation case managers organize and plan treatments and interventions that facilitate a client’s recovery. They collaborate with other professionals, including doctors and nurses, physical therapists, and home health workers, to develop a continuum of services that runs uninterrupted until the client has made a full recovery.

For example, a rehabilitation case manager with a client that has just had reconstructive hip surgery would coordinate with a physical therapist to plan appointments on behalf of the client. The case manager would contact an occupational therapist as well, and arrange for their services to begin as soon as the client has regained some physical strength. Rehabilitation case managers often consult with family members as well, informing them of what their loved one needs in terms of care and educating them about the process of rehab and recovery so they can better support their loved one’s recovery.

Child Case Manager

Child case managers work exclusively with clients that are under the age of 18. Like many other specialties in this field, child case managers work in a variety of settings with many different types of clients. Social service agencies, like the Department of Family Services, and hospitals are two primary places of employment for case managers that work with children. In these contexts, much of a case manager’s work is focused on short- and long-term treatments for children with physical, mental, or behavioral issues. These issues can run the gamut from a severe physical illness like cancer, to a behavioral issue like an inability to control anger, to a mental health issue such as depression after the loss of a loved one.

Regardless of the presenting issue, case managers that work with child clients will spend a good amount of time evaluating the client. This might entail formal evaluations, such as administering a personality assessment, or it might take the form of observing the child interact with his or her peers or family members. Information derived from these evaluations is then used to determine a course of treatment. The treatments that are implemented will depend on the child’s unique needs and specific situation.

For example, a child case manager that works in a juvenile mental health facility might work with a child to help him or her overcome an anger management issue. As mentioned above, the case manager would evaluate the client, which, in this case, might involve observing his or her interactions with other children in the facility. The case manager would make note of the client’s strengths and weaknesses in the social realm, paying particular attention to the triggers that set off the child’s angry outbursts.

From there, the case manager would develop a treatment plan for addressing the child’s anger issue. This might include consulting with a psychiatrist to recommend potential medications to help bring about behavioral change. Arranging therapeutic services with a counselor or therapist would also be undertaken. Case managers might also work with the child’s family to educate them about ways they can help their loved one appropriately express and manage their emotions. Essentially, case managers in this role lay the groundwork for short-term success, while also responding to crises in the short-term.

Juvenile Case Manager

Juvenile case managers are responsible for supervision of children under the age of 18 that have been convicted of a crime. The services that juvenile case managers often provide deal with navigating the juvenile justice system. This typically involves meeting with juvenile clients to discuss the crime for which they have been charged and evaluating clients in terms of their social, emotional, and psychological health.

Another aspect of helping juveniles work their way through the justice system is to connect clients with community resources that will help them re-establish responsible behaviors. This might include connecting young people with job opportunities, mentors, or volunteer activities. Likewise, many juvenile case managers conduct group classes on a variety of socio-emotional topics, such as decision-making and expressing one’s emotions and feelings in an appropriate manner.

Juvenile case managers often work for state or local governments, and do so in close coordination with local mental health agencies, the courts, law enforcement, and juvenile probation and parole. This means that case managers in this field spend a lot of time coordinating meetings, completing paperwork, and organizing appointments for their clients. These duties are done prior to their client’s sentencing, during incarceration, and again upon the client’s discharge from detention.

Geriatric Case Manager

Case managers in this specialty area work exclusively with elderly clients and their families. As with other case management positions, individuals employed in this field of work focus on managing the care of older adults to ensure the best possible quality of life. The largest part of this job entails acting as a liaison between the elderly client and medical, mental health, and residential care facility personnel. In this regard, geriatric case management is heavily involved in administrative and advocacy duties.

Geriatric case managers evaluate their clients to determine what, if any, services they require to achieve an optimal level of functioning. This might include mental, behavioral, or physical evaluations. Once the client’s level of functioning is determined, geriatric case managers will work with all the vested stakeholders – including family members, medical staff, home health providers, and the like – to develop a care management plan that specifically addresses the client’s needs.

For example, an elderly client living in an assisted living center that has fallen and injured her hip would require rehabilitative services. The geriatric case manager would work with other professionals, such as an occupational therapist and a physical therapist, to determine a treatment plan to address the injury. The case manager would also collaborate with the staff at the assisted living center to ensure the client has transportation to and from appointments. If necessary, the case manager would also consult with medical staff to arrange appointments and schedule any surgeries. Likewise, the case manager would be responsible for checking in on the client and monitoring her progress toward a return to health.

Forensic Case Manager

Forensic case managers typically work in correctional settings alongside mental health service providers and social services workers to oversee the development and implementation of discharge procedures. Forensic case managers work to determine inmates’ risk factors and identify ways that inmates can overcome those risk factors to reduce the likelihood of recidivism. This might include identifying local resources, such as halfway houses or substance abuse support groups that will facilitate a smooth transition from incarceration back to community living.

Forensic case managers also often work with local judicial and law enforcement entities to reduce the incidence of incarceration of mentally ill individuals. For mentally ill persons that are detained, forensic social workers are tasked with ensuring the inmate receives the mental health care he or she needs to reduce the possibility of re-offending once they are released.

For example, a forensic case manager working with an inmate that has a personality disorder would work with the client to determine his or her strengths and weaknesses, identify sources of support in his or her life, and arrange appropriate care, such as therapy. A discharge plan would be developed that outlines the client’s goals and duties upon their release, such as a timeframe for procuring employment and housing. The forensic case manager would also link clients with local service providers, such as a therapist that specializes in treating personality disorders, so the client has the mental health services they need to be successful.

Correctional Case Manager

A correctional case manager works directly with individuals that will be, are currently, or have been incarcerated. Their primary duty is to help guide offenders through the processes of incarceration and rehabilitation for entrance back into the community. Much of a correctional case manager’s job revolves around connecting rehabilitated inmates with social services programs that will help ease the transition from prison back into the community.

This might involve working with an inmate to identify pathways for future success. Case managers might identify educational or workforce related opportunities and help their clients take advantage of those resources. Similarly, correctional case managers will coordinate with other professionals, including probation and parole officials, therapists, and local law enforcement agencies, to ensure the re-entry process is a smooth one for their client.

There is often an educational component to a correctional case manager’s job as well. While they typically coordinate with others to provide services to their clients, some correctional case managers will provide social skills courses, basic job training, and anger management classes to help their clients better prepare for a return to freedom.

Why Do We Need Case Managers?

Case managers are necessary because of the role they play in helping individuals achieve a better quality of life. Acting as a coordinator of sorts, case managers serve the important function of ensuring their clients receive the care and services they need in a timely fashion. Case managers relieve their clients from the burden of communicating with various stakeholders, worrying about insurance payments, and even making appointments.

Instead, case managers take on those roles, and as discussed above, many other critical roles, which are necessary to ensure their client’s success. Thus, while they may not be directly responsible for tending to a client’s social, emotional, behavioral, or physical needs, without case managers, treatment, rehabilitation, and care coordination for clients in need would not run as smoothly or efficiently.

What are the Career Opportunities for a Case Manager?

As outlined above, case managers can work in a wide variety of settings. The private sector, government agencies, and non-profit organizations commonly employ case managers. This includes settings such as mental hospitals, juvenile corrections facilities, child and family welfare agencies, law firms, assisted living facilities, and hospitals.

In addition to case management duties, case managers often work as advocates. In this capacity, case managers will work on behalf of their clients to fulfill some kind of need. For example, a geriatric case manager might hold workshops to educate seniors about their rights as they pertain to medical and mental health care as part of Medicare or Medicaid. Another example is a child case manager advocating on behalf of an adolescent client that has been abused. In this context, the case manager might speak for the child in court proceedings or work with local legal and law enforcement agencies to ensure their client’s rights are protected.

Some case managers, particularly those with a number of years of experience, may work in a supervisory role overseeing the activities of a team of case managers and other social service providers. As a supervisor, administrative duties such as interviewing and hiring personnel, developing training programs for employees, and ensuring compliance with local and state regulations are common. Naturally, oversight of the day-to-day activities of employees is a primary duty as well.

Other experienced case managers work in academic settings. Having practical on-the-job experience means veteran case managers can make excellent educators for students who wish to enter the human services field. Since workers can start in a case management career with just a high school diploma, the need for experienced case managers to educate and train potential workers is extremely high. Additionally, since there are many specific subfields of case management, many case managers, even if they aren’t employed in an academic setting, will take on a mentorship role. Helping new workers develop an understanding of policies and procedures related to their specific type of employment is a common occurrence.

How to Become a Case Manager?

Education

The educational requirements for case management are extremely varied. In some settings, such as substance abuse case management, workers need only a high school diploma and on-the-job training for an entry-level position. However, other careers, such as certified case management, require a bachelor’s degree in addition to professional licensure and certification.

For example, a nurse case manager would need at least an associate’s degree in nursing if not a bachelor’s degree in nursing, to take on case management duties. A mental health case manager would likely need a bachelor’s degree in psychology or social work before they could find employment. Geriatric case managers, however, typically need a master’s degree to take advantage of the best job opportunities.

With that in mind, the best place to start one’s education to become a case manager is to complete an associate’s degree program in psychology, social work, nursing, or a related mental or healthcare field. Associate’s degrees are usually 60 semester credit hours, which can be completed in two years or less if attending school full-time. These programs are generalist in nature, giving students a very basic introduction to topics related to health and human services.

To open up more job opportunities, it’s important for prospective case managers to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Again, programs in health and human services fields are most highly recommended, such as psychology, social work, or criminal justice. These programs give students more specific knowledge and training related to case management duties. The coursework completed will depend on the area of case work in which students are interested. For example, correctional case managers will focus their studies on criminal justice issues, child case managers would focus on psychology and child development, and rehabilitation case managers would study topics related to health administration.

Training

In addition to educational, certification, and licensure requirements, some case managers may be required to participate in additional training for their jobs. Most often, this occurs as continuing education courses to fulfill ongoing certification or licensure requirements. Other times, additional trainings might be offered by employers in order to maintain a high level of employee knowledge and job skills.

For example, case managers might participate in a workshop to learn about new case management software that will help make filling out and organizing paperwork a much easier and smoother process. Other examples might be participation in training to learn how to administer a new assessment or taking a course on implementation of care plans.

Licensing Requirements

Case manager licensing requirements vary depending upon the specific discipline in which one works, as well as the state in which one practices. Some positions, like legal case management and medical case management, may not require licensure at all because there is little or no direct contact with clients. Other positions, such as nurse case management and social work case management do require licensure.

For example, nurse case managers and social work case managers must be licensed in the state in which they practice. Nurse case managers typically hold an R.N., which requires licensure through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Licensure as an R.N. requires applicants to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Social work case managers also typically operate as licensed professionals. Unlike nursing, social work case management is a field that is more locally governed. As a result, licensure requirements vary between states, but usually include minimum education requirements and an adequate score on a professional examination.

Certification Requirements

Certification as a case manager is a highly recommended process because certification denotes that a worker has met rigorous standards of knowledge and professional practice. Although certification is not mandatory in some situations, in others, employers require their employees to be certified.

There are generalist certifications available for case managers that improve their ability to work effectively regardless of their employment setting or area of expertise. Chief among them is the Board Certified Case Manager certification. This certification demonstrates case managers’ commitment to providing excellent services to their clients while also showing a commitment to the utmost in professional and ethical practice. To be eligible for this certification, applicants must hold a current license or a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a human services-related field. Applicants must also earn a satisfactory score on a written examination.

Sometimes, the type of certification a case manager pursues will depend on his or her specific job. For example, a medical case manager might pursue certification as an Accredited Case Manager. This designation is bestowed by the American Case Management Association to case managers that earn an adequate score on a written and clinical-based exam that tests their knowledge of medical-based case management topics.

Social work case managers can receive specialized certification as well, as a Certified Social Work Case Manager through the National Association of Social Workers. Eligibility for certification in this field depends on a number of factors. Case managers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work and 4,500 hours of supervised experience. Additionally, case managers must have a current license to practice or achieve a passing score on the Association of Social Work Boards bachelor’s level examination.

Yet another specialized certification available is the Nursing Case Management Board Certification. As the name implies, this certification is for nurse case managers who wish to demonstrate a high standard of professional practice. In addition to passing a rigorous, competency-based examination, case managers in this field must have their R.N. designation.

What is an Online Case Management Program?

Online case management programs give prospective case managers flexible opportunities to gain the qualifications they need to enter this field of work. Most online case management programs are designed for individuals that already have the educational background to become a case manager, but who want to expand their knowledge and skills by acquiring a case management certificate. Social workers, counselors, nurses, and other direct-service personnel in the human services field are excellent candidates for such programs.

These programs focus on a number of competencies that are common to case management, including process and concepts of case management, care coordination, financial considerations in case management, and issues related to effective and ethical practice. Online case management programs vary in terms of their length, from a little more than a week to well over six weeks. Program activities often include reading assignments, online discussion with classmates and case management professionals, and case studies and other activities that allow students to apply their knowledge and skills to a real-world situation.

What Skills Does a Case Manager Need?

Because they work with clients that are facing difficult life circumstances, and because they generally have a heavy caseload of clients, case managers need a variety of skills related to interpersonal communication, advocacy, problem-solving, and administrative duties if they are to be successful at their job.

Communication skillsWhether a case manager works with children, seniors, individuals in need of mental health services, or terminally ill patients, case managers must be able to communicate effectively. This means case managers must be able to speak and write well, listen actively, and understand how to communicate with highly diverse groups of people. Case managers must also be aware of their nonverbal communication and be able to read the nonverbal communications of their clients.

Interview skillsA primary duty of case management is evaluating the client to determine his or her needs. As a result, effective interview skills are a must. Some interviews are conducted in person while others may occur over the phone or Skype. Regardless of the interview situation, case managers need to be able to formulate questions, record client information, and answer client questions promptly. Because they work with diverse populations, case managers also must be able to phrase questions in a manner that is not biased, judgmental, or offensive

EmpathyAs with all jobs in the human services field, case managers must be able to identify with the struggles their client is having. Demonstrating empathy for their situation will encourage clients to open up to their case managers and trust that the process will take their life in a positive direction. With a strong bond created, case managers can then perform their job much more effectively.

Teaching skillsCase managers often play a role in helping their client develop the skills and knowledge they need to improve their life situation. Whether helping an adolescent develop social skills, working with an elderly client to regain some independence after a surgery, or consulting with a client that suffers from anxiety, case managers need the teaching, learning, and planning skills required to offer their clients effective skills training.

Advocacy skillsBeing the point person for coordinating a client’s services generally means that case managers have to engage in advocacy on behalf of their client. Whether working to secure services for their client, attempting to resolve conflicts between their client and service providers, or otherwise working to protect the best interests of the client, case managers need knowledge of policies, procedures, laws, and regulations that govern the case management process.

What Qualities Make a Good Case Manager?

There are many personal qualities a person needs in order to be an effective case manager:

Organization and planningWorking with multiple clients and multiple service agencies for each client necessitates case managers to be exceptionally organized. This pertains to a variety of job duties, including maintaining appropriate paperwork, keeping an accurate schedule of appointments, and meeting various deadlines for client services. Case managers must also be adept at planning to ensure service delivery to their clients occurs in a timely manner.

Aptitude for teamworkCase managers don’t work on their own to help clients improve their life situation. Instead, they help clients achieve their goals as part of a much larger team. As a result, case managers must be able to work well with diverse people, from other professionals to their clients’ family members.

Desire to help othersCase management can be a very difficult job with odd working hours and a high level of work-related stress. People that wish to enter this career field must have a strong desire to help others otherwise the job’s negative aspects can quickly lead to burnout.

PatiencePatience is a must-have personal quality for case managers. Their clients are in a state of living that is not optimal, and which may be extremely difficult to get out of, thus necessitating a case manager that is patient and understanding. Likewise, case managers often must deal with a lot of red tape from many different agencies, again, requiring them to remain patient as the programs and services for which their client qualifies are implemented.

What are the Pros and Cons of Being a Case Manager?

Pros

Case management is a career with the potential to be highly rewarding. But at the same time, it is a career that can be extremely stressful. As a result, there are a number of pros and cons of working in this field.

Likely the greatest benefit of being a case manager is having the opportunity to effect real, positive change in the lives of others. Seeing the growth and progress of clients as they work towards their life goals is extremely satisfying. Working for the benefit of others likewise contributes to personal feelings of self-worth.

Another benefit of a career in case management is the strong growth of jobs in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in social and community service management field are predicted to grow by 21% over the next seven years. This presents many opportunities for case managers to find employment.

Case management also presents a wide variety of career opportunities in many different work environments. This gives case managers the ability to specialize in a service area in which they are highly interested and in which their talents can be best utilized, which can contribute to high levels of job satisfaction.

Cons

Perhaps the most negative aspect of working as a case manager is the heavy caseload often associated with this work. Case managers, particularly those in the social work case management field, can have overwhelming caseloads. This contributes to irregular working hours, long days, and mountains of paperwork, all of which can contribute to dissatisfaction with the job.

Case management is also a stressful career. Working with people in crisis can easily wear on a case manager’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Likewise, delays from service providers, an enormous amount of paperwork, and red tape blocking access to services for clients only adds to the level of stress.

While the diversity in the field is a distinct advantage, a disadvantage of working as a case manager is the inconsistent licensure requirements from state to state. Some states have extremely lax requirements for becoming licensed while others are extremely strict. If moving from one state to another, a case manager might find themselves in a situation in which they are required to have additional schooling or training in order to perform the same job they did in their previous home state.

What is the Difference Between a Case Manager, a Counselor and a Social Worker?

Although case managers, counselors, and social workers share many commonalities, there are also a number of differences that make each occupation distinct from the other.

A primary distinction between these three closely related professions is the education and training necessary to enter each field. Whereas many case managers can find work with an associate’s degree and additional professional training, counselors must have at least a master’s degree, and in some cases a doctorate. Social workers can find entry-level employment with a bachelor’s degree, but many positions require at least a master’s degree.

There are differences in the nature of the job as well. Case managers tend to focus on helping their clients with practical issues, such as finding local services and resources to help them overcome a barrier, such as a medical condition or a legal issue. Conversely, counselors and social workers tend to focus more on social, emotional, psychological, and behavioral life factors that reduce a person’s quality of life. Additionally, counselors and social workers can engage their clients in counseling and therapy, whereas case managers are not trained, nor qualified, to do so.

Additionally, case managers are responsible for a coordinated plan of care for their clients. Their job is to oversee many services for their clients, of which social work or counseling services might be a part. In this regard, case management can take on a macro focus with many different responsibilities, but those responsibilities very seldom involve actually delivering services to their clients themselves. Counselors and social workers, on the other hand, tend to take a more narrow focus. Rather than overseeing a wide continuum of care, they are generally more concerned with micro-level issues and actually deliver those services directly to their clients.

How Much Does a Case Manager Earn?

According to PayScale.com, the average annual wage for a case manager is $37,088. This figure varies significantly depending on the level of experience and level of education of a worker. For example, a recent college graduate with no experience will likely begin their case management career with a salary around $27,000 per year. Conversely, case managers with 10 or more years of experience have a much higher annual wage, upwards of $68,000 per year. The type of case management job one has will also heavily influence earnings. On the higher end, nurse case managers earn an average salary $65,579 per year. However, on the lower end, mental health case managers make just $34,560 per year, on average.

What Careers are Similar to Case Manager?

Case management is just one of many human services-related occupations that share similar job duties. Among the most closely related jobs are:

Probation and Parole OfficerWorkers in this field have similar job duties to correctional and juvenile case managers. Their role is to prevent individuals from committing another crime by connecting them with valuable community resources, offering education and training, and monitoring their progress towards achievable goals.

Counselor Like case managers, counselors endeavor to help clients through difficult life situations. While the means by which counselors provide assistance is different from case managers, the end goal is still the same: to effect positive change in the lives of others.

Social and Human Services Assistants People working in this field offer direct support to clients as part of the client’s treatment plan. They often work under the supervision of a case manager, social, worker, counselor, or other licensed professional. For example, an addictions counselor assistant working in an inpatient treatment center would have direct, daily contact with residents to conduct check-ins and assessments as part of the treatment plan devised by case managers and counselors.

Social Worker As discussed above, social workers provide many of the same services as case managers, but in a slightly different context. Case managers tend to focus on the big picture regarding client issues, whereas social workers tend to operate with a more narrow focus, delivering services directly to their clients that facilitate growth and development in both the short and long term.

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