Social work case managers undertake a range of key responsibilities that relate to healthcare and mental well-being. They coordinate care plans for individuals and families who need mental health, housing, medical, and other services. They also work in one of the fastest-growing career fields.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social work jobs are projected to grow 13% from 2019 to 2029. This growth is due partly to an aging population that needs more patient services, and to the increased focus on treating people with substance abuse issues rather than seeking their incarceration.
The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the need for social services, as high unemployment and housing and food insecurity impacted more people. An education in the fundamentals of social work is an excellent foundation for individuals interested in this in-demand career.
What Do Social Work Case Managers Do?
Social work case managers act as care coordinators and managers. They evaluate the needs of clients (individuals, families, children, etc.), identify the services needed, and create a plan to provide that care. Case managers may also be responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of the care plan and services.
The main difference between social workers and case managers is the delivery of services. While case managers may do some limited intake counseling, their role is to manage the delivery of services, rather than perform social work tasks. Once they have identified clients’ needs and created a care plan, they turn over the delivery of that plan to professionals such as medical doctors, counselors, and others.
Social work clients can have complex needs, stemming from mental and physical health issues, housing and food insecurity, transportation needs, and more. The care plans that social work case managers develop can involve meeting any one or all of these needs.
Typical case management responsibilities include:
- Client identification and engagement
- Advocating for the client
- Biopsychosocial assessment
- Developing, coordinating, and monitoring a service plan
- Evaluating the plan’s effectiveness
Work Settings for Social Work Case Managers
According to the BLS, more than 25% of social work positions are classified as government workers. The majority of these social work case manager jobs are in state and local government agencies, since these are the primary providers of most social services. Other employers include healthcare facilities such as clinics or hospitals, homeless shelters, community development foundations, or other social nonprofits that serve people in need. Professional responsibilities will vary according to the nature of the client base and the work setting, as shown by the following examples.
School Case Manager
A school case manager works with schools, parents, teachers, and children to ensure students meet their educational goals and receive services they are entitled to, such as meals, counseling, and enrichment activities. They help develop programs in accordance with the school district’s mission, and provide training to teachers and other professionals to help identify and understand the needs of the student population.
Prison Case Manager
A case manager in a correctional facility develops programs for inmates and evaluates their effectiveness and quality. A case manager will assess inmates to identify their needs, track their progress, and develop release plans designed to give inmates the best chance of success once they’ve served their time.
Hospital Case Manager
Besides the typical responsibilities included in a social work case manager job description, a hospital case manager is responsible for admission and discharge planning in a short-term care setting. They need to be familiar with Medicare regulations and other insurance requirements. Duties include creating plans for high-stress treatment situations, such as substance abuse, mental health crises, and family counseling.
Emergency Shelter Case Manager
An emergency shelter case manager works with clients who need short-term emergency housing. The goal is to find safe, permanent housing for individuals and families. Responsibilities include identifying clients’ needs and working with community organizations to find housing, healthcare, dental care, and child development care for families.
Homeless Shelter Case Manager
Case managers who work in organizations that serve homeless populations must have an in-depth understanding of the underlying causes of homelessness among their client base. Case managers work with clients to develop a plan for self-sufficiency. Intake and assessment typically include identifying the client’s current level and need of income, housing, and self-care. Managers work with other agencies to find resources such as substance abuse treatment and mental healthcare, all to help clients transition from homelessness to a stable environment.
Fundamental Skills for Social Work Case Managers
Social work case managers need a combination of hard and soft skills to be effective at serving clients’ needs, whatever the setting. Hard skills include a foundation in social work provided by a bachelor’s degree program, which equips them with theory and practical skills to become an effective advocate for their clients. Soft skills allow them to meet their clients’ needs with compassion and grace.
The soft skills social work case managers should master include:
- Compassion, especially when clients are experiencing complex issues
- Exceptional written and oral communication skills, to present a care plan to clients so they understand fully
- Exceptional listening skills, to understand what clients need and develop a plan that will work for them
- Organizational skills, to manage all of the moving parts of client treatment planning and care
- Cultural competence, to understand and value clients’ unique perspectives
Social workers need the following credentials to become a C-SWCM (certified social work case manager), according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW):
- A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW); a senior-level case manager will require a Master of Social Work (MSW)
- A current license or a passing score on a BSW-level exam
- At least three years and 4,500 hours of paid and supervised professional experience with an agency that provides case management services
- Adherence to the NASW code of ethics and commitment to continuing professional education
Social Work Case Manager Salary
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for all social workers was $51,760 in May 2020. According to the compensation website PayScale, the average salary for a social work case manager was about $40,000 as of June 2021. More seasoned case managers, with 10 to 20 years of experience, could see a pay range of $46,000 to $73,000. Salary ranges depend on work experience, geographic region and work setting, and education level. Many graduates who hold a BSW go on to earn an MSW to enhance their professional and earnings potential.
Take a Brave Step Toward a Rewarding Career
Schools, hospitals, cities, and social services agencies will always need social workers and case managers who can provide counseling and care plans to those in need.
Are you interested in being part of an in-demand career field, with the opportunity to help others and make a positive difference in your community? The online Bachelor of Social Work program at Maryville University can be an excellent first step on the path toward a social work case manager career.
Explore this degree program and career field today.
Mental Health Counseling vs. Social Work
Improving Community Safety Through Social Work
Police Social Work in Emergency Response Situations
British Association of Social Workers, “The Role of Social Workers in a Pandemic and Its Aftermath: Learning From COVID-19”
Career Trend, “Case Manager Skills Checklist”
Dallas Independent School District, Coordinator I, Case Manager
Federal Bureau of Prisons, Case Manager
Homeless Hub, “Case Management”
Houston Chronicle, “What Is a Social Work Case Manager?”
Interfaith Hospital Network of Greater Cincinnati, “Emergency Shelter Case Manager”
PlanStreet, “Social Work Case Management Guide”
NASW, Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM)
Oroville Hospital, Job Description for Case Manager/Medical Social Worker
PayScale, Average Case Manager, Social Services Salary
PayScale, Average Late-Career Case Manager, Social Services Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers
ZipRecruiter, “What Is a Social Work Case Manager and How to Become One”
What are the 8 responsibilities the case manager does? ›
Case manager roles and responsibilities
Finding appropriate clinical care teams best suited to each patient's needs. Coordinating care with a patient's clinical team. Assessing patients for necessary care or changes to current care plans. Coordinating with social services to aid in assessing and administering care.
Definition of Case Management
Case managers are healthcare professionals who serve as patient advocates to support, guide and coordinate care for patients, families and caregivers as they navigate their health and wellness journeys.
- 1) Screening. The first step of the process is determining if the case in question requires the case management services in the first place. ...
- 2) Assessing. ...
- 3) Risk evaluation. ...
- 4) Planning. ...
- 5) Implementation. ...
- 6) Outcome evaluation.
For example, social work case managers in school systems access educational and psychological services for children and their families, while case managers who work with the elderly may arrange and recommend medical, financial and at-home services, such as Meals on Wheels or, in the case of terminally ill clients, ...What is the job description for a social work case manager? ›
Social work case managers act as care coordinators and managers. They evaluate the needs of clients (individuals, families, children, etc.), identify the services needed, and create a plan to provide that care. Case managers may also be responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of the care plan and services.What are the roles of case manager in social work? ›
Social work case management is a method of providing services whereby a professional social worker assesses the needs of the client and the client's family, when appropriate, and arranges, coordinates, monitors., evaluates, and advocates for a package of multiple services to meet the specific client's complex needs.What does a case manager do on a daily basis? ›
Case Manager responsibilities include:
Coordinating and providing care that is safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and client-centered. Handling case assignments, draft service plans, review case progress and determine case closure. Helping clients achieve wellness and autonomy.
A successful case management process consists of four core components: intake, needs assessment, service planning, and monitoring and evaluation.What is the primary goal of a case manager? ›
The primary function of case managers is to advocate for clients/support systems. Case managers understand the importance of achieving quality outcomes for their clients and commit to the appropriate use of resources and empowerment of clients in a manner that is supportive and objective.What is one of the most important roles in case management? ›
As a case manager, it's vital that you aim to make patients feel like they're in charge of their treatment. You can achieve this by being available to answer questions and provide resources as needed.
What are the 3 models of case management? ›
- The Brokerage Case Management Model. ...
- The Clinical Case Management Model. ...
- The Strengths-Based Clinical Case Management Model.
- Evaluating risks.
- Following up.
- Evaluating outcomes.
- Know your caseload – workers should know their caseload inside and out. ...
- Prioritize your caseload – split your caseload into groups. ...
- Manage your time – don't wait until the last minute to see your clients.
Caseworkers Overview & Description
Provide patients with information and counseling, and make referrals for other services. May also provide case and care management or interventions designed to promote health, prevent disease, and address barriers to access to healthcare.
Case managers also work as part of a team with other doctors, nurses and specialists to provide the necessary care for the patient. Active listening, reliability and problem-solving are among the qualities of a case manager that lend themselves to better collaboration.What experience or skills would make you a good case manager? ›
Negotiating, collaborating, communicating, team-building, precepting, educating, and consulting are the basis of what a successful case manager brings to the care setting each day. There are skill sets every case manager and social worker needs to be effective.How many clients should a case manager have? ›
Case managers are available on a regular schedule; caseloads are often shared to assure coverage of 7 days per week/12 hours a day. The staff to client ratio is generally 1 case manager per 20 clients.What is an example of a case manager? ›
What Are Examples of Case Management?
- Customer Service Requests.
- Requests and Approvals. ...
- Legal Case Management. ...
- Talent Management. ...
- Non-profit Services.
Show empathy and understanding, while not pushing an agenda. They cautioned against pushing an agenda. Have a consistent presence in the community. Reputation, approachability, and visibility are important elements for building client engagement.What is the most accurate description of case management? ›
Definition of Case Management
Case Management is a dynamic process that assesses, plans, implements, coordinates, monitors, and evaluates to improve outcomes, experiences, and value.
What is the average caseload for a case manager? ›
Case managers working in provider settings (behavioral health facilities, home care, hospital or health systems, medical group/clinic settings, retail clinics, skilled nursing or long-term care facilities) consistently reported having an average caseload of 25-49 cases.What are some things a case manager does not do? ›
Case managers should not allow their own personal problems, psychosocial distress, legal problems, substance abuse, or mental health difficulties to interfere with their professional judgment and performance or to jeopardize the best interests of people for whom they have a professional responsibility.What interventions do case managers use? ›
Case management functions include engagement, assessment and planning, community linking, individual skills- building through interventions such as psychotherapy, psychoeducation, and crisis intervention.How often should a case manager meet with a client? ›
Contacting the Client to Review and Monitor the Care Plan: The case manager must make a home visit to review the care plan at least every six months, or more frequently, based upon the individual client's needs and program requirements.How do I write a case management plan? ›
- 1) Assessment. While making a case management plan, the most important step is evaluating if a particular case even needs to be included in your business's case management plan. ...
- 2) Risk Evaluation. ...
- 3) Planning. ...
- 4) Implementation and Evaluation.
- First come, first serve. ...
- Allow customers to determine the level of urgency. ...
- Create categories for types of requests. ...
- Create categories for types of customers. ...
- Respond quickly, no matter what. ...
- Streamline your reassign process. ...
- Create service level agreements (SLA's).
- Keep Your Books Handy.
- Talk to Your Supervisor.
- Connect with Others.
- Don't be Overwhelmed.
- Keep an Eye out for Opportunities.
The case management process consists of five parts: assessment, treatment planning, linking, advocacy, and monitoring.What are the seven steps of case management? ›
- Review and Analysis.
Components of an effective case management practice. A successful case management process consists of four core components: intake, needs assessment, service planning, and monitoring and evaluation.
What are the strengths of case management? ›
Strengths Model Case Management is both a philosophy of practice and approach to practice embedded within specific tools and methods designed to help people: 1) identify and achieve meaningful and important life goals; and 2) increase their ability to exercise power related to how they view themselves and how they ...What are the 3 components of case management? ›
- Three Key Principles for Effective Case Management.
- Principle #1: Building Trusting Relationships.
- Principle #2: Using Evidence-Based Practice.
- Principle #3: Empowering Your Client.
The goals of Case Management include the achievement of optimal health, access to care and appropriate utilization of resources, balanced with the patient's right to self-determination.How do you succeed as a case manager? ›
Negotiating, collaborating, communicating, team-building, precepting, educating, and consulting are the basis of what a successful case manager brings to the care setting each day. There are skill sets every case manager and social worker needs to be effective.What are some examples of case management? ›
Case management example
An elderly patient who recently suffered a stroke might be assigned a case manager at their hospital to ensure they get the ongoing care they need. In this situation, the case manager would act as a liaison between the patient and their health insurer.