Pros and Cons of a Case Manager Career
Case managers advocate and care for clients with medical and/or mental conditions by providing them with referrals for services and treatment. Find the pros and cons of a career as a case manager to decide if it's right for you.
|Pros of Being a Case Manager|
|Advocate for patients/clients to ensure their needs are being met*|
|Find medical or mental health treatment for patients/clients*|
|Help families and individuals cope with problems**|
|High employment growth in case management work fields (an expected 19% growth between 2012-2022)***|
|Cons of Being a Case Manager|
|Large caseloads for some case managers, especially social worker case managers***|
|Case manager licensing and certification requirements vary*|
|Case managers who treat the sick could face high injury or infection rates***|
|Median salaries are lower for non-RN case managers (approximately $62,000 versus $73,000)**|
Sources: *Case Management Society of America, **Salary.com September 2015 figures, ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
According to the Case Management Society of America (CMSA), a case manager is an individual who helps a client cope with issues ranging from health problems to addictions (www.cmsa-sf-eb.org). The CMSA notes that case managers, who may work for both public and private employers, act as providers of health or professional services for people with various medical and mental health conditions, disabilities, or occupational difficulties.
Case managers complete assessments to determine each client's needs and goals. In collaboration with the client, they then develop a specific plan of action, offering referrals and connecting clients with services as they work to help the client. Case managers frequently spend time away from the office, visiting clients and coordinating with other professionals.
Case Manager Career Path
A career in case management is unique, since it allows you to work in various social or medical service sectors. Therefore, according to the CMSA, case managers can be RNs, gerontologists, social workers or other mental and medical health professionals. In addition, because many case management jobs come from different sectors, licensing or certification requirements vary based on the employer and state.
Salary Info and Job Prospects
According to Salary.com, there are two central types of case managers: RN case managers and non-RN case managers. The median salaries for both types differ. According to Salary.com in September 2015, RN case managers earn a median annual salary of about $73,000. In contrast, non-RN case managers earn a median annual salary of approximately $62,000.
Career prospects vary depending on the field the case manager works in, but both RN and non-RN case managers should see a rise in employment as the demand for medical, mental, and social care rises. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the aging baby boomer population and the rising demand for mental health treatment and services will help drive favorable job growth.
Education and Training Requirements
Since case managers are employed across social and medical services, educational and training requirements vary. For example, if you want to become a RN case manager, you must first attain a postsecondary degree, such as a RN diploma, an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In contrast, the requirements for non-RN case manager depend on the employer and the case management services offered.
Case managers need keen observational skills to monitor the behavior, health and mental well-being of a patient or client. A common skill for all case managers is a teaching ability. Strong communication skills helps are also necessary to clearly communicate facts and information to the client.
What Employers Are Looking for
Employers vary on whether they need someone who helps directly with medical care, psychological and emotional counseling or advocacy on behalf of the patient. Some employers may want a bilingual job candidate to help patients when English is a second language for them. The following job postings are some examples of what employers looked for as of May 2012:
- A Georgia healthcare program needs case managers to help with patients who have chronic or severe illnesses. The care manager represents patients in searching or finding for appropriate care and medical treatment for their conditions. The preferred candidate should be bilingual
- A New York healthcare program needs case managers to represent patients and to help provide care to them. The case manager should be prepared to handle any psycho-social issues the patient has, as well as advocate for the patient in attaining adequate care. Candidates should hold a Master of Social Work or similar social work degree.
- A Pennsylvania health facility needs a RN case manager who is available during normal business hours and on-call. The candidate will need to help doctors or surgeons during medical procedures. In addition, the RN case manager helps establish patient goals and advocates on behalf of the patient.
How to Beat the Competition
Becoming certified as a case manager signals to employers that you have met high competency standards and have verified training and experience in the field. Since certification typically requires continuing education, this is also a good way to stay current in the issues and trends relevant to the field. Certification organizations, such as the Commission for Case Manager Certification, also offer career development resources that can link you to employers.
Develop Related Skills
Because case managers interact with clients with serious medical, mental health, and/or social challenges, it is important to show employers that you're prepared for the issues that may come up in this field. Previous work experience or internships within healthcare settings, correctional facilities or social service sectors can help you learn about communicating with people, as well as advocating for them. Gaining experience in an entry-level position or an internship can also help you to build upon your knowledge of available community resources and providers, and can help you get experience working with a broad range of people.
Other Careers to Consider
Social Service Manager
If you like helping people, but want a larger role in the community instead of treating individual cases, you might consider a career as a social service manager. Social service managers oversee social service or community organizations. Their work involves supervising staff, managing budgets and analyzing organizational effectiveness. Social service managers also discuss community and social service programs with key health and government providers. Employers typically want a candidate who has a bachelor's degree in social work, public health or public administration, in addition to a few years of experience. The BLS states that demand for social service managers should grow by 27% between 2010-2020. The median salary for social service managers, as reported by the BLS in May 2011, was around $59,000.
If you want to directly aid patients and help them provide for themselves, you might want to consider becoming a rehabilitation counselor. A rehabilitation counselor helps disabled patients live independently as the patient seeks care at medical facilities or independent-living centers. The rehabilitation counselor structures physical and mental activities to help the patient strengthen his or her mind and body. This strengthening and counseling can aid in patients' daily routines, allowing them to live and act more freely, even with disabilities or illness. The BLS predicted a 28% growth in employment for rehabilitation counselors between 2010-2020. The median salary for a rehabilitation counselor in May 2011 calculated to approximately $34,000. The BLS states that rehabilitation counselors typically have a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling.