Be a Behavioral Health Care Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a behavioral health care manager. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in the mental health field. View article »

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  • 0:00 Be a Behavioral Health…
  • 2:07 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 2:36 Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree
  • 3:24 Step 3: Pursue Licensure

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Video Transcript

Be a Behavioral Health Care Manager

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree highly preferred and necessary for clinical work
Degree Field Varies; psychology, counseling, social work, or another social service or social science field
Licensure Licensure required by most employers
Experience In a related mental health environment
Key/Computer Skills Skills in social perceptiveness, time management, written and verbal communication, critical thinking, and deductive reasoning; ability to use customer relationship management (CRM) and medical software
Salary $42,170 (2015 median for mental health and substance abuse social workers)
$58,560 (2015 median for all other social workers)

Sources: Job postings from employers (October 2012); **O*NET Online

Behavioral health care managers may also be known as patient representatives or advocates. These professionals work with families and individuals who are coping with complex medical or social situations. They may also interact with other health care providers to make sure the patient is aware of the services available to them. Duties in this profession can also include focus on assisting clients dealing with mental health or substance abuse problems. Many care managers assist their clients on multiple levels, from housing to healthcare access, employment, counseling, and so forth.

Patient representatives may work for insurance companies, corporations, hospitals, or in other medical care settings. Much of their time is spent working in an office, although some local travel may be required in order to meet with patients and/or health care providers. Such managers generally work full-time schedules, and they may meet clients in the evenings or on weekends.

As of May 2015, the median annual salary for mental health and substance abuse social workers, which are similar to behavioral health care managers, was $42,170, while all other social workers had a median salary of $58,560, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Behavioral health care managers typically need at least a bachelor's degree, though a master's may be preferred or necessary for some positions, such as clinical work. Prospective care managers can earn their degrees in a variety of fields, including psychology, counseling, social work, or other social service or social science field. Employers typically require care managers to be licensed and to have experience in a related mental health environment. Key skills that people looking to become behavior health care managers should have include social perceptiveness, time management, written and verbal communication, critical thinking and deductive reasoning, and the ability to use customer relationship management (CRM) and medical software.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most behavior health care managers have a bachelor's degree. In addition to bachelor's degree programs in related areas, such as psychology or sociology, prospective health care managers can find other programs, like the Bachelor of Behavioral Science with a concentration in health services management or Bachelor of Science in Health Care Management and Advocacy. Programs like these can give students training in areas that include health care law, health care insurance, or health care organization.

Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree

Employers generally require a master's degree in a related area, such as counseling or psychology. Students can also gain similar training in other programs, including the Master of Health Administration. Master's degree programs that prepare students to work as mental health professionals focus on relevant areas such as clinical training, strategic health care planning, health information systems and intervention approaches. Master's degrees will also help individuals looking to have a more clinical approach to their interactions with clients.

Gain experience. Students in graduate-level programs generally have the opportunity to complete a field internship or clinical application experience. This can help students learn more about the field and gain hands-on training in the services that will be available for their patients in the health care setting.

Step 3: Pursue Licensure

Professionals who work in behavioral health care management are generally required to obtain a state license to practice. To obtain licensure as a counselor, social worker, or psychologist, candidates must hold a graduate degree, have a specified amount of professional experience, and pass examinations. Specific requirements can vary by position and state.

Maintain Licensure

Behavioral health care managers will need to meet renewal requirements, such as participating in continuing education opportunities to keep their licenses current.

Join a professional organization. Prospective managers may consider joining an organization, like the Professional Patient Advocate Institute. Organizations like these offer resources such as continuing education credits.

Behavioral health care managers work with patients and other health care professionals to assist individuals with complex medical or social situations. They need at least a bachelor's degree, though a master's degree in licensure may be required.

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