Become a Social Service Case Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Learn how to become a social service case manager. Research the job description, education and licensure requirements to find out how to start a career as a social service case manager.

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Social Service Case Managers

A social service case manager coordinates the care and assistance that an individual receives from state social services departments or similar agencies. Sometimes these professionals may be referred to as social workers. They help individuals and families overcome obstacles, such as alcohol and drug dependency, homelessness, unemployment and mental health issues. Managers may specialize in assisting a particular segment of the population, such as children, disabled persons or seniors.

These professionals tend to work full-time, and some work nights and weekends to meet with clients as needed. The work can be stressful, particularly due to understaffing in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, open positions in this field are predicted to grow at a faster-than-average rate over the next decade.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree in social work or a related field
Licensure and Certification All states have licensure or certification requirements
Experience Completion of supervised clinical experience usually required
Key Skills Good listening, organizational, and interpersonal skills; compassion; problem-solving and time-management skills
Computer Skills Microsoft Office, spreadsheet, database, desktop publishing, presentation, and medical software programs
Median Salary (2018)* $46,270 (median salary for school, child and family social workers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*, My Next Move, and O*Net Online.

A bachelor's degree in social work or a related field is needed for entry-level positions, and completion of a supervised clinical experience is usually required. Additionally, all states have licensure or certification requirements. Aspiring case managers should be compassionate and have good listening, organizational, interpersonal, problem-solving and time-management skills. The ability to use Microsoft Office, spreadsheet, database, desktop publishing, presentation and medical software programs is also needed.

According to 2018 data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for school, child and family social workers was $46,270.

Steps to Become a Case Manager

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree in social work is the most common pathway to an entry-level position as a case manager. However, undergraduate degree programs in psychology or sociology are available and may also prepare individuals to work in the field. Social work degree programs provide instruction about client assessment and case management, chemical dependency treatment, child welfare, human behavior and social work for seniors. Most programs include field experiences.

It is important to attend a program that includes a supervised work experience. Usually, state licensure requirements for a position as a social service case manager include completion of a specific number of work experience hours under the supervision of a licensed case manager. Since most bachelor's degree programs include these types of experiences, completing one while earning your bachelor's degree can help you meet licensure requirements earlier than if you had completed one after graduation.

Step 2: Become Licensed

The BLS reports that all states have some sort of licensure or certification requirements for social workers. Although these requirements differ in each state, an applicant must usually possess at least a bachelor's degree and have completed a specific number of hours of work experience.

Step 3: Begin Working as a Social Service Case Manager

Because most states hire entry-level case managers who have a bachelor's degree, you can begin working in the field after becoming licensed or certified. Some states may require that candidates have experience working in the field of social services, but may be willing to count education towards that requirement.

Step 4: Earn a Graduate Degree

Higher-level positions, such as supervisory positions in social service case management, may require a graduate degree in social work. Courses in social work master's degree programs cover topics like human behavior, research and social policy. Most programs also include field instruction. Some programs allow students to concentrate in a specific area of social work, such as working with senior citizens or children.

Some programs allow those with a bachelor's degree in social work to earn their master's degree in 1 year. Master's degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing the skills to do clinical assessments and take on supervisory duties. All programs require students to complete supervised practica, or an internship.

Social work case managers need at least a bachelor's degree, typically in social work, and licensure and/or certification is required. As of 2018, the median salary for social workers was $46,270.

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