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Case Manager vs. Care Manager: Definitions and Key Differences

June 3, 2021

Providing patients with proper healthcare often involves a professional who plans and coordinates that care. Case managers and care managers are two healthcare professionals that work with patients and other professionals to ensure that patients receive the right care for them. Understanding the differences between these two positions can help you determine which career is the most appropriate for you. In this article, we define what both case and care managers are and list the key differences between them.

Related: How To Become a Case Manager

What is a case manager?

A case manager, also referred to as a nurse case manager, is a healthcare professional who coordinates the overall care of individual patients. Case managers often work for specific healthcare facilities, such as a hospital, and must follow the rules and policies of those facilities. Case managers spend much of their time in an office, completing their daily healthcare tasks and supporting their patients indirectly.

Related: What Is a Nurse Case Manager?

What is a care manager?

A care manager is a healthcare professional who works one-on-one with patients to help create and manage their care plans. Care managers often work for clients, though they can also work for private practice companies. They often take an active role in the care plans they create for their patients and spend much of their work time with their clients, providing direct support to them.

Related: How To Become a Geriatric Care Manager

Differences between a case manager vs. care manager

Both case managers and care managers create and manage care plans for their patients, but there are many differences between the two professions. When choosing between the two career paths, consider the following differences:

Job duties

Case managers usually provide indirect care to their patients. Though they sometimes work directly with patients, their daily tasks often involve finding and directing other professionals and services who provide care or coordinate services, such as insurance companies. The day-to-day tasks of a case manager can include:

  • Creating a care plan and timeline
  • Working with medical professionals to ensure the care is effective and administered correctly
  • Helping patients and their loved ones make educated healthcare decisions
  • Creating financial plans with patients
  • Connecting patients with local support systems
  • Helping friends and family provide emotional support
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Filing paperwork

Care managers usually work closely with their patients to assess them and determine what type of care they want or need. This information helps them find the systems and methods that can best provide support for their patients. Care managers often perform administrative duties at the request of their patients or on their behalf. Some typical care manager duties include:

  • Visiting patients in their home
  • Building close relationships with patients and their medical care teams
  • Making medical appointments for patients
  • Coordinating transportation to appointments
  • Discussing care with patients to find areas for improvement
  • Researching the legality of patient care plans


Becoming a case manager requires a minimum of an associate degree in nursing. However, many employers prefer their case managers to have a bachelor's degree in nursing. Care managers also need an associate degree in nursing, though employees also accept degrees in relevant fields, including:

  • Social work
  • Rehabilitation
  • Public health
  • Psychology
  • Counseling


Many nurse case managers begin their careers as registered nurses. While each state has its own requirements, some states require up to five years of nursing experience before you can become a case manager. It can be helpful to work in a nursing position that gives you experience in case management, such as working for or with a nurse case manager.

Care managers also need five years of care management experience. However, the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM) specifies that three years of this experience must include an internship or another supervised experience, and the other two years must include direct care experience with patients in fields such as social work, counseling and care management.

Related: How To Become a Registered Nurse: Career Guide and Requirements

Licenses and certifications

Case managers require certification, and several institutions can grant these certifications, such as the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Some common requirements for certification include:

  • A current RN license
  • Two years of RN experience
  • One year minimum case management experience
  • A passing grade for the organization's certification exam

Care managers also require certification, but not from the CMCC or ANCC. Instead, the NACCM offers the most popular certification for care managers. Their requirements include:

  • An associate, bachelor's or master's degree in a related field
  • One to two years of supervised care management experience, depending on your degree
  • An additional year of direct contact patient experience

Work environment

Many caseworkers work in offices within patient care facilities, though some can work elsewhere. Popular places for caseworkers to work include hospitals, health insurance firms, health maintenance organizations and mental health care facilities. Care managers often work wherever their patients are, such as private homes, nursing homes or other care homes and supportive housing.


Nurse case managers average higher annual pay than care managers. Care managers earn an average of $58,670 per year, while registered nurse care managers earn an average of $69,818 per year.


Case and care managers both use a certain set of skills to succeed at their job. Both need knowledge of healthcare laws and regulations, and it can be helpful for both to understand their clients' health issues and treatments. Personal traits like empathy, organization and effective communication can also help either type of manager care for their clients and patients. However, some skills are more beneficial to case managers, including:

  • Clinical skills
  • Team leadership
  • Project management
  • Ability to delegate tasks
  • Ability to network with medical professionals

Some skills that are more helpful for care managers include:

  • Good bedside manner
  • Positive attitude
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Negotiation skills
  • Communication skills
  • Ability to provide emotional support

Disclaimer: Please note that none of the organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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