What’s the Difference Between a Case Manager and a Social Worker?

Loren S. Casuto, Esq. - Director of Operations June 30, 2022 Uncategorized

What’s the Difference Between a Case Manager and a Social Worker?

Most people don’t know the difference between a case manager and a social worker. While there are many similarities between the two positions, they provide different services for different circumstances.

Case managers and social workers help individuals and families improve their quality of life through different means and for different reasons. Social workers help people in tough spots with therapy, financial aid, legal support, and lifestyle counseling. They work to resolve crises and give people a leg up.

Case managers provide long-term planning and aid in medical, financial, and other situations. They assess clients and create ongoing treatment plans. They focus more on connecting individuals to the services they need and coordinating operations behind the scenes. 

Case managers are the best choice for rehabilitation situations and individuals looking for long-term aid. A case manager acts as a guide for medical procedures and can source specific treatments and specialists. While each person’s situation is unique, many people often make the wrong choice and try to work with a social worker instead of a case manager. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between a case manager and a social worker.

What’s a Case Manager?

A case manager is in charge of coordinating efforts to improve a client’s life. They can interview and assess clients, create rehabilitation plans, and connect the client with further services. They oversee the entire operation and all goings-on that pertain to their client’s recovery or assisted living situation.

While case managers can provide limited counseling to clients and connect them to medical resources, not all of them are authorized to act as health care providers in any capacity beyond guidance. Some case managers have licenses to provide psychological or medical counseling, but it’s not required.

Case managers often have schooling in sociology, psychology, nursing, social work, and criminal justice. Some have master’s degrees and higher, but only a bachelor’s degree is required for most case manager positions.

One of the most important responsibilities of a case manager is to monitor and assess the client’s situation as it progresses. They are in charge of making changes to the plan and directing the client to the right resources as they need them.

Case managers focus on connecting clients with medical treatment options and long-term care providers while creating rehabilitation plans. Many social workers later become case managers.

What’s a Social Worker?

A social worker focuses on helping others in a way that benefits the community at large. They often strive to improve the overall condition of entire families at a time. Social workers do everything from facilitating family relations to providing financial aid and medical counseling.

To become a social worker, social workers go to school for a specific program that will result in a Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) and usually complete two years of supervised clinical practice.

Social workers must be licensed to provide clinical assessments, mental health services, and therapy. Many social workers also go on to complete Masters of Social Work degrees (MSW) that provide them the opportunities to join agency management and clinical social work positions.

Social workers generally don’t supervise treatment and rehabilitation plans, but might rather focus on the financial situation of the family, the living conditions, and lifestyle and behavioral therapy. Social workers also don’t usually provide long-term support and coordination. They are there to get people out of one situation and into a better one.

How Are Case Managers and Social Workers Alike and Different?

There are many areas where the duties and responsibilities of case managers and social workers overlap. Often they provide similar services but to different degrees and at different stages of the client’s situation.

Often, a social worker gets involved after a situation has developed, and they help correct the situation the client or family has fallen into. They work to ensure the client is safe, mentally stable, and domestically secure. They can often get involved in legal proceedings and usually work with multiple members of a family.

Case managers focus more on the individual, but get involved later in a given situation. They usually provide support during recovery and rehabilitation and can help the individual to coordinate medical and financial processes and plan long-term care.

While both professions focus on helping their client and improving their situation, social workers deal more with immediate crises and the fallout. In contrast, case managers deal with the fallout and recovery.

The following table shows a brief overview of where the duties of case managers and social workers converge and differ.

Duties and Responsibilities Case Manager Social Worker
Requires Bachelor’s degree Yes Yes
Requires specialized degree No Yes
Requires licensure Some Yes
Can provide counseling and mental health care Some Yes
Work closely with clients during times of distress Yes Yes
Work to improve the quality of life of their clients Yes Yes
Assess clients and provide guidance Yes Yes
Perform risk assessment Yes Yes
Provide financial support Yes Yes
Provide transportation services for medical purposes Yes No
Researching, contacting, and setting up medical care Yes No
Seeking out specialist services Yes No
Discharge planning Yes No
Maintaining treatment and rehabilitation plan after recovery Yes No
Interviewing clients and providing assessment Yes Yes
Addresses legal issues and assists in hearings No Yes
Document family and client histories and provide reports Yes Yes
Make recommendations and situational changes to the client’s lifestyle Yes Yes


Why You Should Work With RCC

RCC has over 30 years of experience acting as the premier provider of Life Care Planning and Long-Term Care Management. We work with hundreds of patients to ensure the best outcome. We have experience developing flexible and customized care plans for all ages and lifestyles.

At RRC, we pride ourselves on the positive changes we can make in our clients’ lives. As case managers, we strive to offer our clients the motivation and opportunities to face their rehabilitation head-on and increase personal ability sustainably and comfortably.