How to Become a Nurse Case Manager

Joelle Y. Jean, FNP-C, BSN, RN
Updated July 18, 2024
Edited by
Reviewed by
Our Integrity Network is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

If you have a passion for managing and coordinating care, then learn how you can become a nurse case manager.
mini logo

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Nurses smiling in a hallwayCredit: Hispanolistic / E+ / Getty Images

Are you passionate about managing patient care and outcomes, collecting data, and implementing educational programs? Then, a nurse case manager career may be a great fit.

Nurse case managers play an important role in healthcare delivery. They manage care for patients who need extra support by planning and identifying realistic goals. They also coordinate care by working closely with healthcare teams. Explore how to become a nurse case manager, including the required education, experience, and skills.

How Long to Become

4-6 Years

Degree Required


Certification (Optional)

Nursing Case Management Certification

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

What is a Nurse Case Manager?

When a patient is assigned a nurse case manager, the nurse case manager is responsible for coordinating care and creating care plans that support the patient’s recovery. They collaborate with healthcare teams, payers, and families to ensure optimal patient care.

Nurse case managers must also discharge patients safely to a designated location, such as a patient’s home, a long-term care facility, or a senior living or group home.

Nurse case managers advocate, negotiate, and streamline care for patients. Their cases typically involve patients with serious injuries, disabilities, or those who need help with navigating complex and or chronic conditions. For example, a nurse case manager’s duties may include:

  • Helping a patient access financial resources
  • Developing a discharge plan to ensure patients have access to follow-up care
  • Setting up home care services
  • Developing educational programs for patients and families
  • Data collection and analysis

Nurse case managers work with a broad spectrum of patients, including infants, pediatric, adult, and geriatric patients. They work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospice clinics, or insurance companies.

Steps to Becoming a Nurse Case Manager

To become a nurse case manager, you must take several steps as a registered nurse (RN). Nurse case managers are experienced RNs skilled in managing care and solving problems. Communicating with patients, families, and other healthcare team members is an essential skill.

New RNs can work with more experienced case managers to gain the experience necessary to apply for nurse case manager jobs and become board-certified.

  1. 1

    Earn an ADN or BSN Degree

    An associate degree in nursing (ADN) and a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) prepare nurses to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is the national licensure examination for RNs.

    ADN programs typically require two years to complete, while BSN programs are typically a four-year degree.

    Many employers require or prefer nurses with a BSN. Some states even require RN to hold a BSN.

  2. 2

    Pass the NCLEX Exam to Receive RN Licensure

    In 2023, the NCLEX-RN exam was replaced with the Next Generation NCLEX exam, which focuses more on critical-thinking skills for new nurses. All nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to qualify for a license to practice.

  3. 3

    Gain Clinical Nursing Experience

    Many nurses transition into case management roles after working at the bedside for 1-2 years. Others start in entry-level positions under the direction of a senior nurse case manager.

  4. 4

    Consider Becoming a Certified Nurse Case Manager

    Nurse case managers need a valid and unrestricted RN license to apply for board certification. Each certifying body requires a certain amount of clinical hours and experience to sit for the nursing case management certification exam.

Nurse Case Manager Education

Nurse case managers need a valid and unrestricted RN license. Although a two-year ADN degree is the shortest pathway to licensure, many employers require or prefer nurse case managers with four-year BSN degrees.

ADN Degree

An ADN degree offers a faster path for someone who wishes to become a nurse and begin working in the field within two years. However, while the degree meets the minimum eligibility for the NCLEX-RN and state licensure, some employers may prefer a bachelor’s degree for entry-level nurse case manager positions.

  • Admission Requirements: Requirements vary by program but generally include a high school diploma with coursework in science and math, a minimum 2.0 high school GPA, letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and SAT or ACT scores.
  • Program Curriculum: An ADN curriculum introduces students to the nursing profession, including performing health assessments, microbiology and immunology, and introducing nursing for specific populations (e.g., pediatric, medical-surgical).
  • Time to Complete: Two years
  • Skills Learned: ADN programs help prepare students for entry-level nursing practice and patient care. Specific skills include performing health assessments, distributing medications, nursing ethics, communication and collaboration, and providing patient education.

BSN Degree

A four-year BSN degree prepares nurses for the NCLEX-RN and state licensure. Nursing employers may require or prefer a BSN degree. A BSN also positions nurses to pursue advanced degrees, higher-level practice, and greater earning potential. BSN programs include upper-level coursework to improve critical thinking and patient care skills.

  • Admission Requirements: Program requirements vary, but most include a high school diploma with a GPA of 2.5 to 3.0, a personal essay, letters of recommendation, and SAT/ACT scores.
  • Program Curriculum: The BSN curriculum covers nursing practice, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, nursing informatics, and research and statistics. Students also learn psychology, pathophysiology, leadership and management, ethics, and caring for specific populations.
  • Time to Complete: Four years
  • Skills Learned: BSN programs prepare nurses to provide high-quality, cost-effective patient care. In addition to developing bedside nursing skills, nurses are equipped with leadership, communication, and risk management skills to promote health and support good patient outcomes.

Licensure and Certification

Once you pass the NCLEX, you are licensed with your state’s board of nursing and can practice as an RN in that state. State nursing boards determine the criteria for issuing and renewing RN licenses. Requirements to maintain a license vary by state.

Becoming a certified nurse case manager demonstrates credibility and holds nurses to the highest standards of ethics and care. To be eligible for certification, nurses need certain qualifications. For example, the Commission for Case Manager (CCM) certification requires:

  • A BSN or master’s degree in a health or human services field.
  • RNs must be:
    • Employed full-time for 12 months in a case-management role supervised by a certified case manager.
    • OR employed full-time for 24 months as a case manager. In this case, the supervisor does not have to be a certified case manager.
    • OR employed full-time for 12 months as a case manager supervisor.

Although there is no legal requirement that a nurse case manager be certified, some employers prefer or require it.

Working as a Nurse Case Manager

Nurse case managers are in demand around the country.

In addition to robust professional growth, nurse case managers can command an average yearly salary of $98,869, according to data from ZipRecruiter. (Salaries vary by geographic region, workplace, responsibilities, and other factors.)

Nurse case managers often begin their careers as bedside nurses but can start as case managers if a certified case manager supervises them. After gaining experience, nurse case managers coordinate care for their caseloads.

Nurse case managers can work in various settings, including healthcare facilities, insurance companies, long-term care facilities, home health, and hospice clinics. They are closely involved in family education and support, discharge planning, and connecting patients with resources.

Case managers working for insurance companies or other payers will likely focus on developing care plans and coordinating care for complex cases.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Nurse Case Manager

The role of the nursing case manager is to advocate, negotiate, and streamline care for patients with serious injuries and disabilities, those who need help navigating complex or chronic conditions, and those seeking help with social challenges.

Page last reviewed July 11, 2024