Nurse Salaries / Travel Nurse Salary
Travel nurses move around the country to work in short-term nursing jobs. This is a different type of position from other nursing jobs because travel nurses work with independent staffing agencies. Travel nursing is also different because travel nurses tend to make more money.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- How much do travel nurses make?
- How does a travel nurse salary work?
- What benefits do travel nurses get?
- How much do travel nurses make an hour?
- How much do travel nurses make during Covid?
- Highest paying states for travel nurses
- How to become a travel nurse
- How to earn more as a travel nurse
- Job outlook for travel nursing
- Pros and cons of travel nursing
How much do travel nurses make?
Travel nurses make an average of $98,031 per year, or $47 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter. This is a higher number than RNs, who earn an average annual salary of $77,600 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are several reasons why travel nurses make more money than other nurses. The biggest influence on the higher pay is the demand for travel nurses. There’s a big demand for nurses who can travel on a temporary or permanent basis — and that means higher salary potentials. According to CNBC, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel nurse salaries were at record highs.
How does a travel nurse salary work?
There are several factors that go into travel nurse pay. Agencies normally offer hourly rates for a travel nurse assignment. This is different from payment for traditional RNs. Non-travel nurses receive a salary. They are not given additional stipends.
Travel nurses usually receive pay on top of their base salary. This is often included in a “total pay package.” A total pay package includes the base hourly wage and any extra compensation for personal expenses such as housing, food, and mileage related to the job. It’s important to note that this extra pay is not considered income — so it does not have taxes withheld.
- Here is an example of a travel nurse monthly pay package:
- Base monthly pay (taxable) $3,500
- Housing stipend $1,500
- Meals stipend $900
- Mileage stipend $600
- One-time sign-on bonus $3,000
Here is an example of a pay package for a non-traveling nurse:
- Base monthly pay (taxable): $3,500
- Continuing education stipend: $600
- One-time sign-on bonus: $2,000
In other cases, you might find that these additional expenses are calculated into the hourly rate, resulting in higher pay per hour.
As a travel nurse, you might also receive bonuses. Some travel nursing agencies pay sign-on bonuses or retention bonuses, incentivizing nurses to work with them long-term.
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What benefits do travel nurses get?
While you may find some agencies that offer 401k plans or life insurance, most travel nursing jobs do not have traditional benefits. However, as a travel nurse, you might get benefits that typical RNs don’t receive. You may be paid stipends for:
Mileage expenses are intended as reimbursement for the travel it takes to reach your assignment. For agencies that do not pay a housing stipend, housing is often provided.
How much do travel nurses make an hour?
You might be able to negotiate a higher hourly rate by working overtime or by working “off” shifts, such as nights, weekends, or holidays.
How much do travel nurses make during Covid?
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, salaries for travel nurses went up. Hospitals were desperate for qualified nurses. Agencies began paying travel nurses twice as much as their usual salary.
However, now that cases of COVID-19 have begun to level off, the demand for travel nurses has dropped. It is unclear whether travel nurses will make a higher than usual salary moving forward.
Highest paying states for travel nurses
The top 10 states with the highest nurse salaries are:
- California — $124,000
- Hawaii — $106,530
- Oregon — $98,630
- District of Columbia — $98,540
- Alaska — $97,230
- Massachusetts — $96,630
- Washington — $95,350
- New York — $93,320
- New Jersey — $89,690
- Connecticut — $88,800
You don’t necessarily have to travel far from home to be a travel nurse. However, the more flexible you are with distance, the more job opportunities will be available to you.
A travel nurse’s salary almost always includes compensation for lodging and travel expenses. The money you receive typically depends more on the required skills for the job than the distance of the job from where you live. This is why it’s not uncommon for a travel nurse to make just as much money working 100 miles from home as they would if they were to work 300 miles from home.
If you want to become a travel nurse primarily because they make more money, then you should familiarize yourself with the locations that pay the highest nurse salaries.
How to become a travel nurse
Wondering whether this type of nursing is a good fit for you? The first step in how to become a travel nurse is getting your associate degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor of nursing (BSN). Next, sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to become a licensed registered nurse.
Depending on the healthcare staffing agency you want to work with, you may need a minimum amount of experience. What’s more, if you want to specialize in a certain field of nursing, this might require additional licensing. It’s a smart idea to work in your chosen specialty for at least two years before making the jump to travel nursing.
It’s also important to know that if you want to work as an RN, you have to be licensed in the state where you work. That’s where the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) comes in. The NLC provides a multistate license that lets nurses practice across state lines. Many U.S. states implement the NLC.
Once you have a few years of experience and have received your compact license, you should be ready to find work as a travel nurse.
How to earn more as a travel nurse
Travel nurse pay by state varies widely. Research which states pay travel nurses the most and consider taking a job in a higher-paying location. Remember to consider the cost of living in that state, too.
Rapid response assignments are another way to earn more money. Hospitals with rapid response assignments will typically ask nurses to arrive ready to work within just a week or two. It may be an emergency situation.
If you specialize in a certain area, you will be eligible for higher pay. Some of the highest-paying nursing positions include:
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Cath Lab Registered Nurse
- Medical/Surgical Registered Nurse
- Telemetry Registered Nurse
- Labor and Delivery Registered Nurse
Make sure you have your compact nursing license and all of your paperwork ready to go. This allows you to easily move across state lines and work as a nurse in multiple different locations. You may consider working with multiple different travel nurse agencies as well.
Many hospitals also pay more money to nurses who work the night shift, weekends, or holidays. If you are willing to be flexible and go wherever you are needed, whenever you are needed, you can make more money as a travel nurse.
Job outlook for travel nursing
As the U.S. continues to deal with the ongoing nursing shortage (which is expected to continue through 2030), all kinds of nurses are in high demand. However, the need for travel nurses has somewhat fallen off.
Hospitalization rates for COVID-19 have stabilized, and in many cases, relief funding for the virus has run out. This means that many hospitals are now looking for full-time nurses instead of travel nurses. Demand for registered travel nurses dropped by a third during March 2022.
The BLS predicts employment for RNs will grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031. For qualified nurses willing to travel, there will still be jobs available. But the salary numbers that hospitals are willing and able to pay in the future is unclear.
Pros and cons of travel nursing
One of the biggest attractions of travel nursing is how much money travel nurses make. Travel nurses normally earn more than traditional RNs.
As a travel nurse, you will also be able to stretch and challenge yourself, taking on interesting work in different parts of the country.
But the travel nurse life isn’t necessarily all sunshine and rainbows. Since your lifestyle will be based around traveling, it may be difficult to stay connected with friends and family at home. Travel nursing might not be for you if you have a spouse and/or children.
Since travel nurse contracts are short-term, job security can also be stressful.
How much money do you actually make as a travel nurse?
Travel nurses make an average of $98,031 per year, or $47 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter. However, your travel nurse salary will vary based on factors such as location and specialty. You might also receive stipends for expenses such as housing and mileage.
Do travel nurses get paid more?
Yes. Travel nurses usually are paid more than staff nurses. According to ZipRecruiter, travel nurses make an average of $98,031 per year. Traditional RNs earn an average annual salary of $77,600 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Do travel nurses get free housing?
Travel nurses usually receive a housing stipend. This money is specifically allotted to cover your housing costs. Other agencies might provide housing for you to live in.
Travel nurse jobs near me
Higher pay is just one of the benefits of travel nursing jobs. If you think this position is right for you, the next step is to start your job hunt. Register with Incredible Health for free to find the highest-paying travel nurse jobs across the United States.
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- “Travel Nurse Salary.” ziprecruiter.com. Accessed July 5, 2022.
- “Registered Nurses.” bls.gov. Accessed July 5, 2022.
- “Need for nurses is driving record pay as coronavirus nears its peak.” cnbc.com. Accessed July 5, 2022.
- “Travel nurses saw an increase in pay during the pandemic. Now, they could lose those benefits.” 19thnews.org. Accessed July 5, 2022.
- “The 2021 American Nursing Shortage: A Data Study.” usa.edu. Accessed July 5, 2022.
- “Travel nurses raced to help during Covid. Now they’re facing abrupt cuts.” nbcnews.com. Accessed July 5, 2022.