Travel Nursing Salary: How much do travel nurses make?

travel nurse salary

Just about everyone wants to earn more money. And nurses are no exception. You may be considering a career in travel nursing for that very reason ... are you on the right track? There are lots of factors that go into travel nursing pay. Let's look at just a few.

  • Location of your assignment - some areas tend to pay higher rates than others - but be sure to factor in the cost of living. If there's a somewhat lower hourly rate in a given area, look into things like the cost of essentials -- food, housing, and transportation. If they're lower too, your pay could be right in line.
  • Your specialty - some specialties are generally more sought-after than others; it's often a question of the training required and supply vs. demand for a particular specialty, which can vary from region to region. 
  • Season - some locations need more RNs in their 'high season' and pay more at those times
  • Your experience and certifications - many hospitals will pay a premium rate for an experienced RN with advanced certifications - provided that the certifications are backed up with stellar on-the-job performance
  • The severity of the healthcare employer's staffing needs - if a facility is having a hard time finding qualified nursing staff -- or if they need staff immediately, they will usually raise their pay rates

If the travel nurse salary is your primary motivator, a skilled recruiter can make pay a priority in finding assignments for you. If you're flexible about things like location, shift, requirements to float, you will have many more high-paying travel positions to choose from.

Do travelers make more money than staff nurses?

In general, yes, they do. All other things being equal, healthcare employers are willing to offer a premium salary to fill critical staffing needs and maintain standards of patient care. Your total compensation should be evaluated in terms not only of your weekly take-home pay, but also of your housing allowance and benefits like insurance, travel and licensure reimbursement, continuing education credits, and tax advantages. If your travel nursing agency offers weekly payroll, you may also consider that a plus. There's nothing better than reliable cash flow.

Be on the lookout for bonus opportunities, too. Agencies love to get referrals - and if someone you refer ends up working for your agency, you should earn yourself a nice bonus!

Can you work year-round as a traveler?

If you want to, yes! Many nurses treasure the opportunity to take time off when and where they want, but if you build a solid track record as a travel nurse, remain flexible in your assignment choices, and let your recruiter know about your career priorities, you can work steadily! Many assignments are extended, and if the RN and traveler both agree on the terms, a 13 week assignment can turn into an opportunity that renews many times over. 

What should I do if a fellow traveler says they're making more than I am?

It's disheartening, but we've all been there. Pay and benefits packages can be complicated, and every one of them is unique. What seems like an unbelievable pay claim may look a little more down-to-earth if you know all the details. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to bring it up to your recruiter. They should be able to answer your concerns and investigate all possible avenues. At the end of the day, your recruiter wants you to be happy and is on your side!

Is travel nurse pay the only thing to consider?

Wellllll... pay is important.. But let's not forget the 'intangibles'. Is the location full of diversions? Near friends or family? Someplace you've always wanted to visit

What about your prospective coworkers -- or patients? Is this a community that will make you feel appreciated and needed?

Is it a clinical environment that will challenge you? Is this an assignment that will look amazing on your resume?

There are tons of reasons for taking a travel position, and the final decision is yours. That is part of the beauty of traveling!