How Much Do Travel Nurses Make? | NurseJournal.org (2022)

In This Article

Average Pay for Travel Nurses | Travel Nursing Pay Explained | Highest- and Lowest-Paying States for Travel Nurses | Highest-Paying Travel Nurse Specialities | Ways to Increase Pay as a Travel Nurse | Frequently Asked Questions | Learn More

Travel nursing offers a unique work experience with the opportunity to earn above-average hourly wages. These wages may even exceed those of other registered nurses (RNs) with the same education and credentials.

Travel nurses are typically employed by travel nursing agencies and work assignments across the country wherever nurses are needed. Because each assignment is different, the total annual income for travel nurses can vary significantly. Factors include the details of the pay package, where the assignment is located, and nursing specialty.

On this page you will find the most recent information about travel RN salaries, benefits, specialties, and the states with a high demand for travel nurses.

Fast Facts About Travel Nurses

  • Travel nurses generally earn as much or more than staff nurses with the same experience and qualifications.
  • Lodging reimbursement and tax advantages impact travel nursing salaries.
  • The most in-demand travel nursing specialties include labor and delivery, emergency room, and medical-surgical/telemetry.

Sources: BluePipes | The Gypsy Nurse

Average Pay for Travel Nurses

The average travel nurse salary varies greatly depending on the work assignment. Depending on travel location, these practitioners can earn between $3,000 and $7,000 per week, averaging a 36-hour work week. According to Vivian, a healthcare jobs marketplace, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), travel nurses earn just over $3,167 a week, while RNs earn just under $39.78 an hour. However, aspiring travel nurses should note that living on the road leads to additional personal expenses, so the increase in pay accounts for living accommodations.


$7,296

Max Weekly Pay


$3,167

Average Total Weekly Pay

(Video) How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?

Source: Vivian

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Travel Nursing Pay Explained

Travel nurse pay differs from full-time nursing positions because agencies offer hourly rates for each assignment, meaning RNs can shop around and find opportunities with ideal pay. In contrast, RNs working full time at hospitals, physicians' offices, and other facilities usually rely on raises or additional education to increase their earning potential.

Practitioners considering this role also need to explore what take-home pay looks like for travel nurses. Nursing agencies set their own conditions, so pay packages vary. For instance, organizations may offer an hourly base pay with additional stipends to cover housing or meals, while other companies may offer a higher hourly rate to account for additional expenses.

Hourly Rate
Full-time RNs working at a healthcare facility receive a salary, but travel nurse employers typically offer hourly wages. Practitioners should note that earning potential varies by specialty, location, and shift.
Stipends
Travel nurses need to arrange for living accommodations. Therefore, travel nurse pay often includes a stipend that covers food and housing expenses. Companies may provide housing accommodations or select housing options for travel nurses. Other employers may factor stipends into hourly pay or offer it in addition to RNs' base pay.
Taxes
Taxable income varies for travel nurses. Practitioners who claim a permanent tax home can avoid taxes on stipends. To claim a tax home, travel nurses need to prove that they visit their primary residence once every 12 months at minimum and pay expenses to maintain their primary home. Travel nurses without a permanent tax home get taxed on all earnings.
Benefits
Travel RN salaries may include some benefits. However, most temporary positions do not offer health benefits. Also, travel nurses may not work for a particular agency for an extended period of time to be eligible for health benefits. Travel nurses do receive other benefits, including stipends for living expenses, higher pay, and potential sign on bonuses. Benefits may influence take-home pay depending on RNs' tax status.
Crisis Pay
Travel nurses can take advantage of crisis pay when organizations need practitioners to work additional hours due to lack of staff or hazardous working conditions. For instance, COVID-19 led to increased demand for travel nurses. Travel nurse agencies also saw an increase in applicants as these temporary positions offered significantly higher wages.

Highest- and Lowest-Paying States for Travel Nurses

Travel nurse salaries vary by state and region. Locations in need of RNs typically offer more competitive wages. In fact, the popularity of a particular region can influence travel nurses' earning potential. Less popular locations may pay more, while desirable locations may pay less. Likewise, states with a higher cost of living offer higher wages relative to living costs.

According to 2022 data by Vivian, the top-paying states for travel RNs included New Jersey, North Dakota, and Washington. Practitioners also want to consider the highest-paying specialties to determine earning potential which may vary by state. The following section includes the top specialties in demand.

Highest-Paying Travel Nurse Specialities

Typically, nursing specialties that lack licensed practitioners offer more pay than other specialties, which further increases earning potential for travel nurses. Higher acuity facilities also offer higher pay, as they need skilled practitioners who can meet their patients' needs. The Gypsy Nurse lists five specialties with high travel RN salaries.

adn or bsn Required

Labor and Delivery

Labor and delivery travel nurses provide care for individuals in labor and at birth. These nurses also work with physicians and midwives to oversee patients' initial postpartum care. Responsibilities include providing emotional support and monitoring the patient's condition. Important skills include clear communication and adaptability.

Salary $68,621*

Job Outlook 9% increase from 2020-2030

Learn More About Labor and Delivery Nurses

adn or bsn Required

Emergency Room

ER travel nurses tend to patients with injuries and illnesses who need immediate care. ER nurses follow the care plan of nurse practitioners or physicians and supervise nursing assistants. Responsibilities include administering treatments, monitoring vitals, managing patients' care plans, and communicating with patients' families. Desired skills or traits include problem-solving, the ability to work under pressure, and empathy.

Salary $72,862*

Job Outlook 9% increase from 2020-2030

Learn More About Emergency Room Nurses

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adn or bsn Required

Medical-Surgical/Telemetry

Medical-surgical and telemetry RNs provide care for patients preparing for or recovering from surgery. These practitioners collaborate with their patients' care team, performing tasks including changing wound dressings, running blood tests, and regularly assessing a patient's condition. Medical-surgical RNs need excellent organizational, communication, and prioritization skills.

Salary $66,000*

Job Outlook 9% increase from 2020-2030

adn or bsn Required

Critical Care – Intensive Care Unit

Critical care travel nurses work with patients experiencing acute or life-threatening injuries or medical conditions. These RNs must receive specialized training to manage their patients. Critical care nurses often work in medical ICUs, pediatric and neonatal ICUs, cardiac care units, and recovery rooms. Nurses working with critical care patients must be understanding and able to work under stressful conditions.

Salary $75,371*

Job Outlook 9% increase from 2020-2030

Learn More About Critical Care – Intensive Care Unit Nurses

adn or bsn Required

Operating Room Registered Nurse

OR nurses care for patients undergoing surgery. Responsibilities include managing medical equipment, monitoring patients' vital conditions, and educating patients' families. While in the operating room, OR nurses assist surgeons by keeping instruments sterile and completing paperwork. Relevant skills or traits include remaining calm under pressure, compassion, and strong communication.

Salary $75,999*

Job Outlook 9% increase from 2020-2030

Learn More About Operating Room Registered Nurses

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*SOURCE: Payscale, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4 Ways to Increase Pay as a Travel Nurse

While travel nurse pay may exceed traditional full-time RN salaries, travel nurses can additionally increase their earning potential by considering factors like demand for specialties, understaffed or unpopular shifts, and locations in need of skilled RNs.

Travel nurses should examine the full benefits package to determine if jobs can provide sufficient take-home pay. For instance, regions with a high cost of living may impact how much practitioners actually earn if stipends do not cover all costs.

1. Earn Certification in a High Demand Nursing Specialty.
Earning additional certifications can help travel nurses establish a competitive edge in the field. Potential certifications include advanced care in HIV/AIDS, advanced certified hospice and palliative nurse, and adult health clinical nurse specialist. Practitioners considering a speciality should begin getting experience with their target population and earn a certificate to qualify for the best positions.
2. Seek Out Higher-Paying Shifts.
Higher-paying shifts are often the less desirable shifts. For instance, hospitals may offer shift differential pay for hours outside of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. any day of the week. Likewise, travel RNs may want to consider working holidays and weekends. Many healthcare facilities need RNs to care for patients around the clock.
3. Work in Higher-Paying Regions.
Travel RNs should research job opportunities in higher-paying regions as well. However, higher-paying regions may also include a higher cost of living. In contrast, other regions may offer high pay without the expensive cost of living.
4. Earn Your Advanced Practice License.
RNs considering a career as a travel nurse can increase their earning potential by returning to school and earning a master of science in nursing or doctoral degree. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) possess additional skills, can take on more responsibility, and hold management roles. APRNs also earn a median salary of $123,780 according to BLS data.

Frequently Asked Questions: Travel Nursing Salaries

How much does a traveling nurse make per year?

Travel nurse salaries vary significantly, especially since the outbreak of COVID-19. Factors that can influence earning potential include geographic location and specialty. However, travel RNs should anticipate working 46 weeks a year and earning about $3,167 on a weekly basis.

Do travel nurses get paid more?

Travel nurses typically earn more than full-time salaried RNs because they often take job assignments where there is a nursing shortage. Travel nurse agencies also pay practitioners by the hour and offer additional benefits, including housing and meal stipends.

Is travel nursing worth the money?

Travel nurses generally earn more than salaried RNs. However, practitioners should consider their lifestyle as well. For instance, an RN with a family may not feel the additional pay outweighs time at home, while another practitioner may find the pay suitable and enjoy the travel opportunities.

Do travel nurses get time off?

Travel nurses often do not receive time off since they work hourly and take temporary job assignments. While assignments vary, travel nurses should plan to work for 8-26 weeks at a time. Most travel nurses schedule time off between job assignments.

(Video) Travel Nurse Pay Breakdown: How I Make $19,600 a month

Learn More About Travel Nurses

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FAQs

How much do travel nurses actually 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.

How much do travel nurses make compared to regular nurses? ›

The average annual salary for a travel nurse is $108,070 in 2022, acccording to Indeed.com. That is significantly higher than the average mean salary for staff nurses, $75,330 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What is the highest paying travel nurse agency? ›

Triage Staff is our best overall pick because it pays more than most agencies, providing high hourly wages and frequent bonuses. This agency attracts top talents thanks to its benefits and extensive perks, like tuition reimbursement and day one 401(k).

How much do travel nurses make in USA? ›

Annual: The average annual salary for travel nurses also varies significantly. On average, they earn $117,490 with a starting salary of $78,430, rising to $170,680 as more experience is gained.

Is travel nursing worth the money? ›

Basically, by the time you add everything up, including your housing, health insurance for travel nurses, and competitive salary package, it's a very lucrative career. And when tax time rolls around, you also get to enjoy many different travel nurse tax deductions. Just remember, these deductions can vary by location.

Why is travel nursing paying so much? ›

So, why do travel nurses get paid more? It's because they fill short-term needs, accept assignments in areas with severe nursing shortages, receive extra compensation for their flexibility and work in hard-to fill specialties.

Do travel nurses get housing paid for? ›

Most agencies offer travel nurses a housing stipend to cover their housing while on assignment. This is calculated as part of your compensation package. If you choose to take agency-provided housing, you won't get a housing stipend.

How many hours do travel nurses work? ›

Travel nurses typically work 40 hours per week in one of the following shift models: 5 x 8-hour shifts. 4 x 10-hour shifts.

Are travel nurses in demand? ›

But then, as the rate of deaths and hospitalizations from Covid waned, the demand for travel nurses fell hard, according to industry statistics, as did the pay. Demand dropped 42 percent from January to July this year, according to Aya Healthcare, one of the largest staffing firms in the country.

What state pays the most for travel nurses? ›

It's a great option for those looking for higher-paying short-term work at various medical facilities. The average salary varies state by state for travel nurses based on demand and specialty. The top three highest-paying states include: Idaho ($151,203), Nevada ($149,196, and Illinois ($148,382).

How much is Aya housing stipend? ›

The agency offers you a pay package that includes a taxable base rate of $20 per hour plus a monthly lodging stipend of $3000, among other compensation variables.

What is the best travel nurse agency to work for? ›

Axis Medical Staffing earned the title of best travel nursing agency for 2022 based on our aggregated data from ratings by travel nurses. This agency was founded in 2004 and boasts lots of benefits, including: Assignment opportunities in every state.

Why do hospitals hire travel nurses? ›

Filling a position between full-time hires; covering for hospital nurses who are off the job due to health or personal reasons; or providing additional support during busy seasons, such as flu or tourist season, are some of the most frequent reasons hospitals hire traveling nurses.

How do you negotiate a travel nurse salary? ›

6 Tips to Negotiate Your Travel Nurse Contract
  1. Figure Out Your True Rate of Pay. ...
  2. Make Agencies Fight for You. ...
  3. Cover Your Real Travel Expenses. ...
  4. Know Your Extension Bonus Options. ...
  5. Ask About Other Reimbursements. ...
  6. Don't Fear “No”

Is it hard to become a travel nurse? ›

Most places require you to have at least two years of experience in your nursing specialty, whether it's surgical, neonatal, critical care, pediatrics, trauma or a clinical nurse with many different specialties. Your clinical background will determine the specific openings you'll qualify for as a travel nurse.

Is travel nursing a stable job? ›

Travel nursing is a stable career and if you have the desire for adventure, you might want to consider a career in travel nursing.

Is travel nursing stressful? ›

However, travel nursing can also be a stressful profession. According to one study published in Nursing Research and Practice, 92% of nurses have moderate, high, or very high levels of work-related stress. Travel nurses also experience their own unique set of stressors on top of those suffered by regular nurses.

Is travel nursing lonely? ›

The cons of travel nursing are less identifiable. Things like separation from friends and family, unfamiliar accommodations, and the unknown can leave one feeling empty and loneliness.

Do travel nurses make more money than nurse practitioners? ›

Do travel nurses get paid more? Travel nurses typically earn more than full-time salaried RNs because they often take job assignments where there is a nursing shortage. Travel nurse agencies also pay practitioners by the hour and offer additional benefits, including housing and meal stipends.

How do hospitals afford travel nurses? ›

An agency will usually take around 30% of the full bill rate and of that, profits might be around 20-25%. Agencies usually make profits somewhere around the ballpark of $5,000 – $6,000 per 13-week contract depending on the specialty, if we work all our hours, and how big they are.

Why is there a nursing shortage 2022? ›

But now, nursing faces another shortage, and while the pandemic played a big role, the problems are rooted in a demographic shift: An aging population is increasing the demand for medical care, a generation of nurses is retiring – and as they go, not enough nurses are staying to train the generation taking their place.

Is renting to travel nurses a good idea? ›

Travel nurses make ideal tenants because they are reliable, trustworthy and they make it easy to get the most out of your rental property. In most cases, they have gone through an extensive background check to be eligible for work, so your risk of having to deal with an unruly tenant drops dramatically.

Do travel nurses pay taxes on stipends? ›

Taxable Income and non-taxable income

As a travel nurse you can qualify for non-taxable income called stipends. These stipends are not taxed since they are classified as reimbursements for housing, travel, and meals. Travelers love these because if they do not use the full stipend amount, they can pocket the extra.

Can you live at home and be a travel nurse? ›

Being a travel nurse in your own state is 100 percent possible. Many travel nurses are unaware that it is possible to be a travel nurse in your home state. Becoming a travel nurse doesn't mean you have to travel across the country or leave your home state to land a job.

What are the cons of travel nursing? ›

TOP CONS OF BEING A TRAVEL NURSE
  • You will always find yourself in an unfamiliar environment. ...
  • You will always be the new guy. ...
  • Varying pay rates. ...
  • What do you do when your contract has ended? ...
  • Not the best work assignments. ...
  • License issues. ...
  • Floating. ...
  • Your contract can be canceled.

How long can a travel nurse stay at a facility? ›

Contract Duration

On average, travel nurse assignments are pre-agreed for the duration of 13 weeks. However, there are shorter-term contracts of eight weeks, and some that have stretch out to 26 weeks and longer.

Do travel nurses get retirement benefits? ›

Traveling nurses choose this job for many reasons, but for many it is the amount of money they can accumulate in a short period of time. Plus, they don't have housing costs or medical insurance costs. They also can receive retirement funds.

Do travel nurses save hospitals money? ›

Travel Nurses Allow for Reduced Turnover Costs:

When the need first arises to expand staffing, hiring a travel nurse is often an excellent solution until a more permanent one is found. While a travel nurse's rates may be slightly more expensive, hospitals can still end up spending significantly less in the long run.

How long does it take to become a travel nurse? ›

How Long Does It Take to Become A Travel Nurse? It can take two to four years for full-time students to earn an ADN or BSN. Most travel nursing agencies also want their applicants to have at least one year of work experience before offering a contract.

Can a hospital cancel a travel nurse contract? ›

As it turns out, hospitals can cancel travel nurses left and right with seemingly zero repercussions. However, if you, the travel nurse cancels your contract… well, you can be blacklisted from hospitals and from working with other travel nurse companies.

How do hospitals afford travel nurses? ›

An agency will usually take around 30% of the full bill rate and of that, profits might be around 20-25%. Agencies usually make profits somewhere around the ballpark of $5,000 – $6,000 per 13-week contract depending on the specialty, if we work all our hours, and how big they are.

Do travel nurses pay for housing? ›

Most agencies offer travel nurses a housing stipend to cover their housing while on assignment. This is calculated as part of your compensation package.

How long do traveling nurses stay in one place? ›

What Is the Length of a Typical Travel Nursing Assignment? The length of a travel nursing assignment varies depending on the facility. A travel nurse assignment can be as short as two weeks, but 6, 8, or 13-week positions are the most common.

How many hours do travel nurses work? ›

Travel nurses typically work 40 hours per week in one of the following shift models: 5 x 8-hour shifts. 4 x 10-hour shifts.

Why do hospitals hire travel nurses instead of nurses? ›

Reduced Staffing Costs

Hiring traveling nurses rather than permanent nurses eliminates the need to pay for benefits such as health insurance, retirement and paid days off, and also reduces recruiting, training, overtime and payroll costs.

Why do hospitals hire so many travel nurses? ›

Nursing Shortages

Many nurses are continuing their education to become advanced practice nurses, leaving hospital units with fewer RNs. Some hospitals experience more difficulty recruiting new nurses, such as those in rural areas. Travel nurses will cover those shifts and deliver quality care.

Why is there a nursing shortage 2022? ›

But now, nursing faces another shortage, and while the pandemic played a big role, the problems are rooted in a demographic shift: An aging population is increasing the demand for medical care, a generation of nurses is retiring – and as they go, not enough nurses are staying to train the generation taking their place.

Is renting to travel nurses a good idea? ›

Travel nurses make ideal tenants because they are reliable, trustworthy and they make it easy to get the most out of your rental property. In most cases, they have gone through an extensive background check to be eligible for work, so your risk of having to deal with an unruly tenant drops dramatically.

Is it hard to become a travel nurse? ›

Most places require you to have at least two years of experience in your nursing specialty, whether it's surgical, neonatal, critical care, pediatrics, trauma or a clinical nurse with many different specialties. Your clinical background will determine the specific openings you'll qualify for as a travel nurse.

How much is Aya housing stipend? ›

The agency offers you a pay package that includes a taxable base rate of $20 per hour plus a monthly lodging stipend of $3000, among other compensation variables.

What are the cons of travel nursing? ›

TOP CONS OF BEING A TRAVEL NURSE
  • You will always find yourself in an unfamiliar environment. ...
  • You will always be the new guy. ...
  • Varying pay rates. ...
  • What do you do when your contract has ended? ...
  • Not the best work assignments. ...
  • License issues. ...
  • Floating. ...
  • Your contract can be canceled.

Do travel nurses get to pick where they go? ›

Yes. You get to pick the state, the hospital, and the healthcare setting. We have travel nurse jobs in exciting cities like San Diego, Miami, Seattle, New York, and Chicago, as well as in rural and suburban settings across the country.

What state pays nurses the highest salary? ›

California tops our list of the highest-paying states for RNs, with nurses receiving $124,000 per year on average. Following it is Hawaii, at $106,530, and Oregon at $98,6300. Washington, D.C., while not technically a state, also ranks among the top-paying U.S. regions with an average RN salary of $98,540.

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