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Travel Nurse Salary Guide

| Courtney Smith-Kimble

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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.
  • Travel nurses can earn $44,000-$100,000 a year depending on where they work and their speciality.
  • 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. These practitioners can earn $1,840-$6,340 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 $51 an hour on average, while RNs earn just under $38.50 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.


$51.14

Average Hourly Wage


$1,840

Average Total Weekly Pay


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, which means 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.

In 2019, the top-paying states for travel RNs included California, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and Rhode Island. 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 $65,410*
Job Outlook 7% increase from 2019-2029
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 $65,410*
Job Outlook 7% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Emergency Room Nurses
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 $65,410*
Job Outlook 7% increase from 2019-2029
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 $73,300*
Job Outlook 7% increase from 2019-2029
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 $76,220*
Job Outlook 7% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Operating Room Registered Nurses
*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 $117,670 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 $1,840 on a weekly basis, close to $84,700 per year.

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.

Learn More About Travel Nurses

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