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Travel Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

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Nurses who enjoy adapting to different work environments and traveling to new places can consider pursuing careers as travel nurses. This page highlights how to become a travel nurse, including travel nurse degree requirements and salary potential.

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What is a Travel Nurse?

What is a travel nurse and what does a travel nurse do? Travel nurses are registered nurses who come from a variety of clinical backgrounds. These nurses work closely with independent staffing agencies on temporary assignments to provide care throughout specialties. Travel nurses respond to staffing shortages in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, closing the gap between the nursing field’s constant supply and demand changes. These nurses must adapt to each assignment’s unique demands.

  • What Do Travel Nurses Do?

    Travel nurses work shifts both in the U.S. and across the world as international nursing staff. They can work anywhere from one month to 13 weeks in a hospital or medical clinic. These nurses may also work overseas on a yearly basis. A specialized focus for registered nurses, travel nursing can be stressful and demanding. However, travel nurses get to journey around the world, making it an ideal profession for single individuals or travel enthusiasts.

    Travel nurses complete a variety of tasks and responsibilities across settings. They administer fluids and medications and help with patient mobility. These nurses monitor and oversee every aspect of patient care, recognizing when patients need intervention and what type of help they need. Travel nurses assess, diagnose, plan, evaluate, and implement care for patients.

    While travel nursing assignments vary in length, most last no less than eight weeks and no more than 13 weeks in the U.S. and closer to 1-2 years outside of the country. Travel nurses learn how to document patient care across different systems and adapt to different standards across assignments.

  • Where Do Travel Nurses Work?

    Where travel nurses work depends on if they work in the U.S. or in another country. Domestic assignments typically last 8-13 weeks. These travel nurses frequently respond to areas of the country that experience a disease outbreak or natural disaster.

    International travel nurses work outside the U.S. on assignments that usually last 1-2 years. They provide medical aid and care to rural, remote, and underserved communities and respond to disease outbreaks and natural disasters. These nurses require special documentation before they can travel.

  • Skills That Could Affect Travel Nurse Salaries

    Travel nurses should thrive in challenging work environments. They must adapt to new systems and workflows and remain flexible with different roles and responsibilities.

    Travel nurses must also learn quickly. Every assignment is different and requires them to meet new challenges and standards for healthcare. To succeed, they should rely on their fundamental skills and knowledge of nursing.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

Aspiring travel nurses must first complete an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing to obtain a registered nurse license. After becoming a licensed registered nurse, travel nurses can explore certification opportunities depending on their chosen specialty. Travel nurses must demonstrate adaptability since each assignment requires them to meet different demands and adhere to different standards of practice.


Travel nurse requirements include either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing. While a BSN is not a standard requirement to work as a travel nurse, many healthcare facilities and hospitals prefer to only hire travel nurses who complete a bachelor’s program in the field.

Since travel nurses often work closely with staffing agencies, they should not experience difficulty finding opportunities that align with their educational experience. Individuals should ensure they complete their degree through a regionally accredited college or university.

Training and Certification

Travel nurses do not need to complete any additional exams to practice travel nursing, although many certifications exist for the profession. Within the medical/surgical nursing sector, professionals can seek certification in advanced cardiac life support, basic life support, telemetry, and stroke care. Nurses interested in intensive care nursing can explore certification opportunities in pediatric advanced life support and critical care nursing.

Individuals can explore many certification opportunities, including trauma and neonatal resuscitation. Several positions require professionals to hold certification in a specific area in addition to the required registered nurse license.

Travel Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

How much does a travel nurse make? Travel nurse salary information varies depending on nurses’ location and experience level. The occupation’s national median salary is $71,829. Travel nurses earn more as they gain experience. Entry-level nurses earn an average annual salary of $64,478 while those at the mid-level of their career earn $92,308.

Travel nurses often begin their careers as registered nurses, making more money based on their specific industry and state. The pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry pays the profession’s highest wages. California pays nurses the most and boasts the highest employment level for registered nurses.

Median Salary for Travel Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: N/A
  • Early Career: $64,478
  • Mid Career: $92,308
  • Experienced: N/A
  • Late Career: N/A
  • Source: PayScale

    Related Job Salaries
    Registered Nurse (RN) Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Registered Nurse (RN), Emergency Room Registered Nurse (RN), Critical Care
    $63,393 $27,891 $43,528 $66,391 $72,656

    Source: PayScale

    Travel Nurse Resources

    • Travel nurses can access this site to browse job opportunities by location and start date. Hospitals use the website to find nurses who can fill short-term assignments. connects the most qualified nurses to hospitals in need.
    • Association for Nursing Professional Development This organization is dedicated to advancing the nursing professional development specialty to enhance healthcare outcomes. The group promotes and defines nursing professional development practice and aims to be the biggest advocate and top resource for nursing professional development practice.
    • Fastaff Travel Nursing Functioning as a leader in nurse staffing, this group provides travel nurses with the best assignments and opportunities at the country’s most prestigious hospitals. Fastaff works with nurses to ensure they continuously grow their knowledge and skills in the field to promote the highest quality care.
    • Job Search The site’s job search function allows professionals to search for nursing job opportunities by speciality, job title, and location. Nurses can input a specific job title or they can search for opportunities based on their chosen specialty. Users can also filter their job search results based on a specific location, inputting distance parameters to refine their results further.
    • American Nurses Association The country’s leading organization for nursing, ANA strives to improve the quality of healthcare across the nation and advance the nursing profession by encouraging an ethical, safe work environment and advocating for healthcare issues that impact both the public and nurses. ANA represents the interests of all registered nurses across disciplines.
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