The Résumé Rx

Travel Nurses’ Salary (How to Make the Most Money as One)

Amanda Guarniere

What is a travel nurse, exactly? As skilled professionals, travel nurses fill temporary nursing positions in high-need areas. They rush into hospitals, clinics, and other facilities across the country to provide quality care to patients.

Travel nursing jobs are highly lucrative. Remember to manage your expectations. Your salary will be determined by your location, facility, and nursing specialty.

Certain specialties pay significantly more than others. CRNAs and nurse practitioners are at the top of the list, but they require an advanced degree.

Table of Contents

What is a Travel Nurse?

What exactly is a travel nurse? Travel nurses, as skilled professionals, fill temporary nursing positions in high-need areas. They rush into hospitals, clinics, and other facilities to provide quality care to patients across the country.

Travel nurses perform tests, administer medications, and write reports to help our doctors and other healthcare professionals diagnose and treat patients. Finally, you will travel to various locations to fill gaps where experienced Nurses are in short supply.

The nursing profession is expected to grow at a 16% annual rate between 2014 and 2024, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.The BLS forecasts a 19% increase in travel nurse jobs by 2022. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing reports that 55% of today’s nursing workforce is 50 or older. 

Because of the aging general population of the United States and a large number of older nurses retiring from the workforce, the BLS predicts a 9% increase in RN employment from 2020 to 2030. Because of the current nursing shortage, the job prospects for travel nurses are even brighter.

Highest Paying Travel Nursing Specialties 

1. Travel ICU Nurse

For obvious reasons, ICU nurses are the most in-demand and highest-paid travel nurse specialty. They have received extensive training in caring for the most critical patients, including those who are intubated, ventilated, on life-sustaining medication drips, or whose lives are hanging by a thread. Working in the ICU requires you to be meticulously organized, to respond quickly to emergencies, and to deal with unpredictable situations.

ICU nurses frequently have advanced training and certification, which translates to higher pay packages. Furthermore, ICU nurses can essentially work or float to the majority of the hospital’s units, which increases demand.

2. Travel ER and OR Nurses

Although there is a lot of overlap between the ER and OR travel nurse specialties, they are still two distinct professions. The main distinctions are the number of patients you will see on any given day and the predictability of your workflow during your travel nurse assignment. Because you are exposed to more people with a wide range of illnesses and injuries in the ER, you must prioritize far more. On the other hand, the OR will see a set number of people per day, and you will know which conditions you will see.

3. Travel Medical-Surgical Nurse

Medical-surgical nurses provide patient care for various medical conditions and frequently have more patient assignments than ICU nurses. A Med-Surg nurse is in charge of coordinating a patient’s care from the moment they walk in the door until they leave. Travel nurses’ knowledge and experience in these specialties are critical and irreplaceable. Med-Surg nurses must have strong critical-thinking abilities, extensive clinical knowledge, and the ability to remain calm under pressure.

4. Travel L&D Nurse

Because of the high number of births in many hospitals, L&D nurses are consistently among the highest-paid travel nursing specialties. Travel nurses in labor and delivery are an essential part of the delivery process, ensuring that mothers, newborns, and their extended families receive quality, essential care at all stages of the birthing process. These nurses typically care for relatively healthy patients, but they must be prepared to handle any emergencies that may arise, such as an unplanned cesarean section.

5. Travel Telemetry Nurse

Telemetry nurses, like medical-surgical nurses, primary care for patients who require advanced cardiac monitoring. Travel telemetry nurses frequently care for more critically ill patients than medical-surgical nurses. They are responsible for educating patients on home health care, as well as monitoring changes in condition, and recording and interpreting vital data to aid in patient assessment.

Cardiovascular surgery, renal failure, COPD, sleep disorders, neurological problems, epilepsy, and cancer are all common conditions that necessitate Telemetry RN intervention.

The Top 10 Highest-Paying Registered Nurse Salaries by State

1. California

Hourly mean wage: $57.96

Annual mean wage: $120.560

Number of RNs employed: 307,060

2. Hawaii

Hourly mean wage: $50.40

Annual mean wage: $104,830

Number of RNs employed: 11,260

3. Massachusetts

Hourly mean wage: $46.27

Annual mean wage: $96,250

Number of RNs employed: $84,030

4. Alaska

Hourly mean wage: $45.81

Annual mean wage: $95,270

Number of RNs employed: 6,240

5. Oregon

Hourly mean wage: $46.27

Annual mean wage: $96,230

Number of RNs employed: 36,840

6. Washington

Hourly mean wage: $43.90

Annual mean wage: $91,310

Number of RNs employed: 59,300

7. District of Columbia

Hourly mean wage: $43.29

Annual mean wage: $90,050

Number of RNs employed: 10,320

8. New York

Hourly mean wage: $43.16

Annual mean wage: $89,760

Number of RNs employed: 178,550

9. Nevada

Hourly mean wage: $43.15

Annual mean wage: $89,750

Number of RNs employed: 23,420

10. New Jersey

Hourly mean wage: $41.21

Annual mean wage: $85,720

Number of RNs employed: 78,590

Core Benefits of Travel Nursing

Travel Nurse Pay is Competitive.

Travel nursing jobs pay very well. Remember to keep your expectations in check. Your pay will vary according to your location, facility, and nursing specialty.

In addition to your base salary, you should be eligible for nontaxable reimbursements or per diem payments for your travel expenses. Companies may treat these differences in their paychecks, so it pays to be thorough.

Housing at No Cost

Yes! Free. This is one of the most significant travel nursing advantages. A traveler can choose between free, furnished housing provided by their staffing agency and a housing stipend to find their own place.

Insurance Protection

Most travel nursing companies provide adequate health insurance for their travel nurses, but some provide more options than others. Questions to consider include, “Do you cover my family as well?” ” Although I had to pay the difference to add my wife to my policy, it was well worth it.”

Options for Retirement (401K)

Yes, you can make a living as a travel nurse! A lot of people do. Having a retirement plan is therefore prudent planning on your part. And if you decide to stop traveling, you can transfer many of your plans to your next nursing job.

CEUs for Free

Ask your recruiter if your company provides free continuing education for travel nurses. You might be surprised at how many options you have.

How to Increase Your Travel Nurse Pay 


This is true in both real estate and travel nursing. Some markets simply pay better, whether due to a local shortage of qualified professionals or a higher cost of living.

Metropolitan areas typically pay higher wages than rural areas. Non-hospital positions are frequently more lucrative as well.

Just be wary of geographies that pay more because of higher living costs. You may end up spending the extra money on higher rent and groceries.

Pick Up Per Diem Shifts While on Assignment

If your contract allows for overtime, working an extra shift or two at your current facility is easy to do. But it’s probably better for your career to work with different facilities in your market. Working extra shifts at different facilities isn’t just about more money. 

It allows you to grow your network by working with different staff and doctors. While there are a lot of benefits to working per diem shifts while on assignment, there can be drawbacks too. 

Accept Less Desirable Shifts

Most of us associate work with day shifts from Monday to Friday. Weekends, holidays, and night shifts, on the other hand, typically pay more for the same work as a weekday shift.

Not everyone can fit these less-than-desirable changes into their daily schedules or travel plans, but the benefits are obvious. If it works for you, these shifts can earn you a few dollars more per hour on average.

Develop a New Skill

Certain specialties pay significantly more than others. CRNAs and nurse practitioners are at the top of the list, but they require an advanced degree. ICU and ER nursing traditionally pay well, but the work environment is extremely stressful. And, as with any change in a specialty, you must seize the right opportunity. Another reason why it is critical to expanding your professional network.

However, if you’re up for the challenge, the payoff is obvious. Degrees, certifications, and experience can lead to a specialty that pays six figures rather than five.

FAQs About Travel Nurse Salary

What is the highest salary for a travel nurse?

Under normal circumstances, many travel nurses can earn more than $3,000 per week. Travel nurses can earn more than $50 per hour, plus company-paid housing. It is entirely feasible for travel nurses to earn well over $100,000 per year.

Is it worth it to be a travel nurse?

Being a travel nurse is undoubtedly a difficult job that requires a significant time commitment, but for some people, being able to help people and travel around the world is what makes the travel nurse job worthwhile. So, if you want to be a travel nurse, you should definitely give it a shot.

How much do travel nurses make in the USA?

In the United States, the average weekly salary for a travel nurse is $2,047. As of October 10, 2022, 53.8k salaries had been reported.

Where do travel nurses make the most money?

“Crisis” and “Rapid Response.” Because of their urgent requirements, assignments have some of the highest rates in the travel nursing industry. These assignments necessitate nurses to arrive at work quickly, usually within two weeks. They are typically shorter than the standard 13-week assignment, so you can get started right away if you are ready.

Why are travel nurses rich?

So, why do travel nurses earn more money? Because they fill short-term needs, accept assignments in areas with severe nursing shortages, are compensated for their flexibility, and work in difficult-to-fill specialties.

How many years does it take to become a travel nurse?

Full-time students can earn an ADN or BSN in two to four years. Most travel nursing agencies also require at least one year of work experience before offering a contract.

How many hours do travel nurses work?

Although hiring agencies and individual contracts vary, travel nursing positions typically consist of 40-hour workweeks with either five 8-hour, four 10-hour, or three 12-hour shifts, though hours and days vary by facility. Typically, each contract period begins with a multi-day orientation session.

Is becoming a travel nurse hard?

Travel nursing is a rewarding experience, but it also requires hard work, long hours, flexibility, and the ability to adapt quickly to a variety of situations. Everyone reacts differently, and it’s often just a learning curve that you get used to after the first few assignments.

How hard is it to become a travel nurse?

Most positions require at least two years of experience in your nursing specialty, whether it’s surgical, neonatal, critical care, pediatrics, trauma, or a clinical nurse with multiple specialties. Your clinical experience will determine which positions you are qualified for as a travel nurse.

What college is best for becoming a travel nurse?

The University of Phoenix and Grand Canyon University are the most common colleges where students pursue their dream of becoming traveling nurses. We also determined which colleges offer the best overall education for a traveling nurse. Students at the following schools have a great opportunity to earn their traveling nurse qualifications:

  1. The University of Duke
  2. Penn State University
  3. University of Yale

Where are travel nurses needed most?

California, Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina are among them. Travel nurses are desperately needed in these states, and employers frequently offer incentives to entice nurses to work for them. Throughout the year, California has the highest demand for travel nurses.

How often do travel nurses travel?

The typical travel nursing assignment lasts 13 weeks. That means a travel nurse working on a regular basis could expect to move four times per year (52 weeks per year divided by 13 = four). However, 13 weeks is only the average. Some travel nursing assignments can last up to 26 weeks, while others are only four weeks long.

We’ve created a few medical fields guide to help you start out on the right track if you’re interested in going into healthcare. These articles will help you understand what each specialization entails and give you tips for getting started. Check out some of our articles on Phlebotomist, Flight Nurses, Forensic Nurses, Travel Nurse, and Medical Coding and Billing.


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