What Is A Travel Nurse and How Much Do They Make?

What Is A Travel Nurse and How Much Do They Make?

Do you want to travel, care for patients, and work in different hospitals? Then a career as a travel nurse might be for you.

Nursing is one of those professions where you can work and receive experience from various places, from outpatient facilities, schools, healthcare centers, and as a travel nurse, you’re able to work in all these places at once.  As a travel nurse, you can gather experiences from various healthcare-focused centers, care for patients from diverse backgrounds, and travel; domestic and international.

What is a Travel Nurse 


Travel nurses are RNs who take assignments in various settings, namely hospitals that have short term staff needs.  They work for independent staffing agencies that assign them to their specialized care areas like general, pediatrics, and oncology.  This nursing allows nurses to have freedom and flexibility, i.e. choose their own schedule and contracted location. With the help of the agency, they can choose the facility they work for and their start date. Like permanent nursing, travel nurses work in the city, teaching, rural, or critical care facilities.

Typical Contract/Work Period: Typically, assignments range from 8 to 13-week assignments (during a crisis), or more. As mentioned before, travel nursing is a short- assignment, their contracted work period is on the location and facility needs.

What does a Travel Nurse do?

Depending on their specialty, travel nurse duties may vary, but they:

  • Perform essential research and patient care program design
  • Deliver information and counsel patients about better health outcomes
  • Play a role in the treatment and medication delivery
  • Collaborate with other health care professional to ensure quality patient care
  • Examine patients and speak to them about their symptoms to make critical decisions about care.

Travel Nursing (In Demand)

RNs are always in demand, having travel nurses who can fill in employment gaps is important for the care of patients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% overall growth for nurses until 2024. Hospitals and other care facilities might hire a travel nurse during the flu season or during permanent staff training sessions. The extra support allows facilities to meet the needs of their patients while they train.  Travel nurses have different educational backgrounds and because they have experience working in various care areas, they can bring those experiences to different locations to improve the outcome of patient care. 

Note: There’s always a high demand for RNs and flexibility, being flexible affords more opportunity. Also, if you are unsure about what hospital to work for or care area, as a travel nurse you can “shop around.” You can work at various places, experience various patient care styles, meet different people before finding a permanent position that best fits you.

How To Become A Travel Nurse

To become a travel nurse, you must have the proper credentials and work with a healthcare staffing agency or company.

A travel nurse must have an ADN or a BSN. Although a BSN is not required for travel nursing, some facilities require an RN license. There’s no additional examination to be a travel nurse, but they may need certifications, depending on the care area. For example, if a travel nurse is covering the ER, it requires them to have a

  •  Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) 
  •  Trauma Nurse Core Course certification. 

Question: Do I need Multiple State Licenses and Certifications?

As a travel nurse, maintaining state licenses is a must. Many hospitals will not look or hire a nurse if they do not have a license in their state. Travel nurses increase their chances of job opportunities and high-paying jobs when they have multiple active state licenses.

Research travel nursing companies

They’re about 340 travel nursing companies in the US. Whether you plan to work domestically or internationally, researching an agency is a must. Staffing companies and agencies are the ones that place nurses in locations and will match the travel nurse to their employer and care area based on credentials and experience. Travel nursing agencies can help with housing, negotiation, shift changes, and benefits.

Question: Should I work with one agency or multiple?

There are pros and cons to working with one and multiple, namely job opportunities.  Although travel nursing is flexible and in demand, the drawback may be in finding the right opportunities. By working with multiple agencies, your travel nurse can work, you can increase your chances and sometimes different hospitals pay different rates.

Working with local agencies who have a relationship with local hospitals and can help you get more opportunities in those hospitals.  Always keep in touch with your agency, share your concerns, and ask for high paying assignments and bonuses.

How Much Does a Travel Nurse Make?

Travel nurse pay depends on location, specialty, experience, and urgency. According to the BLS, nurses receive on average about 70,000, with bonuses and experience, a travel nurse receives more.  Since demand and pay is competitive, some companies offer about 100,000 annually for domestic travel nurses. Again, it depends on location i.e. state, specialty travel agency,  and experience.  

Also, travel nurses work in various care areas and positions yearly, so pay can fluctuate, but hospitals still pay travel nurses higher; especially if their specialties are in high demand. Travel nurses connect with recruiters about being assigned to opportunities with higher pay and overtime benefits. Travel nurses can make up to $5000 or more a week, with added benefits.

Additional benefits

  • Housing and meal stipends may be included
  • Travel expenses and reimbursements
  • Bonuses i.e signing, referrals, stay on or longevity
  • Health insurance, including dental vision and medical
  • 401(k) benefits or retirement options
  • Tax break for maintaining your full-time home, meaning you have your own housing so they compensate you

Note: International Travel nurses make less than domestic travel nurses because they pay nurses less outside the U.S.

Want to know more about Travel Nurses and what they do 

Hope this article was helpful. Let us know in the comment below if there’s something we missed or if you have questions.

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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