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Travel Nursing | Average Salary + Benefits 2023

If you’re looking to become a travel nurse, you probably have many factors driving your decision, from a desire to help people, expand your skills, or to simply take on a new adventure. But no matter what your motivation for becoming a travel nurse, your total compensation will vary from that of a staff nurse.

There are a lot of different factors with travel nursing that affect your salary and overall pay, like the length of the contract, and your specialty. Because there are so many different factors, there is a lot of conflicting information about travel nurses’ salaries. We’ve broken things down to make it easy for you to get the facts, including what an average travel nurse’s salary is and how much you can expect to make as a travel nurse.

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Travel Nurse Salary

A good starting place to base your travel nursing salary on is the median salary figure for a Registered Nurse in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a Registered Nurse as of 2021 was $77,600 per year. However, because of the in-demand and transient nature of the job of a travel nurse, travel nurses can expect to make, in general, more than the average staff nurse.

For example, one survey of nurses who had found travel nursing positions using a popular employment site found that the average weekly wage of a travel nurse is $2,253 per week, which is approximately $123,198 per year. However, travel nurse salaries ranged from as low as $83,028 to as high as $182,802.

Keep in mind, though, that many travel nurses work different travel positions over the course of the year, so that figure can fluctuate based on the job’s conditions, any overtime, and the flexibility of the nurse’s schedule. Not to mention those non-taxable stipends. Your nursing specialty can also affect your total compensation as some hospitals may pay a premium for specific high-demand specialties.

Additional Travel Nursing Benefits

A travel nurse can expect some additional compensation that a staff nurse might not have access to.

1. Many travel nurses earn sign-on bonuses when signing with a travel staffing agency.
2. Travel nurses may also get referrals if they bring other nurses onto the agency to work, and receive housing and meal allotments.
3. A typical travel nursing position includes a compensation package for the nurse, which lists the base salary, as well as additional stipends, bonuses, and payments the nurse will receive for a total value that can be considerably higher than a staff nurse. That compensation may include the following:

  • Housing, meal, and incidental stipends, which could cover a majority of your bills
  • Travel expense reimbursement for getting to your new nursing assignment
  • Reimbursement for things like your scrubs, books, or nursing supplies
  • Bonuses (signing, referral, stay-on, or longevity)
  • Health insurance, including dental, vision, and medical
  • 401(k) benefits or other retirement options
  • Life insurance options
  • Certification and licensure reimbursement

In some cases, your stipends as a travel nurse will be just that — stipends, which means that you receive them no matter what. So, if you’re able to find cheaper housing, or decide to make a diet of Ramen noodles your go-to, you have the potential to pocket the extra money as well. Most of the time, these stipends are non-taxable, which means you don’t have to report them as additional income come April. You can also get tax breaks for maintaining your full-time home, which equates to extra money in your pocket overall too.

Perks of Travel Nursing You May Not Know

But it’s important to remember that although travel nursing offers a wide range of financial perks, there are so many incredible non-monetary benefits to bravely taking on a travel position!

For example, travel nursing can make you an even better nurse by exposing you to various new learning experiences in and out of the hospital. Not only are you moving to a new city or state, but you are also gaining exposure to diverse patient populations and unique hospital environments. While many career nurses work within the same unit and specialty throughout their careers, travel nurses gain exposure to as many different environments as they desire!

New clinical experiences allow travel nurses increased opportunities to learn new skills and techniques. Travel nursing may even help you better understand how to provide the highest-quality patient care more efficiently.

Here are other travel nursing perks you may not know about yet:

  • Exposure to different hospital procedures and protocols
  • Meet new like-minded travel nurse friends
  • Build professional relationships in different hospitals and other medical facilities
  • Build a more diverse resume
  • Gain independence and confidence in your abilities
  • Learn how to be a better team player and problem-solver
  • See new places and experience different cultures
  • Move to a new area without the long-term commitment
  • Get out of your comfort zone and avoid career stagnation

Travel nurses get to see the nursing profession through many lenses. Who knows — maybe after your next travel assignment, you’ll take your enhanced knowledge to other healthcare facilities and wow them with your nursing prowess!

Highest Paying Cities For Travel Nursing In 2023

Some of the highest-paying cities in the country for travel nursing include the “big” cities that might pop up in your mind immediately, such as San Jose and Oakland. But there are other high-paying cities that might surprise you! According to ZipRecruiter, the top 10 highest-paid cities for travel nursing in the U.S. are:

  1. San Jose, CA | Annual salary: $127,092
  2. Jackson, WY | Annual salary: $126,283
  3. Oakland, CA | Annual salary: $125,751
  4. Vallejo, CA | Annual salary: $123,565
  5. Hayward, CA | Annual salary: $123,059
  6. Seattle, WA | Annual salary: $122,916
  7. Truckee, CA | Annual salary: $122,222
  8. Santa Barbara, CA | Annual salary: $122,180
  9. Sunnyvale, CA | Annual salary: $121,535
  10. Vail, CO | Annual salary: $121,520

See what positions are available for your specialties.

Highest Paying States For Travel Nurses 2023

You should also be aware that there are many high-paying travel nursing states as well. It is important to remember that travel nurse pay often depends on the current demand for nurses in that area, and that can change from year to year. According to ZipRecruiter, the top 10 highest-paid states for travel nursing in the U.S. this year are:

  1. New York | Annual salary: $105,059
  2. Idaho | Annual salary: $102,108
  3. California | Annual salary: $100,282
  4. New Hampshire | Annual salary: $97,185
  5. Vermont | Annual salary: $96,117
  6. Maine | Annual salary: $94,805
  7. Hawaii | Annual salary: $93,457
  8. Massachusetts | Annual salary: $93,440
  9. Tennessee | Annual salary: $92,503
  10. Wyoming | Annual salary: $91,822

How You Can Make More Money As A Travel Nurse

In addition to choosing an assignment in a high-paying location and signing with a travel agency that offers competitive rates and extra-compensation packages, there are other ways that you can earn even higher pay. For example, you could take any of the following strategies to earn an even higher travel nursing salary:

  • Get additional training for an in-demand specialty. The easiest way to get training for an in-demand specialty is to seek training at the hospital where you work as a career nurse before becoming a travel nurse. Once you start traveling, it may be harder to switch specialties.
  • Sign up for rapid response posting. This is when a travel nursing agency will post a position that requires a very fast turnaround to begin work, similar to being “on-call” at a staffing position.
  • Work in less popular places. A lot of travel nurses like to travel to the beach in summer, but there are other areas that need help, and facilities are often willing to incentivize.
  • Consider working in a strike zone. It may not be a popular choice, but hospitals that are in the middle of a strike need staffing agencies to temporarily fill nursing positions, carrying a higher wage potential for you.

Travel Nurse Salary Examples

Your total travel nurse salary will include your base pay as a nurse (the hourly wage you receive for actually working as a nurse) as well as any additional stipend pay, which may be broken down hourly, daily, weekly, or even monthly for a grand total of a “blended” pay.

As an example of how the blended pay might look, you can consider the following breakdown:

Travel Nurse Blended Pay Example for 3 Month Contract

The specific compensation that you’ll receive as a travel nurse will be unique to you and will vary from contract to contract. If you have any questions regarding the pay for your contract, then ask your recruiter — you should have a complete understanding of your compensation before committing to a contract.

Travel Nurse Salary FAQs

How much can you make as a travel nurse?

The amount of money a travel nurse can make varies depending on several factors, including the specialty, location, part-time or full-time status, and years of experience. According to ZipRecruiter, as of February 2023, travel nurses earn a median salary of $105,818 annually or $51 an hour. However, they also report that some of the highest-earning travel nurses make as much as $185,000 every year!

Is travel nursing worth the money?

Travel nursing is worth the money as long as your situation aligns with your needs, desires, and priorities. There are many perks to travel nursing, including higher pay, the opportunity to learn and grow in diverse healthcare environments, and the freedom to travel to new locations.

However, some travel nurses may find travel nursing difficult. Travel nursing requires a level of bravery to move into the unknown, often alone. If you find that you have difficulty adapting to new environments or don’t want to live far from family and friends, travel nursing may not be the right choice for you.

What are the highest-paid travel nurse specialties?

Some nursing specialties, such as intensive care, emergency room, or operating room nursing, may have higher pay rates than others. ZipRecruiter reports that as of February 2023, some of the highest-paying travel nursing specialties include:

ICU nurse: $143,715 annually or $69/hr
Emergency room nurse: $148,531 annually or $71/hr
Operating room nurse: $181,783 annually or $87/hr

Also, states and regions may offer higher pay rates if they have a greater demand for nurses at that time.

Do travel nurses make over 100k?

Yes! According to ZipRecruiter, as of February 2023, the median annual salary for travel nurses in the US is $118,400 or $57 per hour. The highest-paying travel nurses earn as much as $189,500 per year!

What benefits do travel nurses get?

Travel nurses typically receive a base salary along with other benefits, which may include:
– Stipends for housing, meal, and incidentals
– Travel expense reimbursement to your new location
– Reimbursement for scrubs, books, or nursing supplies
– Bonuses (signing, referral, stay-on, or longevity)
– Health, dental, vision, and medical insurance
– 401k or other retirement options
– Life insurance

Do travel nurses get everything paid for?

Overall, travel nurse pay depends on the terms of their employment agreement. However, travel nurses can typically expect to receive various benefits and compensation packages, including housing accommodation, travel expenses, retirement benefits, medical insurance, and sometimes even certification and licensure reimbursements.

In some cases, travel nurses may have to cover some of their own expenses. Or they may receive a stipend to offset their living expenses.

Why do travel nurses get paid so much?

Travel nurses often get paid more than career nurses because they help healthcare facilities fill urgent staffing needs and maintain safe staffing levels to ensure the highest level of patient care. They’re also flexible and willing to work in a variety of locations and positions that staff nurses may not be willing to work. Hiring managers use higher pay rates, sign-on bonuses, and other incentives to attract more experienced nurses to travel to their location for a specified period of time.