Travel Nurse Salary: How Much Do They Make?
By Aaron Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse blogger
Money can be a huge driver for many to enter the field of travel nursing. Personally, I was more driven by the adventure of seeing new places, but I’ll admit that the money ain’t bad either!
But what can you really expect as far as a travel nurse’s salary and overall compensation?
Dispelling 4 myths about your travel nurse salary
Here are some common misconceptions and myths about the salaries of travel nurses:
“I’m gonna get rich in travel nursing.”
You can earn a lot of money, certainly! But there truly is no average travel nurse pay. Travel nursing jobs and salaries really vary. Most of my travel assignments did pay higher than most of my staff positions, especially when you include the free housing, daily allowances and reimbursements.
Your financial gains will depend on things like:
- Location of your travel nursing jobs, since salary rates vary by region
- Your nursing specialty
- Type of assignment; for instance, rapid response/critical staffing jobs often pay more
- Your flexibility regarding available assignments
- Your personal situation, such as if you travel alone, if you maintain a tax home, etc.
“This assignment pay is low; it won’t be worth it.”
Not necessarily, my friend. Many factors go into how much a travel nursing assignment pays and whether you might deem it worthwhile.
Some places pay a lower travel nurse salary, but also have a lower cost of living, so you’ll be able to live well during your assignment and possibly stash money away for the future. (Remember: free housing, reimbursements, etc.)
RELATED: Where Do RNs Earn Top Dollar?
You may also gain important skills for future nursing jobs that will raise your earning potential.
There may be other reasons to take a lower travel nurse salary, too, such as for a dream location. For years I wanted to get a travel job in Hawaii, hoping for a crazy island adventure. I even interviewed for a few positions on the islands but thought the pay was too low. Now I wish I would have gone for it!
“This travel nursing pay is super high, it must be a horrible place to work.”
Again, this one is a myth. I’ve had several high-paying travel RN jobs and most of them were great.
Pay is often a result of demand/need, cost of living and some of the other factors mentioned above.
My best paying travel nurse job was in Southern California working night shift. Off shifts, holiday seasons and weekend jobs typically offer a differential in pay, so be aware of this when shopping for your next travel gig.
“Travel nurse contracts really limit your pay.”
Travel nurse salaries are set by contract, but there are several ways to earn more than just your hourly rate. Certain travel jobs offer sign-on bonuses, completion bonuses and extra money if you work a certain shift or days (such as every holiday during your assignment). Overtime pay is also a possibility.
How much travel nurses make is usually a combination of taxable pay and nontaxable reimbursements, as well, so be sure you understand the ins and outs.
In fact, be sure to go over all the details about pay and benefits with your recruiter before accepting any travel nursing job. There are usually specifics that need to be followed to earn bonuses and such, so I’d hate to see anyone lose out on money because you didn’t understand the fine print.
Again, there’s a lot of variation when it comes to travel nursing salaries, and factors like location, housing and career opportunity can all trump money in my book.
You’ll need to weigh all these factors for yourself.
READ MORE of Aaron’s travel nursing blogs or FIND ANSWERS to travel nursing questions with TravelNursing.com.