Travel Nurse Salary & Benefits: How Does It Compare to Perm?

Smiling at patient in wheelchair

By Anita Wong, contributor

Registered nurses have a bright employment outlook, with demand for skilled RNs growing much faster than other occupations. With so many permanent opportunities available, you might wonder why you'd opt for a career as a travel nurse. Here's a closer look at how travel nurse salary and benefits compare to permanent positions.

Why are travel nurses needed?

RN positions are expected to expand by 12% from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics. In fact, nursing shortages are expected to intensify as baby boomers require more healthcare and nurses retire.

While hospitals rely on full-time staff nurses, they also require travel nurses to fill in when permanent RNs go on vacation or leave. Qualified travel nurses are well-compensated to help fill these staffing gaps and ensure hospitals continue operating smoothly.

Salaries are higher for travel nurses

The average income of a nurse varies according to specialty, experience, credentials and the facility or location. Generally, however, travel nurses earn more than permanent staff. The median salary for a registered nurse for 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $71,730. Travel nurses can earn $100,000 or more per year.

PayScale, for example, reports that the median salary for an emergency room nurse is $30.99 per hour. By comparison, an ER nurse on a short-term travel assignment can earn from $23.20 per hour to as high as $60.00 per hour.

Accommodation and meals

To ease the transition to a new travel assignment, travel nurse agencies typically provide furnished accommodation. If you prefer to find your own housing or stay with friends, you can choose a non-taxable stipend instead. Per diems for meals and transportation may also be offered.

You can also qualify for overtime pay, a signing bonus or a referral fee. Be sure to review your full travel nurse salary and benefits package carefully so you know what's included and what's not for your particular assignment.

Other benefits

Some nurses prefer to take staff positions to be eligible for insurance and other benefits, but these incentives can also be available to travel nurses. There are travel agencies that provide generous medical, dental and vision insurance programs, as well as 401(k) plans, as part of their travel nurse salary and benefits. These incentives help make travel nursing a more stable, long-term option.

Find out about the travel nurse salary and benefits that you can expect.

Enjoy a flexible lifestyle

One of the constraints of a full-time position is limited days off. As a travel nurse, you set your own schedule. You still have to work the hours required by your contract, but once it's complete, you have the freedom to start a new assignment immediately or take time off to refresh yourself and avoid burnout.

You can also choose the type of facility you'd like to work at. Would you like experience at a prestigious hospital, a facility that specializes in a certain field or a teaching hospital? You don't have to stay in one place. Chances are you can find an assignment that matches your preferences so you can develop a versatile skill set and meet your career goals.

Get paid to travel

This is one of the most popular perks of travel nursing. When you have a full-time position, your travel is limited to the holiday time you've accumulated. You also have to consider hotel, airfare and other travel expenses when planning vacations.

Travel nursing pays you to go places. Select your assignment based on where your spirit of adventure takes you. Live by the beach, get near the mountains or see what iconic cities like New York or New Orleans have to offer. Make your way along the west coast or explore the south. Spend weeks or months in a location and get to know it like a local.

Travel nursing isn't for everyone, and many RNs are fulfilled in a permanent position they love. But for those interested in combining work with adventure, travel nursing offers an enticing array of personal and professional advantages, whether you work a few assignments or pursue it as a career.

Use your registered nursing skills to enrich your life while you deliver quality care to your patients. Learn more about where travel nursing opportunities can take you.


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