The Costs of Becoming a Travel Nurse

Travel nursing expenses

By Lee Soren, contributor

Experienced travel nurses are probably familiar with the expenses they'll face when going on assignment, but RNs who are considering a career in the field should consider the upfront costs when asking themselves, "Is travel nursing worth it?" Here are five major expenses you'll have to cover before venturing out on your first assignment.

1. Licensing fees

If you accept a position across state lines, you may need to pay for licensing. Thankfully, the Nurse Licensure Compact offers a multistate license that lets nurses practice in any of the participating compact states. Unfortunately, nurses who live in or have accepted a position in a nonparticipating state will still need to secure an individual state license in their employer's state.

Licensing application fees vary by state, and nurses may also need to lay out money for fingerprinting, transcript fees and securing any additional documentation. For state-specific licensing fees, contact the Board of Nursing in your employer's state.

2. Certification renewal fees

If you've accepted a specialty nursing position, you may also need to apply for specialty certification. Although specialty certification is issued on a national level, saving nurses from having to apply on a state-by-state basis, it typically needs to be renewed every two years. You should contact the credentialing organization responsible for your specialty to find out more about applicable renewal fees.

3. Medical expenses

Travel nurses must be able to provide medical records, which should include an up-to-date physical and vaccinations, a TB exam and an MMR titer, and costs can add up. Although many nurses can access these healthcare services free of charge through their current facility, there's often a fee for accessing and transferring medical records.

One way to defray the cost is to obtain your own copy of these records so you can provide prospective employers with the required documentation without having to spend money every time.

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4. Travel costs

While some agencies will purchase plane or train tickets for travel nurses, you'll need to pay upfront for most of your travel expenses, including gasoline, tolls and lodging. If you're laying out the money for nonrefundable plane tickets or hotel reservations, it may also be a good idea to invest in travel insurance. The added expense provides peace of mind, knowing that you won't lose hundreds of dollars or more if your contract falls through.

5. Uniforms

Before embarking on a new assignment, it's a good idea to check into the facility's dress code. While nurses generally wear scrubs to work, some hospitals and medical centers require specific colors. Your new employer may also have guidelines for acceptable footwear.

Check with your recruiter, who should be able to get this information for you so you can purchase any necessary articles of clothing prior to heading off to your assignment.

6. Miscellaneous expenses

Beyond the basics, you may find other miscellaneous expenses associated with travel nursing, such as:

  • Storage: If you're subletting your apartment or renting out your house, you'll probably want to invest in a storage unit for any personal belongings you aren't bringing on assignment.
  • Safe deposit boxes: A safe deposit box in a bank can protect items of significant monetary or sentimental value such as heirloom jewelry or important documents in your absence.
  • Luggage: Travel nurses should invest in sturdy luggage that will hold up to multiple moves.

Is travel nursing worth it?

Although travel nurses may have to cover some costs upfront, they're typically eligible to receive reimbursements for mileage, hotel stays and other travel-related expenses through their travel staffing agency. They may even be able to recoup state licensing fees. In addition, travel nurses often receive stipends for housing and other essentials, which can offset the financial burden created by upfront costs.

When weighing the pros and cons of each assignment, candidates should ask questions about potential expenses and reimbursement options to accurately assess payment packages. While these factors may help you decide whether the upfront investment is worth the ultimate payoff, you should also consider the other benefits of travel nursing, including competitive pay rates, the opportunity to learn at top hospitals nationwide and the chance to visit new, exciting locations.

If you're ready to explore the benefits available through a travel nurse job, visit's database of positions today.



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