What is The Average Travel Nurse Salary in The United States? – Explained State by State


A travel nurse is a prestigious title for those in the nursing field. Many registered nurses are looking to become travel nurses to get better compensation and exposure. Diving into the travel nurse regime requires certain qualifications.

The salary travel nurses receive varies drastically, depending on a lot of factors. This well-sought-after position entails lots of benefits and is very high in demand for lots of places.

What Is a Travel Nurse?

The name may already have given it away. A travel nurse is a nurse that travels for short periods of time to various medical institutions, including but not limited to hospitals, clinics, universities, and research institutions.

Travel nurses fill the gap of supply shortages in these facilities by providing professional services. Some medical institutions have seasonal demands for medical staff. Instead of hiring full-time nurses, which would incur huge costs, they hire travel nurses to fill in for this duration. Then, the travel nurse would carry on to the next job or return to the home state.

It also increases mobility for registered nurses to serve in different areas. Their expertise may contribute to the facility. Travel nurses often get sent overseas to fill a position. There are no geographical boundaries in this industry.

As a travel nurse, your job duties will cover diagnosing patients, assisting in giving medical treatments, communicating with other healthcare professionals, and formulating an efficient workflow for the ward. 

Can Every Nurse Be a Travel Nurse?

To qualify to work as a travel nurse, you should be a registered nurse at a bare minimum. Most travel nurses are hired through recruitment agencies that place them at various locations. Travel nurses seldom work independently without an agency. Oftentimes, it can be hard to keep up with the demand in other areas.

An agency works closely with many healthcare facilities. It knows when a travel nurse is needed. Thus, joining an agency is the best way to get assignments for those new to this field. Besides, an agency will typically negotiate the best rate for travel nurses. 

Some travel nurses may work in a multinational medical facility. The company assigns travel nurses to different positions whenever a branch faces a staff shortage. They are the backbone to support the operation when emergencies happen. The company may send travel nurses to other locations to educate local staff as well.

Since traveling is required frequently and sometimes with a short notice period, becoming a travel nurse is more suitable for those excited about traveling to places. It is not for people wishing for stability.

To sum up, not every registered nurse can be a travel nurse immediately, but everyone has the potential to. The best way to transition to a travel nurse career is to focus on one specialty. It helps you get selected by companies and assignments that require this specific skill set. 

Travel Nurse Salary

The salary range for travel nurses is huge. Some can make $70,000 a year, while others make well over $200,000 if they are willing to be versatile in the types of assignments. Usually, a travel nurse would make around $3,000 a week.

Experienced travel nurses will have a better bargain. The salary also adjusts for the cost of living in the designated location. Some companies will offer accommodation while others provide a stipend and other allowances.

In general, travel nurses are well-compensated. All travel expenses are covered. If you need additional support during the work period, the company has to accommodate you. Travel nurses assigned to overseas projects will even receive a large sum of allowances, adjusted for the local cost of living.

Working with a reputable recruitment agency means you can always negotiate for the best rates. Every time you sign with a new placement, your agency will take out a certain percentage as commission. Hence, they will always try to get the best rates for you. 

If you work in an organization with several branches, your company may assign you as a travel nurse based on the demand. You will get extra compensation and training for it. In comparison, travel nurses that work within the same organization tend to get more stable projects and can foresee well ahead when they are needed.

With an agency, you must anticipate emergency calls. You could be assigned to another state with a one-day notice in some cases. Since the nature of a travel nurse is to fill in, there are many occasions when you feel the work environment is more intense than working as a regular registered nurse.

The salary also depends on your specialty. If you are skilled in one niche, you can bargain for a much bigger raise. For example, psychiatric travel nurses make more than regular travel nurses. Your expertise is fully reflected in your salary and compensation.

Another pay factor is the shift you are willing to take. Some travel nurses stick to normal office hours if they work in a clinic, healthcare facility, or research institution. Other travel nurses may have to take up shifts if they work in a hospital. Your willingness to take shifts, especially overnight shifts, will increase your salary. 

Is Being a Travel Nurse The Right Job For You? 

Nurse Writing On A Desk

There are a lot of factors to consider before you go for this career path. First, given the exhausting constant relocations, you need to consider your own health. Some travel nurses experience burnout frequently. After a few intense jobs, you may experience a hit to your mental health as you are always roaming in unfamiliar places.

Also, your interpersonal skills and personality matter a lot. If you are outgoing and love working with different people, you could benefit from being a travel nurse. This job title requires you to meet with new coworkers on a daily basis. Every time you change location, you are greeted by a bunch of new managers. 

It also implies flexibility. You have to be agile to deal with all sorts of situations. The management style in each workplace is different. Learning to fit in and staying professional is key to being an outstanding travel nurse.

Of course, balancing your private life is important too. Some travel nurses choose to step down after starting their own families. Being on the road all the time is not very feasible for those with young children. You may find it hard to balance if you have to leave your children to your partner all the time and miss out on bonding moments.

Essentially, while travel nurses receive higher pay than regular registered nurses, this industry sees high mobility too. Travel nurses do not always stay in this position due to other life priorities. Many would commit to their role for a decade before moving on to other things in life.

If you are young and ambitious, you might adore the travel nurse work style. It gives you so much exposure and is an excellent way to meet other experts in the field. Building networking around the globe assists your career path. You could be recruited as a consultant later.

Besides, the skills you acquire in different regions will accelerate your job search process in the future. You can be more location-fluid and be hired by companies in any destination of your choice. 

Working as a travel nurse offers incredible knowledge and experience to broaden your skillset. However, it does come with sacrifices. You should evaluate the pros and cons before signing with an agency or a company. The tough work environment may take a toll on you. 

Benefits Of Being a Travel Nurse

Other than your salary, you will receive the full package as non-monetary compensation. Compared to other nurses, benefits for nurses that have to relocate often offer a bigger scope. To begin with, you will receive regular health checks to ensure you are flying to relocate.

Mental health support is also included as many travel nurses do struggle with fitting in sometimes. Your agency or work unit may also provide periodic therapy sessions to assess your mental state. It helps to see if you could carry on with the next assignment and what level of work you can finish.

The benefits extend well to your family members. Since you will be away a lot during the year, your package usually includes childcare benefits. Your company will offer support to your children or subsidies for daycare services. You may also negotiate additional holidays so you can fly home and visit your family.

One thing travel nurses are concerned about is healthcare. Since they change institutions frequently, their healthcare may be affected. Usually, your agency will cover your healthcare package, which also covers family members.

On top of that, most agencies introduce some form of referral scheme. You can recruit other registered nurses to join the travel nurse industry and sign with your agency. You will get a generous referral fee from it. 

If that is not tempting enough, you will also get a yearly retention bonus. This is something recruitment agencies offer to retain high-quality talents. If you stay with the same agency for a certain amount of years, you will be eligible for the retention bonus. The amount of the bonus varies and may be offered in a non-monetary form. You should negotiate with your agency accordingly. 

How To Get a Better Salary As a Travel Nurse? 

A Doctor and Nurse Discussing about the case

Working with a renowned agency is the first step. Make it clear on your expected salary and tell your agent not to bother pitching any assignments that pay lower than your demand. A good agency will filter jobs out to bring you the best offers on the table.

Another hack is to find your own housing. Oftentimes, housing is included in the contract, which means you will likely stay in a staff dorm. The housing may not be to your taste, not to mention how you might not want to live with your coworkers in the same block.

Ask for a housing allowance instead. Tell the workplace to give you a reasonable budget based on the living standards so you can find your own housing. Once the allowance is given, you are free to scout any place you want. This is a smart way to allow yourself comfortably with some extra bucks to pay for the bills. 

Always update your portfolio because your agency can only sell your skills with a professional profile. It is your responsibility to update your CV so the recruiter knows what you have done in your last job. This way, they can better connect you with jobs that fit your skill set and pay you a desirable salary.

Travel nurses that work in disaster relief and emergency response tend to get higher pay due to the short notice period and intense work. If you are open to this, inform your recruiter so they know who to call when an emergency job comes in. 

Finally, You should not limit yourself to one agency. Sign up with several so you have more options. Check the contract carefully because some agencies do limit your freedom by restricting jobs you can take from other agencies. Read through the agreement to see what you are legally allowed to do. You should only sign with agencies that give you freedom and respect. 

Maintaining a good relationship with your agencies and work units will undoubtedly increase your future pay. People are more willing to work with you and promote you. In some cases, travel nurses begin working with one of the places they were previously assigned to after they return to becoming registered nurses.


Compared to the traditional nursing style, being a travel nurse is rewarding. You get to work with professionals in other regions and absorb invaluable knowledge about the healthcare industry.

The high salary is another incentive for new travel nurses. If you are planning to be a travel nurse, research reputable agencies in your area to get your first gig coming.

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Avlin is passionate about helping aspirants become better personal support workers. He is an entrepreneur and runs a clinic in Toronto.

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