Travel Nurse Salary and Benefits

travel nurse salary and benefits

Several years ago I decided to quit my job as a charge nurse at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and travel the United States as a travel nurse. The thought of being paid to visit the beaches of Hawaii and California or participate in the culture of New York City had become just too appealing.

Looking back, there are several things I wish I had known prior to signing up with my first travel nurse agency. The following includes a checklist of some of the things I wish I had known from the beginning and what a travel nurse salary and benefits would be.

Factors Affecting The Salary Rate

Salaries offered to travel nurses mainly depend on the location of the job. The farther the location, the higher the salary. The costs of living in the area and tasks or assignments are also considered when estimating the salary.

travel nurse responsibilitiesBigger salaries mean bigger responsibilities. Nurses who are assigned in areas with limited facilities receive significantly higher salaries. If you are in a highly paid travel nurse position then expect a large number of patients to be handled. Countless workloads and worse scenarios are anticipated for being well paid.

There are a few other factors that play into your salary such as the area of the country or world you are in. The more of a demand for nurses there are the higher you are likely to be paid.

Smaller areas may not pay as much as the demand is not that high. Places that have higher living costs may pay higher as well. The longer your assignment the better your pay and if your job is only temporary you can expect something a little lower.

Salary For A Travel Nurse

Being a travel nurse is very different from being employed by a hospital. First, travel nurses are paid considerably more hourly than regular hospital staff nurses.

Although you may not view it this way, hospitals reward travel nurses with higher hourly pay because of the “sacrifice” the nurse is required to make in uprooting herself or himself from home and family. I didn’t necessarily view basking in the Huntington Beach, California sun on my off days as a sacrifice, but that is the way hospitals look at travel nursing.


Make sure your travel nurse agency is willing to negotiate the highest rate of pay for you before you sign a contract to take a travel nursing assignment. Don’t just take the first offer that comes along; you may be able to do better. Remember, travel nurse agencies get paid to fill hospital nursing vacancies.

travel nurse salaryIf one agency cannot fill the vacancy, another will. As a result, you need to make sure your agency is working to get you the highest possible hourly rate of pay and not just trying to beat the next agency to fill a vacancy. One suggestion I would make is to check with several different agencies and see which one offers you the highest pay rate. You may even be able to create a bidding war between the agencies for your services.

Second, most hospitals will pay for (or at least assist in paying for) your move to their city. This too is an issue you will need your travel nurse agency to negotiate for you. Third, most hospitals will also pay you a monthly housing stipend. In many cases, the stipend will only be paid if you are renting, but not if you buy a home in your new assignment location. The stipend is often tax free.

Travel Nurse Checklist

You may also want to ask these questions to your travel nurse agency:
(1) Does the agency guarantee my assignment in writing?;
(2) Are my hours guaranteed?;
(3) Do I get paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly?;
(4) Does the travel nurse agency pay me or does the hospital?;
(5) Will the hospital pay for my move; as is often the case?; and
(6) Will the hospital pay a stipend for my housing; as is often the case?

What’s the Average Travel Nurse Salary?

There are a few different paths that can be taken for those who are interested in a nursing career. You can work for a hospital, doctor’s office, or you can even work home care with elderly people or young children.

The possibilities are endless and there are now even travel nurse positions. These are ideal for those who are looking for a change and like constant moving around. You will be traveling to different states or parts of the world to offer your services for a set amount of time and then you move to a different location.

travel nurse average salaryThe nurse salary for this type of job can vary based on a few different things and the area you are working in is going to be the biggest factor that plays a role into your earnings. You could be working for larger companies and hospitals or smaller private facilities.

If you know someone who is a travel nurse, you can ask them an average salary to see if the pay makes up for the constant travel. This type of position is hard for those who have families. Typically, a travel RN is going to make more than a stationary RN. As an overall national average, a RN makes $25. For a traveling nursing position, you can expect to make more along the lines of $30 – $40 hourly.

The one thing that you should keep in mind is that while this is an average, each facility or agency may offer you something different as they sometimes are not going to offer everyone the same rate. The rate can be based on years of experience as well as the type of degree and education you have. The more education and experience you have, the better off you are at getting an increased rate.

Travel Nurse Benefits

The benefits of becoming a travel nurse are often times better than the pay itself. To begin with, a travel nurse position can make our resume stand out. We get a great sense of knowledge and experience as a travel nurse and this is going to make our skills stand out from the next person applying for the same job.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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