How to Make 6 Figures as a Travel Nurse

How to Make 6 Figures as a Travel Nurse

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
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For many travel nurses, earning a healthy salary is high on the priority list. The allure of high pay (among other perks) draws RNs to travel opportunities, and some set a goal to cross the $100K threshold.

The great news—this goal is within reach depending on your degree, certifications, specialty, location, experience, and registered nurse resume. Most nurses who make over $100k have advanced practice degrees and work in a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist role.


Travel nurses can increase their salary based on the amount of experience they have and how many hours they are willing to work. As a traveler, some of the highest paid registered nurse jobs are in the least desirable areas in medically underserved communities. Travel nurses who want to earn $100k understand that where they work will influence their pay. The beauty of travel nursing is the ability to pick and choose assignments based on pay and location.

Continue reading to explore how to make 6 figures as a nurse.

How Can You Make 6 Figures as a Travel Nurse?

Making 6 figures as a travel nurse is entirely possible depending on your specialty, location, and the flexibility to act quickly when the highest paid nursing jobs are posted.

Talk to your recruiter about opportunities to maximize your pay, in the meantime, we will share these truths about making 6 figures as a travel nurse:

Truth #1: Specialty Matters

In many (if not most) cases, $100K assignments are available to select specialties. For example, L&D nurses and cath lab nurses are prime candidates for $100K jobs. This is because these skills are typically more sought after by facilities, which usually means higher pay for the traveler.

Truth #2: Assignment Location Matters

Optimal candidates for $100K travel nursing jobs should be minimally selective about location—you need to be willing to go where the money is. For example, while southern Florida may be your dream destination for a travel assignment, six-figure jobs may be more common in rural areas in medically underserved communities where it’s more difficult for healthcare facilities to attract nurses. For the highest paid nursing jobs, you’ll need to focus more on the dollar amount and less on the locale.

Truth #3: Timing Matters

High-paying travel nursing jobs typically attract a large pool of applicants. To land $100K assignments, candidates need to act quickly (jobs open today likely won’t be there tomorrow). This means working with an experienced recruiter that you trust, and giving him or her the green light to submit you for high-paying jobs as soon as they become available. When pursing $100K assignments, there really isn’t time for indecisiveness.

One surefire way to make over 6 figures as a nurse is to go back to school and find msn programs to obtain your master of science in nursing. Once your degree is completed you can take the nurse practitioner certification in your field of study and become an advanced practice registered nurse.

Nurse practitioners make over 100k, and there are various options depending on which specialty you would like to pursue. Nurses can choose to be oncology nurse practitioners, orthopedic nurse practitioners, cardiac nurse practitioners, gerontological nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse practitioners, neonatal nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, general nurse practitioners, or certified nurse midwives depending on their area of interest. Nurse midwives make about $114,00 a year, compared to a labor and delivery nurse who may make around $70-80k per year.

To give you an idea, these are currently the 16 highest paid nursing jobs:

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist – $202,000
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – $131,000
  • Cardiac Nurse Practitioner – $120,000
  • Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner – $119,000
  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner – $119,000
  • General Nurse Practitioner – $118,000
  • Family Nurse Practitioners – $116,00
  • Certified Nurse Midwife – $114,000
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist – $113,000
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner – $112,000
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – $112,000
  • Pain Management Nurse – $110,000
  • Nurse Researcher – $104,000
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP) – $100,000
  • Nurse Administrator – $97,000
  • Nurse Educator – $79,000

As you can see, all of these higher-paid nursing jobs require an advanced degree. If you have no interest in becoming a nurse practitioner, we will discuss other options for increasing your pay as well.

What's the Average Salary for a Travel Nurse?

According to Zip Recruiter,( as of February 2023), the average travel nurse salary is $106,030 per year, and approximately $50.98 an hour, $2,039/week, or $8,835/month. Travel RN salaries currently range between $80,000 to $127,500, with top 10th percentile earners making $150,500 annually.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the highest paying paying states include:

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Oregon
  • District of Columbia
  • Alaska

Top 5 highest paying paying cities (ranging from $139,000 to $155,000) include:

  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
  • Santa Rosa, CA
  • Napa, CA

What are the Travel Nurse Expectations

Expectations for travel nursing are the same as any registered nurse, you must have a nursing degree and an active RN license in the state you are working in. Most travel nurse jobs prefer you to have about 1-2 years of previous experience.

Follow these tips to become a travel nurse:

Get your nursing degree

Just like any other nursing position, you must first graduate from an accredited nursing program. A BSN is typically required for most registered nurse jobs and is preferred by most travel nurse agencies. Pass the NCLEX exam and obtain your license                                                                                                  

After graduating from nursing school, nurses must pass the NCLEX ( National Council Licensure Examination), the Nationwide examination for all nurses in the United States. Once you’ve passed the NCLEX, you need to become licensed in the state you intend to practice in. Nurses with compact state licenses have an advantage when it comes to travel nursing.

Obtain required certifications

All nurses must have a valid BLS (Basic Life Support) certification. As a travel nurse, it is a good idea to be certified in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) as well as PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) and NRP (Neonatal Resuscitation Program) certifications. These certifications will boost your registered nurse resume and allow you to work across several different specialties.

Specialty certifications

While there isn’t a specific national certification for travel nursing, having an advanced RN certification will give you an advantage as a travel nurse. The NCC website lists each certification exam provided and how to apply. For example, if you are a neonatal intensive care nurse, you may want to have a certification exam administered in neonatal intensive care nursing.

Earn experience as a nurse

Most travel nurse agencies want nurses to have at least 1-2 years of experience before their first travel assignment. Use your time as a staff nurse to learn and experience everything you possibly can about patient care. The skills and knowledge you obtain will give you the confidence you need as a travel nurse.

What More Should I Know?

Nursing is such a versatile profession and the opportunities for growth and advancement are endless. If your goal is to make it to $100k as a nurse it will take some dedication and possible relocation.

If relocation is not on your radar, you may want to find MSN programs that work for your schedule and become an advanced practice nurse. Nurse practitioners make $100k and above depending on what type of nurse practitioner certification they have.

Other routes may include becoming legal nurse consultants or pain management nurses.

Travel nursing is a great option for nurses who aren’t looking to permanently locate or obtain an advanced practice degree but want to increase their income. Travel nurses have the unique opportunity to accept contracts in the highest paying cities or highest paying states to increase their paychecks.

As a travel nurse, there are several steps you can take to earn a six-figure salary:

  • Choose high-paying assignments: Look for travel nursing assignments in areas with high demand for nurses, such as major cities or rural areas with a shortage of healthcare workers. These assignments typically pay more than those in less desirable locations.
  • Specialize: Consider specializing in an area of nursing that is in high demand, such as critical care, emergency medicine, or oncology. These specialties often offer higher salaries.
  • Take advantage of bonuses: Many travel nursing companies offer sign-on bonuses, completion bonuses, and referral bonuses. Hospitals may also offer bonuses during an increased census. Be sure to ask about these incentives and take advantage of them when possible.
  • Be willing to work the night shift or pick up overtime: Shift differential varies per health care system, but night shift nurses are compensated for the unconventional hours that they work. If you're able to work extra shifts, you can increase your earnings significantly and really boost your paycheck.
  • Keep your expenses low: One of the benefits of travel nursing is that your housing and travel expenses are often covered by your employer. However, it's still important to keep your other expenses, such as food and entertainment, under control to maximize your earnings.
  • Be open to opportunities: Research the 10 highest paid nursing jobs or the top 5 highest paying cities and accept a travel job that's included on the list.

Kickstart Your Travel Nursing Career with Health Carousel

Health Carousel Travel Nursing offers full circle support to help travel nurses further their careers and improve their salaries. We offer comprehensive benefits packages and encourage our travel nurses to make smart financial investments. Health Carousel Travel Nursing recruiters are well-versed in travel nursing salaries and which locations are the highest paying states.

HCTN has created an On Demand app to make it easy to see how much you could earn each week with our travel registered nurse jobs. Download the app and create a profile to see how to make 6 figures as a nurse.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of nurse makes 6 figures?

Registered nurse jobs in California typically make 6 figures a year in the current labor market. Other nurses making 6 figures include clinical nurse specialists, legal nurse consultants, and advance practice nurses. Consider obtaining your nurse practitioner certification in a specialty that interests you. Nurse practitioners make over 100k and a common NP certification includes orthopedic nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, oncology nurse practitioners, orthopedic nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse practitioners, family nurse practitioners, and neonatal nurse practitioners.

Nurses who find msn programs with data science programs can also make 6 figures in nursing informatics positions.

Can an RN make 100k?

The chances of making $100k as a nurse is very high considering the average travel nurse salary ranges from $80,000 to $127,500. Travel nurses in the top 10th percentile are making about $150k in their registered nurse jobs. Travel nurses just need to be savvy in accepting assignments in the highest paying cities to increase their chances of making over $100k.

Nurse practitioner salaries typically range from $100-200k a year. These types of advance practice nurses include psychiatric nurse specialists, general nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, pediatric nurse practitioners, family nurse practitioners, neonatal nurse practitioners, and gerontological nurse practitioners.

How can a nurse make 7 figures?

To make 7 figures as a nurse, you usually have to have a side hustle like blogging, youtube, or offering courses. Many nurses work their staff nurse jobs in addition to their side business until that business takes off. Nurses need to make smart financial investments and have a creative open mind to try and reach 7 figures.

What nurse makes 200k a year?

According to the BLS a certified registered nurse anesthetist makes about 200k a year. Nurse anesthetists have high paying nursing careers due to the meticulous nature of their jobs. Nurse anesthetists make more than any other advance practice registered nurse.

Nurse Bio

Lauren Rivera is a nationally certified neonatal intensive care nurse with over 15 years of experience. She serves as a nurse expert offering support and educational classes for women from preconception through childhood. Lauren is also a freelance health and wellness writer with works published on several nursing sites. She develops and curates content for various healthcare companies, and writes continuing education modules for other healthcare professionals.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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