For many registered nurses looking into travel nurse RN jobs, destination No. 1 in the latest nursing news is California. Thus, many travel nurses pose the question - how much do travel nurses make in California? With year-round sunshine, pleasant temperatures, the glitz and glam of Hollywood, and access to many of America’s stunning natural wonders, who wouldn’t want to spend 13 weeks (the average length of an assignment) in the Golden State?
Sooner or later, though, reality hits.
What seems like a great idea at first loses its luster once cost analysis begins. Sure, most California travel nurse RN assignments pay very well compared to the national average annual salary, but the cost of living in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco quickly eats away at the take-home travel nurse salary. So, for many travel nurses, California remains but a dream as they pursue more profitable assignments elsewhere in the U.S.
At Health Carousel Travel Nursing, we get it—California sounds great in theory, but doesn’t add up when your first priority is growing your bank account. However, there are some top paying travel nursing assignments in California where travel nursing make a high travel nurse salary. You just need to know where to look!
What Can Travel Nurses Expect to Make in California
In the latest nursing news, California boasts some of the top paying travel nursing assignments in the country. According to Indeed, the average travel nurse salary per week is around $2,600. This adds to an average annual salary of about $143,000. However, your average annual salary can vary based on your specialty and assignment. For example, PICU travel nursing and PACU travel nursing specialties may make more than OB travel nursing specialties or operating room nurses in some locations or vice versa. Also, a travel nurse practitioner salary will most likely be higher than the average annual salary of a travel nurse RN or bedside nursing jobs. This is because a nurse practitioner salary is generally higher than a nurse's average annual salary. Below are some common nursing specialties and their average travel nurse RN pay per week in California.
OB Travel Nursing: $2,200
PACU Travel Nursing: $3,189
PICU Travel Nursing: $3,746
PCU Travel Nursing: $2,600
Operation Room Nurse: $3,300
Travel Nurse Practitioner: $2,365
Your personal salary report may be different than what's listed above. Want to view travel nursing jobs? View travel nursing jobs here. One thing is for sure with travel nursing in California and that is the cost of living will be more expensive than in other parts of the country. Those travel nursing make a higher average annual salary and tax-free stipends than in other states, but the cost of living and housing is far more expensive. You'll also need to account for other expenses like private health insurance or travel. These can eat into your take-home travel nurse salary.
Best California Cities for Cost of Living
As we mentioned, the cost of living can be quite expensive. Below we detail some of the best cities for cost-of-living savings.
CENTRAL VALLEY TRAVEL NURSE RN JOBS
Okay, let’s get this out of the way—you won’t be going to Los Angeles or San Francisco if pocketing cash is your top concern. Those are great destination cities worth taking assignments in at some point in your travel nursing career, but you should likely treat those opportunities as extended vacations (where you’re also working, of course) rather than super-profitable jobs. Where you should be looking is California’s Central Valley, home to high-paying bedside nursing jobs in areas with relatively low cost of living.
Below is a map of what many consider to be the Central Valley. For our purposes, we’re going to focus on the corridor between Sacramento and Bakersfield (Kern County).
WHY THE CENTRAL VALLEY?
Many travel nurse testimonials agree that Central Valley is where you’ll find the best bang for your buck as a travel nurse RN. For example, in Bakersfield, the cost of living is just 5 percent above the national average (according to Payscale.com), while travel nurse RN pay is similar to what you’d find in more popular major Californian cities. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the cost of living is 43 percent higher than the national average. San Francisco? 80 percent higher than the national average!
BAKERSFIELD TRAVEL NURSE JOBS
Bakersfield is a large city in its own right, with a population nearing 380,000 and so much to do locally. What’s more, for the nurse not wanting to sacrifice the “California experience” by traveling in inland, Bakersfield is within very reasonable driving distance of Los Angeles (2 hours), San Francisco (4.5 hours), and San Diego (4.5) hours, making it a perfect home base for those overnight or weekend trips around the state. For outdoor enthusiasts, Sequoia National Park is less than 2 hours away. As mentioned above, the cost of living in Bakersfield is just 5 percent above the national average, making it a choice destination for RNs hoping to capitalize on California’s generally-high pay.
FRESNO TRAVEL NURSE JOBS
Located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno is a leading agricultural area in the U.S. What’s more, Fresno is the fifth-largest city in California (34th-largest in the country), boasting over half a million people. The cost of living in Fresno is just 6 percent higher than the national average, making this a fantastic community in which to pursue a travel nursing assignment. Fresno is the closest major city to Yosemite National Park, a true bucket-list destination for hikers, climbers, and those who simply appreciate nature’s phenomenal beauty.
MODESTO TRAVEL NURSE JOBS
Surrounded by fertile farmland, Modesto is quickly growing as a commuter community as residents travel into San Francisco, Fresno, and the San Francisco Bay Area for work. With a cost of living that’s 9 percent higher than the national average, you’re not getting quite the deal on housing you may see in Bakersfield or Fresno, but you’re less than a 2-hour drive from San Francisco. Modesto is a warm city (the average high for December and January is 55° F) with few rainy days.
FIND YOUR PERFECT CALIFORNIA TRAVEL NURSE JOB
While we’ve highlighted just three Central Valley cities above, the opportunities are almost endless. Whether you prefer a Stockton travel nurse RN job or a stay in Merced, a California travel assignment can be extremely profitable for travel nurse RNs willing to work outside of the state’s largest few cities. If you're looking for a travel nurse RN assignment in California, you'll need to apply for your travel nursing licenses quickly. California is not a compact nursing state, so it does not accept other state travel nursing licenses. View travel nurse RN jobs in California here.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do travel nurses make in California a year?
The average annual salary of travel nurses in California is around $143,000. This is about a travel nurse salary of $2,600 per week. This is comparable to a nurse practitioner salary. The average annual salary of a nurse practitioner in California is about $125,000. However, your personal salary report will be dependent on assignment location and specialty.
Is it worth it to travel nurse in California?
The average annual salary of travel nurses is higher than in most other states. However, the cost of living can be higher, which can take away from your travel nurse salary. If you find an area with a lower cost of living expenses, then you may be able to increase your average annual salary.
Learn More about Health Carousel
Click here to view travel nursing jobs available at HCTN. View the many bedside nursing jobs available, including PCU travel nursing or operating room nurse specialties. Read about our travel nurse testimonials or other great benefits we have to offer, such as mental health support. With our Full Circle of Support, you can learn more about private health insurance or mental health support options.