Travel nursing provides many benefits that permanent positions in healthcare facilities most likely cannot, including the flexibility to experience a new environment every few months, access to a recruiter that understands your needs and wants, and, in most cases, lucrative financial incentives.
Travel nurses are typically paid very well compared to their full-time, permanent peers. In many situations, hospitals desperately need travel nurses to fill open positions and care for their patients. If you are going to fill critical gaps in a healthcare facility’s staff and learn the ins and outs of a new work environment, you should be compensated well during your contract with the facility. Never be embarrassed or afraid to ask what a travel nurse makes—arming yourself with this information can help you get the most out of your next travel assignment.
WHAT IS A TRAVEL NURSE’s SALARY?
As with staff registered nurse salaries, a travel nurse’s salary can vary quite a bit depending on where you are in the country and what type of nursing you are going to do (medical-surgical vs. critical care, for example). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2021 for nurses was $37.31 an hour, or an annual salary of $77,600 per year; according to Indeed.com, the hourly rate for a travel nurse is $46.80 an hour. However, as a travel nurse, the best approach when comparing compensation packages is to focus on weekly net pay. This is the estimated net amount that will be deposited into your account for working the contracted weekly hours essentially, your actual take-home pay.
HOW IS WEEKLY NET PAY CALCULATED?
To calculate net pay, subtract the estimated weekly taxes from the weekly taxable wage and add the remainder to the total weekly tax-free stipends to calculate the weekly net pay for a contract. For an even more detailed breakdown on calculating take-home pay, reach out to a Health Carousel Travel Nursing recruiter.
WAIT, SO DO TRAVEL NURSES REALLY MAKE MORE THAN STAFF NURSES DO?
Simply put, yes. The average travel nurse makes more than a staff registered nurse doing the exact same job. Sometimes a travel nurse can actually earn a lot more than the staff nurse can. Think about it this way: To attract travel nurses, hospitals need to pay an attractive hourly rate. So, the travel nurse salary is already higher, just as an hourly rate
Then add in a housing stipend. The staff nurse has to pay to rent or a mortgage; the hospital usually pays for the travel nurse’s living expenses. Some programs offer pretty decent reimbursements for travel, too. You may need to submit travel receipts, but if it is a flat rate, any amount you don’t spend on travel goes right into your pocket.
Does your contract offer a sign-on bonus? Does your contract offer a completion bonus? Can you earn overtime? Can you get bonus pay for holiday shifts? When you think about everything that goes into a travel nursing salary, they add up all of these pools of money that aren’t usually offered to staff nurses.
How Much Money Does a Travel Nurse Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the national average pay for travel nurses is currently $57 per hour. However, travel nursing pay varies depending on a variety of factors. Remember, travel nurses typically work in areas with nursing shortages and where nurses are in high demand. Pay varies per season as well. For example, if you take a travel assignment in Colorado during the summer it will most likely pay more than taking a contract in the winter. This is because many travel nurses prefer to take travel assignments during the winter in Colorado to participate in snow sports.
Travel nurse pay and compensation packages look different depending on the healthcare staffing agency or travel nursing agency. Healthcare staffing agencies’ pay varies because it depends on their contract with the healthcare facility. Travel nurses are also paid different hourly amounts based on their specialty and years of experience.
Let’s review the average hourly, monthly, and annual salary for traveling nurses below.
The average hourly rate for travel nurses in the United States (U.S.) ranges from $46.80 to $57. You can make more or less than this depending on the state, specialty, hours worked, etc.
Travel nursing agencies pay travel nurses an average of $7,732 monthly. This monthly salary most likely does not account for an entire travel nurse’s pay package. After you include benefits such as free housing or housing and meal stipends, you will most likely make more money.
According to Indeed, the average annual salary for travel nurses is $109,200. As you can see, the average travel nurse salary varies greatly depending on the reporting entity. Therefore, it’s safe to say that your annual salary will be greater than $100,000.
Remuneration for Different Types of Travel Nurses
Just like registered nurses, travel nurses have the opportunity to work in various specialties. Before becoming a travel nurse, most travel nurse agencies like you to have at least two years of experience in your nursing specialty. Below is a table of common travel nursing specialties and the average hourly pay.
Specialty & Average Weekly Pay Range
Operating Room Nurse: $3,000 - $3,700
Emergency Room Nurse: $2,500 - $3,500
Critical Care Nurse (CCU/ICU): $2,600 - $3,600
Pediatric Nurse: $1,900 - $3,000
NICU Nurse: $2,600 - $3,000
Labor and Delivery Nurse: $2,700 - $3,500
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA): $700 - $1,900
*Data from Leaderstat and ZipRecruiter
Travel Nurse Salary by State
Travel nursing salaries also vary by state. You can compare the average state hourly and annual salary in the table below.
State, Average Hourly Rate & Average Annual Salary
Alabama: $44.52 & $103,892
Alaska: $47.41 & $110,619
Arizona: $46.88 & $109,386
Arkansas: $43.54 & $101,595
California: $50.77 & $118,464
Colorado: $48.69 & $113,610
Connecticut: $48.69 & $113,602
Delaware: $46.21 & $107,823
Florida: $45.06 & $105,132
Georgia: $46.04 & $107,425
Hawaii: $45.91 & $107,130
Idaho: $43.19 & $100,769
Illinois: $47.92 & $111,815
Indiana: $44.45 & $103,709
Iowa: $45.09 & $105,212
Kansas: $44.11 & $102,933
Kentucky: $43.54 & $101,591
Louisiana: $44.36 & $103,507
Maine: $45.24 & $105,551
Maryland: $48.84 & $113,966
Massachusetts: $50.33 & $117,447
Michigan: $45.62 & $106,437
Minnesota: $47.33 & $110,435
Mississippi: $42.46 & $99,070
Missouri: $46.23 & $107,881
Montana: $43.13 & $100,647
Nebraska: $44.63 & $104,144
Nevada: $46.22 & $107,837
New Hampshire: $45.48 & $106,115
New Jersey: $48.99 & $114,311
New Mexico: $45.24 & $105,550
New York: $50.15 & $117,026
North Carolina: $45.81 & $106,885
North Dakota: $45.27 & $105,636
Ohio: $45.14 & $105,327
Oklahoma: $43.52 & $101,541
Oregon: $47.39 & $110,574
Pennsylvania: $46.46 & $108,406
Rhode Island: $46.63 & $108,806
South Carolina: $44.53 & $103,910
South Dakota: $43.80 & $102,199
Tennessee: $44.99 & $104,969
Texas: $46.81 & $109,214
Utah: $45.01 & $105,018
Vermont: $44.55 & $103,950
Virginia: $48.14 & $113,322
Washington: $49.72 & $116,002
West Virginia: $43.48 & $101,461
Wisconsin: $45.38 & $105,885
Wyoming: $44.27 & $103,301
*Data taken from Indeed
Travel Nurse Salary by City
A travel nurse’s salary not only depends on the state but also depends on the city. Larger cities usually offer higher pay than smaller cities. Though this does depend on the nursing shortage and demand at the time. Sometimes rural cities provide higher rates due to critical staff shortages or since they have fewer nursing schools to recruit from. Below, we’ve outlined travel nurse pay for some of the most popular cities in the U.S.
City & Average Hourly Rate
New York City, NY: $54.25
Sacremento, CA: $50.02
Los Angeles, CA: $51.38
Washington, DC: $54.22
Boston, MA: $53.53
*Data pulled from Indeed
Factors that Influence Travel Nurses' Salary
Several factors can influence travel nurses’ salaries. These include nursing specialty, state averages, and the healthcare facility. Some healthcare facilities limit the number of travel nurses they will hire or put a cap on their pay. Also, when you take an assignment, your willingness to float to other units may influence your salary. Travel nurses need to be flexible and if you want your hours, then you may need to float to another unit. This is especially important if you get put on call or your shift gets canceled.
What other Benefits Do Travel Nurses Enjoy?
Travel nurse pay packages are not just based on hourly wages and receiving higher pay than staff nurses. Pay packages offer many other benefits of being a travel nurse as well. Many travel nursing agencies offer free housing to their travel nurses or a weekly housing stipend. If you take the housing stipend and your rent is less than your housing stipend, then you will potentially earn and save more money. Travel nurses’ pay packages often offer retirement savings plans and heavily discounted or sometimes free medical and dental insurance.
Many travel nursing jobs also offer nursing licensure, continuing education, and travel reimbursements. Make sure to ask about guaranteed hours, pay, and potential for overtime. Since travel nurses often get canceled before staff registered nurses if the census is low, guaranteed hours will protect you from losing your money on your paycheck. As many areas around the country are experiencing nursing shortages, healthcare facilities and agencies are offering sign-on and completion bonuses as well. Remember, review your pay package as a whole instead of just looking at your hourly wage.
How to Increase Your Salary as a Travel Nurse?
Let’s review some ways to increase your salary and earning potential as a travel nurse. First, if you work in a specialty area that has a certification, then study for and obtain your certification. For example, if you work in the critical care unit, obtain your Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification. Or if you work in the operating room, then obtain your Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) certification. Certifications let potential employers know that you’re competent, committed, and have the technical skills in your nursing specialty.
Another way to increase your salary is to take crisis pay contracts and take assignments in high demand areas. Many times these contracts are short-term, but they pay a higher hourly rate. Also, before signing your contract, ask about guaranteed hours and overtime. Many healthcare facilities offer overtime hours, but only if available. Ask for guaranteed overtime hours (greater than 40 hours) in your nursing contract as a potential way to increase your salary.
Are you ready to make more as a travel nurse?
If you have questions about travel nurse salaries reach out to an experienced recruiter at Health Carousel Travel Nursing today.