How to Become a Travel Nurse: Your Guide with Steps and Advice

How to Become a Travel Nurse: Your Guide with Steps and Advice

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
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There are almost 1.7 million travel nurses employed in the USA. Travel nursing can be financially and professionally beneficial, and gives nurses the chance to travel the nation. Across the country, registered nurses are signing up to be travel nurses, filling temporary positions in different types of healthcare facilities. Travel nursing assignments could last a few days or several months.

The demand for travel nurses is on the rise, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, these nursing professionals can make a lot more money than those who work full-time, permanent jobs.

Continue reading for more information on what travel nurses do and how to become one.

What is a Travel Nurse?

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities with nursing shortages may temporarily hire travel nurses to fill their staffing voids. There are several travel nurse staffing agencies, including Health Carousel Travel Nursing, that can help nurses connect with facilities that need their specific skills.

Registered nurses working in temporary positions for independent healthcare staffing companies rather than a single hospital are known as travel nurses. They often perform contract work for a predetermined amount of time before moving on to another assignment. Their tasks can be carried out in a range of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing homes, or places where people live independently.

 Here are several reasons why travel nurses are in demand:

  • Fill in gaps between full-time nursing hires
  • Provide any needed extra staffing support during busy times such as a natural disaster or pandemics
  • Act as supplemental nursing staff during the holidays
  • Fill in for regular staff who may be out temporarily for personal reasons or health-related issues
  • Meet critical staffing deficits in hard-to-fill positions

Traveling nurses may be assigned to work in hospitals across the United States and abroad. Those interested in this career path must have the ability to adapt rapidly to different work environments and with new people because travel nursing assignments are temporary. They must be prepared to move to a different place as directed by their assignment.

Before accepting a travel position, you need to understand the idiosyncrasies of that specific job. Work closely with your travel nurse agency, so you understand the contract and avoid surprises when you arrive at your assignment. 

How Long Does It Take To Become a Travel Nurse?

To become a travel nurse you must have graduated from an accredited nursing program, passed the NCLEX exam, and obtained a nursing license from your home state. This could take 2-4 years of education. 

Obtaining an RN license and working as a travel nurse requires at least one year. However, the majority of travel nurse agencies prefer to hire nurses who have more training or specialty credentials.

How Do I Get Started As a Travel Nurse?

Becoming a registered nurse is the first step in fulfilling the requirements to be a travel nurse.  A Registered Nurse (RN) is a nurse who has completed an accredited nursing program and obtained a nursing license by fulfilling the state's standards.

Additionally, you need to have at least a year of experience in your chosen nursing specialty in order to work as a travel nurse.

Steps to become a travel nurse:

  • Understand the role of a travel nurse
  • Earn your ASN/ADN or BSN degree
  • Pass the NCLEX exam and become a registered nurse.
  • Obtain your nurses license from your home state and consider obtaining a compact license if it’s available in your state
  • Gain experience in your preferred specialty
  • Find a travel nurse staffing agency and apply
  • Start traveling

Steps to Becoming a Travel Nurse

Earning either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN) will allow you to practice as a travel nurse. Following graduation, you must first pass the NCLEX-RN and submit an application for a state nursing license. Additionally, 37 states and 2 US territories have joined the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) which allows nurses to practice in other compact states without having to obtain additional licenses. Research your state's requirements to see if you’re eligible for a compact license.

Because travel nurses must adapt rapidly to a new hospital or other healthcare setting and be able to contribute immediately, most employers prefer to hire travel nurses with experience, especially for higher-paying positions. Earning a certification in your specialty distinguishes your skills from other applicants.

Since travel nurse staffing agencies handle the process of matching nurses with facilities,  and most of the paperwork, the majority of travel nurses prefer to work with them. Developing a reputation and a working relationship with a travel nursing agency greatly simplifies the process of receiving the finest jobs.

Earn a BSN Degree

Most people associate the term "nurse" with the work of a registered nurse (RN). A wide number of duties fall under the scope of registered nurses, including administering medication, contributing to a patient's care plan, and working with medical professionals. RNs may supervise Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in various workplaces. More specialized jobs, including cardiac care nurses, case management nurses, and flight nurses, become available once you have attained the RN level of nursing.

Either an Associates Degree of Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing is required to become a RN. You must take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam after successfully completing either type of program

You can become an RN in most states if you have an ADN or BSN degree and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. However, some states are attempting to pass legislation that would make BSNs a requirement for RNs. 

Those who don't wish to enroll in a four-year school can become registered nurses through an Associate Degree Nursing program. Previously, community colleges frequently provided these majors. ADN programs are now available at certain four-year schools. Programs that blend online and in-person learning, or hybrid programs, are also gaining popularity.

The BSN degree generally results in better earnings and more open doors in the employment market of today. Usually taking four years to complete, a BSN program may necessitate full-time enrollment. However, for those who must work while pursuing their degree, hybrid BSN programs are offered.

Keep in mind that finishing the BSN program is becoming more and more necessary for RNs. In several areas, RNs with ADNs are now required to go back to school for further instruction and training. 

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), often referred to as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), are in charge of delivering patient care by serving as the main liaison between the patient and the medical staff. They could also be in charge of liaising with the patient's relatives. LPNs do physical care chores such as taking blood pressure, inserting catheters, starting IVs, and changing bandages as well as health monitoring for their patients. Depending on the state, the LPN may or may not require supervision to complete these activities.

Pass the NCLEX Exam

After you graduate from an accredited nursing program you need to take the National Council Licensure Examination, the NCLEX exam, to become a licensed registered nurse.  

To prepare for the exam, review the NCLEX Candidate Bulletin and become familiar with the NCLEX test plan's structure. 

Once you receive notification that you have passed the NCLEX Exam, you can contact your state nursing board to apply for a registered nurses license.  

Obtain RN Licensure

After deciding that an applicant has obtained the competency required to conduct a certain scope of practice, nursing boards issue approval for the applicant to engage in nursing practice through the licensing procedure

Listed are specific requisites needed for nursing licensing:

  • Verification of completion or eligibility for completion of a prelicensure nursing education program for RNs or LPNs
  • Confirmation of passing the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN examination
  • Criminal history check as required by some states

A licensed nurse is responsible for adhering to and being aware of the norms and laws established in the nurse practice act that govern nursing. Each state has a nurse practice act and regulations.  

Gain Nursing Experience

The top in-demand specialties with the highest income, according to Becker's Hospital Review, are:

  • Labor and Delivery
  • Operating Room
  • Intensive Care Unit - Adult and Pediatric
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Post Anesthesia Care Unit
  • Medical Surgical unit
  • Pediatrics
  • Step Down unit
  • Telemetry
  • Emergency Room

A nurse should have at least one year, but preferably two years, of hospital-based bedside experience before submitting an application with a healthcare staffing agency. 

Nurses should also have experience appropriate to their specialty if they will be caring for patients in a specialized unit. For instance, before being qualified to work in an ICU, a critical care nurse must have several years of experience caring for critically sick patients.

Find a Travel Nurse Staffing Agency for Employment

When looking for a travel nurse agency to work for there are several things you should take into consideration. It is so important to have continued support when you move to a new area and take on a new position.  Here are a few other things to take into consideration.

What to look for in a Travel Agency:

  • On the job support
  • Volume and variety of travel nurse jobs
  • Satisfied clients 
  • Exclusive contracts
  • Industry expertise and longevity
  • Knowledgeable and friendly recruiters
  • Joint Commission Certification
  • Comprehensive benefits, health insurance
  • Bonuses
  • Any other things that can make them the right fit for you

The field of travel nursing has advanced significantly in recent years.  It has never been simpler to travel alone or with your family and have more freedom to do so. There are countless options for different travel assignments. We're confident you'll find what you are looking for.

Visit our website to register if you're interested in working as a travel nurse. We'll contact you to discuss your needs and answer any questions you have with one of our outstanding recruiters!


What are the steps to becoming a travel nurse?

  • Get your degree as a registered nurse
  • Pass the NCLEX
  • Work for 1 - 2 years as a RN in a hospital based setting; more for specific specialties such as ICU
  • Contact a travel nurse agency and apply for a travel nurse position 

Do Travel nurses make a lot of money?

Travel nurses usually make more per hour than staff nurses. This is because it is a contract position.

Is it hard to be a travel nurse?

You need to be flexible and you need to be able to adjust quickly to new environments and work situations to feel more at ease being a travel nurse.

How much money do you actually make as a travel nurse?

It depends on the location and specialty.

Is travel nursing worth the money?

A lot of nurses think it is worth the money for the new friends and travel that they get to experience.

What is the highest-paid travel nurse?

The highest paid travel nurse positions are when you assist facilities in pandemic or strike situations.

Author Bio

Kelli Cotton, MSN, RN

Kelli has been working as a registered nurse for almost 20 years. Specializing in adult and geriatric care, working bedside in a Level I Trauma Intensive Care, Cardiac and Surgical Recovery. Currently, Kelli is working in palliative care. Kelli’s passion lies in teaching her patients about their disease processes and how they can benefit from dietary and lifestyle changes.


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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