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5 States Where Nurses Make the Most Money Travel Nursing (Plus 5 Where They Make the Least)

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Health Carousel Travel Nursing
August 3, 2022
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As a travel nurse, you likely want to make the most out of your next assignment. While travel nurse pay is already typically higher than that of a permanent staff nurse, some regions of the country may offer more lucrative opportunities. Doing your research ahead of time may help you better meet your personal financial goals. To help you along the way, here is some information on travel nursing locations where nurses make the most (and the least).

5 Highest Paying States for Travel Nurses in 2022

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell which are the highest paying travel nurse states. For registered nurses, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Alaska are ranked as the top five highest paying states for traveling in 2022, according to NursingProcess.org and Joyce.edu.

1. California

In 2022, it’s no surprise that California is still the highest paying state for travel nurses. One reason? Mandatory overtime pay. After 8 hours of work, you get time and a half, according to state laws per Workforce Hub.

Additionally, California has one of the highest demands for travel nurses, which means you’ll have plenty of specialized nursing opportunities as a traveler. It’s a huge state, with several of the highest ranking medical centers, such as Cedars-Sinai, UCLA, Stanford, and UCSF.

California isn’t a compact state, so prepare to wait a few months for your California nursing license. It can cost around $400. 

With $53-$85/hour as the average wage for travel nurses in CA–it’s worth the wait.

2. Hawaii

Hawaii may just be the dream destination! Completely surrounded by the beach and island culture, it's ideal for nature activities and surfing, but also for increased expenses. Hawaii is the most expensive state, according to the World Population Review–something to take into consideration when saying Aloha to island life.

Queen’s Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente are two top medical centers in Hawaii. There are 28 hospitals in Hawaii, which can make snagging a travel nurse gig more challenging. Licensure costs upwards of $200, and it’s not in the NLC (Nurse Licensure Compact). However, licensing typically takes less than a month to process.

$50-$74/hour is the average pay rate for travel nurses in HI. 

3. Massachusetts

Massachusetts hosts some of the highest ranking medical centers in the nation, many of which are in the city of Boston. Boston Children’s is continually ranked number one for children’s hospitals. As a travel nurse in Massachusetts, you’ll have a wide selection of hospitals and facilities to choose from. Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s, Beth Israel, Lahey, and Tufts to name a few. 

Though it’s high paying, it also has a high cost of living. Try to find sublets or talk with local nurses to find more affordable housing. Beware of the freezing winters and rainy springs. Summer and fall are great times for healthcare travelers to enjoy cities like Boston.

Massachusetts is not in the NLC, though legislation is pending. Licensing takes a few weeks, and costs just over $300.

$46-$67/hour is the average salary range for travel nurses in MA.

nationally ranked4. Oregon

Oregon is host to many medical centers and beautiful nature. Portland is not only a happening city, it’s also home to Oregon Health & Science University, which is nationally-ranked in both adult and pediatric specialties. Oregon does not participate in the NLC. License endorsement takes up to 6 weeks, and costs around $200.

$46-$67/hour is the average pay rate for travel nurses in OR.

5. Alaska

If you can handle 11 feet of snow in the winter, try lucrative travel nursing in Alaska. Though rural, Anchorage and Juneau both host high performing medical centers, including Alaska Native Medical Center and Bartlett Regional Hospital. Alaska is not part of the NLC. Though licensure costs $375-$475, Alaska hourly wage makes up for it.

AK averages $45-$67/hour for travel nurses.

5 Lowest Paying States for Travel Nurses in 2022

Alabama, South Dakota, Mississippi, Iowa, and Arkansas are the lowest paying states for travel registered nurses, according to NursingProcess.org. However, the low cost of living may make it a more lucrative payout in the long run. Plus, all are compact states, which means they’re in the NLC. If you have a compact professional nurse license, you won’t have to worry about expensive licensing fees.

1. Alabama

Travel nurses make $30-$42/hour on average in Alabama. Healthcare facilities in Alabama still rank nationally in healthcare. University of Alabama at Birmingham and Huntsville Hospital are among top medical facilities in the area. 

The cost of living is extremely low, so your dollar goes further than nearly any other state, with a Cost of Living Index (COI) of 87.9. Anything less than 100 means it costs less to live there than on average in the U.S., according to World Population Review.

2. South Dakota

South Dakota travel nurses make $31-$43/hour on average. Sanford University of South Dakota Medical Center is nationally ranked in Sioux Falls. The COI is 101, making it about as expensive as average American cities.

3. Mississippi

Mississippi is the cheapest state to live, with a COI of 83.3. Travel nurses make $30-$43/hour on average. Mississippi Baptist Medical Center is the highest ranked in the state in Jackson.

4. Iowa

Iowa hosts cornfields, cow pastures, and travel nurse rates of $33-$44/hour on average. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics ranks nationally in several specialities, including pediatric specialities. The COI is relatively low at 89.9.

5. Arkansas

Arkansas is the fifth lowest paying state for travel nurses. Travel nurse salaries range from $31-$44/hour in Arkansas. The COI is 90.9, lower than the national average. Top medical centers include Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, and Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock.

Find the Travel Job That’s Right for You

Every state has a reputable medical center, many which are nationally ranked. Whether you’re looking for specialities or non-specific nursing roles, you can find high paying travel nurse positions anywhere in the country. The further west you go, and in non-compact states, the higher your paycheck will be. Stay in the south and midwest, and costs of living will take substantially less out of each paycheck.

Join Our Travel Nurse Community

Join us to find the best blend of traveling for you. At Health Carousel Travel Nursing, we make finding your next travel nurse assignment hassle-free. We build trust with our healthcare travelers. This is because we value travel nurses as individuals, and understand the importance of preferences. Contact us to talk with one of our healthcare recruiters today about your next travel nursing adventure.

Author Bio

Katie Taibl (pronouns: she/they) is a registered nurse and freelance nurse writer. She has adventured from coast to coast as a travel nurse. Currently, she resides in Boston with her partner and three cats. In her free time, she enjoys time outdoors and teaching kids therapeutic surfing as a surf instructor.

Health Carousel Travel Nursing

Find the Travel Job that’s Right for You

Interested in how the pay stacks up in other states not on this list? Our trusty Super Nurse sidekicks are standing by to answer any questions you have. Click below to get information on opportunities in other states!

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