How To Become A Travel Nurse – (15 Simple STEPS)


Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA


Are you considering becoming a registered nurse or already licensed as an RN? Do you love to travel, meet new people, and learn new things? If you could combine your love of nursing and travel to have a lucrative career option, would that interest you? If so, becoming a travel nurse could be a great option. Perhaps you have wondered, “Can someone tell me how to become a travel nurse?”

If that sounds like you, you should keep reading! In this article, I will share 15 steps to successfully become a travel nurse and share information about degree options, earning potential, and the best places to work. You will also find answers to some frequently asked questions about travel nursing to help you decide if this is the right career path for you.



First Off, What is a Travel Nurse?


A travel nurse is a licensed nurse who takes temporary nursing positions or assignments in areas where there is an increased need for nursing professionals. Travel nurses work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics. Some travel nurses work nationwide, while others pursue international travel assignments.



Can Any Nurse Become a Travel Nurse?


Any licensed nurse can become a travel nurse as long as they meet agency requirements for employment. The type of nursing license and years of experience may vary from one agency or hiring facility to another. Most travel nursing jobs require nurses to have a minimum of one year of work experience. If you want to work in a specialty area, specialty certification may be required, depending on facility policies.



How Long are Travel Nursing Assignments?


The length of travel nursing assignments varies based on the facility where you work. On average, most assignments last 13 weeks. However, you may find assignments that last as little as two weeks or as long as six months or more.



Can You Work as a Travel Nurse in Any State?


When you become a travel nurse, you can work in any state where you are licensed to practice. If your primary state of residence is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, you can apply for a multi-state license, making it easier to travel to other Compact states and work. If you reside in a state that is not part of the NLC, you must apply for a nursing license in each state where you plan to travel and nurse.



In What States Do Travel Nurses Mostly Work?


There are travel nursing opportunities in every state. Some states have a greater concentration of travel nurses. For example, the top ten states where travel nurses work are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, Michigan, and Massachusetts.

Rank State
1 California
2 Texas
3 Florida
4 New York
5 Pennsylvania
6 Ohio
7 Illinois
8 North Carolina
9 Michigan
10 Massachusetts



What Kinds of Jobs are Typically Available for Travel Nurses?


When you become a travel nurse, you can work any job other nurses in traditional, non-travel positions work. Your experience and specialty certification, if you have one, usually determine the type of travel nursing job you work. For example, you may become a medical-surgical nurse travel nurse, telemetry travel nurse, emergency travel nurse, ICU travel nurse, pediatric travel nurse, or long-term acute care travel nurse. As long as you have the minimum experience required, the types of jobs you can get as a travel nurse are limited only by your willingness to learn and be available for assignments.



In What Healthcare Settings Do Travel Nurses Work?


Travel nurses work in all types of healthcare settings. Any setting that employs nurses for non-travel positions may also hire travel nurses. One of the most common settings where you may find available assignments after becoming a travel nurse is hospitals. However, travel nurse agencies work with various other healthcare providers and facilities to negotiate contracts in areas of increased need, which means you could work in rural health clinics, nursing homes, and other settings where there is a demand for nurses.



Is It Hard to Become a Travel Nurse?


There is currently a shortage of nurses nationwide, which means there are many positions available for travel nurses. However, because of the benefits of travel nursing, the field is becoming more competitive. If you want to become a travel nurse, one way to increase your chance of finding great assignments is to get as much experience as possible. Experience in diverse settings looks great on a travel nurse resume because it allows you to showcase a wide range of skills and abilities. Also, if you prefer to work with a specific patient population, such as women’s health or geriatrics, or if you enjoy a specialty like cardiology or surgery, getting certified in those areas is another way to make your resume stand out.



Top 3 Advantages of Becoming a Travel Nurse


Nursing is a wonderful industry with enormous potential and diverse opportunities. Travel nursing is certainly no exception! The following are three of the top advantages of becoming a travel nurse.

ADVANTAGE #1: You can earn an excellent income!

One of the main advantages of becoming a travel nurse is the excellent income potential. According to Indeed.com, travel nurses in the U.S. earn an average of $122,884. Keep in mind this is the average income of travel nurses, which means you could earn significantly more. The type of setting where your travel nurse assignment is located, geographical region, and whether you need a specialty certification can determine your income.

ADVANTAGE #2: You can choose when and where to work.

One thing I love about travel nursing is that you can choose where you want to work and when. If you are offered a contract, and it does not align with what you want to do or the timing is inconvenient, you can decline that offer without being penalized as a no-show for work. The flexibility of choosing when and work to work makes it possible for you to plan work around your life instead of planning life around work.

ADVANTAGE #3: You can travel the country or the world!

If you dream of seeing new places, meeting new people, and having exciting experiences, you can become a travel nurse and do that while earning a great income. Whether you choose assignments domestically or opt to travel abroad and take international travel nursing assignments, there is a world of adventure waiting for you to experience it!



Top 3 Disadvantages of Becoming a Travel Nurse


When you think about a career path or consider transitioning to a new role, it is good to compare the pros and cons to determine the best decision for you. While there are many advantages to becoming a travel nurse, there are also some disadvantages worth considering. The following are three of the top disadvantages of travel nursing.

DISADVANTAGE #1: Contract conditions and benefits vary from job to job.

Unlike traditional nursing jobs, where you have clear conditions of employment and know what benefits to expect, your contract terms, pay, and benefits can vary from one job to the next when you become a travel nurse. I like the idea of travel nurses working with an agency because your agent can help advocate for good contract terms and benefits on your behalf. While it is possible to negotiate the terms of your contract yourself, travel nurse agencies do this every day. They know what to expect from their clients and how to work deals that you may not be able to procure for yourself.

DISADVANTAGE #2: You may spend a lot of time away from home, friends, and family.

While becoming a travel nurse has its advantages, one of the main disadvantages is that you could spend a lot of time away from your loved ones. Of course, it is up to you to decide which contracts you accept and how long you wish to commit to an assignment. Some travel nursing assignments are short, around two to three weeks, but the average assignment is 13 weeks. If you have a family, I recommend talking openly and honestly about what travel nursing means for your family and discussing each person’s role in your absence. It may take some time to adjust to the travel nursing way of life, but it is possible, and the rewards can be well worth it in the long run.

DISADVANTAGE #3: There is a risk of contracts being canceled, which can leave you searching for a new assignment.

Some nurses work for years as travel nurses and never have a contract canceled. Others are not as lucky. Travel nurse agencies report cancellation rates between 5 and 20 percent, depending on the agency. Hospitals or other hiring facilities may experience a sudden drop in the census, budget cuts, or overstaffing, which are some of the top reasons for contract cancellations.



What are the Two Types of Nursing Degrees Available to Become a Travel Nurse?


To become a registered nurse and work as a travel nurse, you must earn either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in nursing. Both degrees are undergraduate nursing degrees. After earning either degree, you must take the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure and get clinical experience as a licensed nurse before you are eligible to become a travel nurse.

1. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN):

Earning an associate degree in nursing is the fastest route to becoming a registered nurse. If you want to become a registered nurse and work in a clinical role, earning an associate degree may be the best option. One of the awesome things about nursing is that, even if you begin your nursing career with an associate degree in nursing, you can always go back to school and earn a higher degree.

2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN):

Although a bachelor's degree in nursing is another type of undergraduate nursing degree, the curriculum is more in-depth. In a BSN program, you will learn everything students in associate nursing programs learn, as well as topics such as research, health promotion, patient care technology, and safety, which are essential if you are interested in nursing leadership.



How Long Does It Take to Become a Travel Nurse?


1. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN):

It takes an average of two years to complete an associate degree in nursing if you enroll as a full-time student. Part-time students usually take three years to earn an ADN. After earning an ADN, you need at least one year of work experience to become a travel nurse, which means it could take from three to four years to begin a travel nurse role with an associate degree in nursing.

2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN):

On average, it takes four years to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Students with previous college credits may reduce their time, depending on the number of credits that are transferrable. If you choose to pursue a BSN on a part-time basis, it could take five or six years, based on the number of credits you attempt each semester. If you earn a bachelor's degree in nursing and get the minimum one year of work experience needed to become a travel nurse, it could take you five to seven years to transition to a travel nurse role, depending on how quickly you earn your degree.



How Much Does It Cost to Become a Travel Nurse?


The cost of becoming a travel nurse varies depending on whether you choose an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Also, some schools charge different rates for students based on whether they live in the state or out of state. As you research program options, it is important to determine the cost of books, supplies, uniforms, and other fees, which may not be included in the total tuition cost.

1. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN):

Tuition for associate degree nursing programs costs between $5,700 and $85,000, with the average cost of the programs being $19,692. For example, Hagerstown Community College charges $123 and $252 per credit for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively. The program features a 70-credit curriculum, which means you will pay between $8,600 and $17,640.

2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN):

BSN programs usually cost between $25,000 and $100,000. However, some programs may cost more. For example, the tuition for the BSN program at the University of Iowa costs $89,478 for state residents. Non-resident students pay $287,145.



After Earning Your Degree, How to Get Your Rn Licensure to Become a Travel Nurse?


After earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing, you must apply with the State Board of Nursing for permission to take the licensure exam and register to take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Once you apply to take the NCLEX-RN and eligibility is confirmed, you will receive Authorization to Test from Pearson VUE, which is the company that administers the licensure exam. Your ATT will outline instructions for registering for the exam, including the deadline by which you must test. Although timeframes may vary, most nursing graduates test approximately 30-45 days after graduating and applying to take the examination.



After Earning Your Degree, How to Earn Your Specialty Certification to Become a Travel Nurse?


Although there is no specific travel nurse certification, you can pursue certifications in several specialties. When you consider becoming a travel nurse, there are two main types of travel nurse specialties. One type of travel nurse requires an administrative or medical specialty, and others are situational specialties.

For example, some medical specialties in travel nursing include pediatric travel nurse, ICU travel nurse, emergency travel nurse, and labor and delivery travel nurse. Some examples of situational specializations are strike travel nurses, rapid response travel nurses, and international travel nurses.



After Earning Your Nursing Degree, Rn Licensure, and Certification – How Many Years of Experience Do You Need to Become a Travel Nurse?


Most travel nurse agencies and healthcare organizations require registered nurses to have at least one year of work experience as licensed nurses before becoming a travel nurse. Some agencies require two years or more. So, if you plan on working with more than one agency, it is important to verify their minimum work requirements and determine if you need more experience.



How to Become a Travel Nurse?

(The following are the 15 steps to successfully become a travel nurse.)


STEP #1: Research Top Nursing Schools


About the Step:

If you want to become a travel nurse, the first step is to research nursing schools to determine where you want to earn your degree.

PRO TIP:

There are so many nursing schools to choose from, and choosing the right one is crucial if you want to succeed. The most important thing to look for when choosing a school is accreditation. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education are the leading accrediting agencies for nursing education. I recommend finding a school that is accredited by at least one of these agencies.


STEP #2: Earn an Associate Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing


About the Step:

Once you find schools that interest you, the next step is to decide if you want to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. Although both degrees are undergraduate nursing degrees, the associate degree has more of a clinical focus, and the bachelor's degree includes a curriculum with additional coursework related to healthcare management and leadership.

PRO TIP:

Think about where you hope to be professionally in the next five or ten years. Do you feel like bedside nursing is your passion? If so, earning an associate degree may be the best option for you at this time. On the other hand, if you like the idea of pursuing positions in nursing leadership, a bachelor’s degree is an excellent option. You can work as a travel nurse with both degrees, but your degree and level of experience will determine the type of travel nursing job you qualify to work.


STEP #3: Pass the NCLEX-RN


About the Step:

After graduating from nursing school, you must pass the NCLEX-RN to become licensed to practice as a registered nurse. When your program is complete, you will apply to the State Board of Nursing in your state of primary residence for permission to take the exam. Once your transcripts and clinical practicum hours are reviewed and approved, you can schedule your test.

PRO TIP:

From the time you begin nursing school, you will prepare to take the national licensure exam to become a registered nurse. Program faculty will teach you how to use clinical reasoning and critical thinking to solve problems and promote positive patient outcomes. You will take tests designed in NCLEX format to prepare you for the exam, and you will likely have an NCLEX prep course. There are also many NCLEX prep books and study guides to help you prepare for the examination.


STEP #4: Gain Work Experience


About the Step:

To become a travel nurse, you need a minimum of one year of work experience as a licensed nurse. The more experience and the broader your range of experiences, the more viable you become as a candidate in the field of travel nursing.

PRO TIP:

Some nurses choose to focus their practice on a certain specialty and look for travel nurse opportunities in that specialty. If you are not certified in a specialty area, some of the best types of experience you can get are working in med-surg, telemetry, intensive care, neonatal intensive care, and cardiac care.


STEP #5: Consider Getting a Certification


About the Step:

Another great option if you want to boost your income and increase your chance of getting the travel nursing job you want is to get certified. There are multiple certification options available based on your interests. For instance, you can become a Certified Pediatric Nurse, Certified Geriatric Nurse, Certified Operating Room Nurse, or choose from many other options.

PRO TIP:

If you are considering earning a certification, think about the types of illnesses or diseases that interest you most. Also, consider if there is a specific age group or population you prefer to care for. When you pursue a certification in a specialty that means something to you, you will have a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in your job.


STEP #6: Take on Some Local Per Diem Jobs


About the Step:

A fantastic way to gain experience in varied fields before becoming a travel nurse is to take on some per diem or prn jobs at local hospitals and healthcare facilities. You may pick up some extra shifts at your current place of employment or find some prn opportunities at other facilities.

PRO TIP:

When possible, try to find per diem jobs that offer you opportunities to work outside of your normal role. For instance, if you are an emergency room nurse, consider taking on some shifts on the Med-Surg or pediatrics floor. Anything you do to broaden the scope of your knowledge and develop new skills will look great on your resume and travel nurse portfolio.


STEP #7: Keep Your Immunizations Up-to-Date


About the Step:

Hospitals and healthcare facilities require nurses to show proof of current immunizations and a negative TB test. Make sure you have a printed or written record from your healthcare provider or the health facility where you received your immunizations and that any immunizations that require boosters are taken care of, as well.

PRO TIP:

I like to remind nurses that, although you have a right to decline immunizations, healthcare facilities also reserve the right to not employ unimmunized nurses. The healthcare facility is responsible for patient and staff safety, and being properly immunized helps promote safety and better outcomes.


STEP #8: Make Sure You Have a Current BLS, ACLS, and PALS Certification


About the Step:

All nurses need to be certified in Basic Life Support. Getting certified in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support is also recommended.

PRO TIP:

Even if your current job does not require anything other than Basic Life Support certification, the more credentials you earn, the better your resume looks. Remember, when you become a travel nurse, you will have options for working in various settings with diverse patient populations. Having the necessary basic certifications makes you a more favorable candidate versus someone who lacks them.


STEP #9: Create a Portfolio


About the Step:

When you think of your nursing portfolio, think of it as your opportunity to present a collection of your career experiences and offer a visual demonstration of essential skills you have attained. Your nursing portfolio should include anything relevant to your nursing experience, paid or volunteer, and any other information you feel will be useful to demonstrate your strengths and abilities.

PRO TIP:

As your career evolves, having a portfolio will help you keep an organized record of relevant information. Your portfolio should be well organized and contain essential documents such as a copy of your nursing license, copies of any certifications or credentials, and a professional, current resume and curriculum vitae. If you have been recognized for participation in any event, active in political activism, professional organizations, or community service, documenting this is also an excellent idea.


STEP #10: Decide Where You Want to Work


About the Step:

When you become a travel nurse, you will find there are many settings where you can find assignments. Think about the kind of work you want to do and the setting that you feel most comfortable working in.

PRO TIP:

One of the things that makes travel nursing such a great option is that you can work in diverse settings. You do not have to limit yourself to one type of nursing or a particular work environment. It is still good, though, to think about what you enjoy most about nursing. That way, you can work with your recruiter or agency to find assignments you feel comfortable with.


STEP #11: Research Travel Nurse Agencies


About the Step:

Just because there are lots of travel nursing agencies, that does not mean they all have what you want or need. If you want to become a travel nurse, you owe it to yourself to research several travel nurse agencies and find ones you feel good about.

PRO TIP:

As you research travel nurse agencies, one of the main things to consider is the company’s reputation. You can learn a lot about a company by reading Google reviews and checking out the company’s social media pages. Check out the company’s job board to see what kind of assignments they offer. Finding a travel nursing job is easy, but you may need help finding housing. So, another important thing to ask about is if the company has a housing coordinator. Ask about benefits and whether you have options for bonuses and extra hours or extended contracts.


STEP #12: Consider Partnering with a Recruiter


About the Step:

While it is possible to find travel nursing jobs on your own, many travel nurses will tell you their recruiters play a pivotal role in finding the best assignments and negotiating great contracts. Knowing what to look for in a recruiter will help you find the right person to work with.

PRO TIP:

A good travel nurse recruiter will have some distinct characteristics, and you should look for them before choosing who to go with. First, a recruiter must be an excellent communicator. After all, their job is to help negotiate contracts and assignments and to help you transition from one job to the next. When you become a travel nurse, you need someone you can call to ensure the next job is lined up, who can work out issues with your contract, housing, or pay. Therefore, you need to look for a recruiter who is easily accessible.


STEP #13: Start Applying for Travel Nurse Assignments


About the Step:

Once you decide the type of travel nursing jobs that interest you and identify agencies or recruiters you want to work with, the next step is to begin applying for travel nurse jobs.

PRO TIP:

I recommend developing a good rapport with the recruiter(s) of travel nursing agencies. If you get to know your recruiters and share your goals and interests, they can help identify possible placements for you. When they identify available assignments, you give your approval, and your recruiter can help try to facilitate a contract in your favor.

Many travel nurses work with more than one agency or recruiter. If you choose to work with more than one agency/recruiter, be open and let them know. That way, if you need to decline an offer from one agency because you are committed to a contract elsewhere, the recruiter will know it was a time conflict, not that you are unwilling to work, which will keep you on good terms with everyone.


STEP #14: Make a Travel Checklist and Follow It


About the Step:

When you become a travel nurse, it is essential to plan carefully and prepare for your assignments. A simple yet especially important step in good planning is to create a travel nurse checklist and follow it. Your travel checklist should include essential items. For example, check facility guidelines to determine what type/color uniform you need and get your scrubs ready. Pack comfortable work shoes, casual clothes for days off, and a few outfits for going out. Make sure you have any prescription medicines filled before leaving and that you have enough to last for the duration of your contract. If you do not have anyone to gather your mail while you are gone, contact the post office and ask them to hold your mail until you return.

PRO TIP:

The average length of time for a travel nursing contract is 13 weeks. As a general rule, I recommend considering what items you use frequently in a 13-week period at home. If you do not use something at least two or three times every week, you probably do not need to pack it for your trip. Anything you need other than essentials is something you can pick up at a local store when you get to your new work location.


STEP #15: Hit the Road and Have Fun!


About the Step:

The final step in becoming a travel nurse is to get going! Once contracts are signed, housing is secured, and arrangements are made, it is time to leave home and get to your new job. Remember, whether you work a traditional job near your home or become a travel nurse, you need to have fun. Take advantage of opportunities to mingle with staff and make new friends. Ask a coworker to go out for coffee or lunch. Travel nursing is a great way to expand your professional network and make new friends, but it is up to you to make it happen.

PRO TIP:

Whenever possible, try to arrive in your new town a few days early. By arriving early, you can get settled into your new living space and familiarize yourself with the area. Take the time to drive to the hospital or facility where you will work and introduce yourself to the supervisor. That way, on your first day, you will already know where to go, and you will not feel so out of place.



4 Major Challenges You Will Face in Becoming a Travel Nurse


Becoming a travel nurse has some challenges, but if you know what to expect, you can prepare for the challenges and overcome them. The following are four major challenges you will face when you become a travel nurse.

CHALLENGE #1: Adapting to New Settings


About the Challenge:

One of the biggest challenges of becoming a travel nurse is adapting to new settings. Each facility has its own policies and procedures. Some facilities are large, and others are small. Finding your way to supply closets, breakrooms, and nurses' desks can seem overwhelming when you are in a new place every few months.

How to Overcome:

I always recommend arriving at your new location at least a day or two in advance before your assignment starts. Visit the facility and ask the supervisor if they or someone on their team can show you where you need to report on your first day and give you a tour of the facility. While there are some things you will learn as you go, taking a little time to familiarize yourself with the facility before beginning work can make transitioning to new settings easier.


CHALLENGE #2: Making Sure You Meet State Licensure Requirements


About the Challenge:

If you want to become a travel nurse, you must meet state licensure requirements for each state where you plan to work. If you live in a Nurse Licensure Compact state, you may apply for a multi-state license, which allows you to practice in other Compact states. If you do not live in a Compact state or the state where your assignment is located is not a Compact state, you must apply for licensure in that state to practice legally.

How to Overcome:

If you live in an NLC state and have not yet applied for a multi-state license, I recommend doing so. Talk to your recruiters and find out what assignments they have in states where you currently hold a license to practice. You can begin by working in those states and, if you want to practice in other states, apply for licenses in those states while working elsewhere.


CHALLENGE #3: Being Away From Friends and Family


About the Challenge:

Perhaps one of the most challenging things about becoming a travel nurse is spending time away from friends and family. When you work travel nursing jobs, you can be away from home for weeks or months at a time. It is important to consider your relationships and obligations at home and how they will be affected before committing to any travel nursing job.

How to Overcome:

If you have a family and do not want to leave them for work, you can consider taking travel nurse assignments that work cohesively with your family's schedule. For example, if you have school-aged children, taking travel nurse assignments in the summer may work better. You can travel to new places and experience them with your family while earning a good income and without disrupting your children's school schedule.


CHALLENGE #4: Securing Housing Can Be Complicated


About the Challenge:

Many travel nursing agencies offer options for agency housing or provide a housing stipend to travel nurses who choose to find their own housing. Agency housing is typically considered part of the travel nurse compensation package, while a stipend is more of an allowance you may use to find your own accommodation. Using agency housing ensures you will have suitable lodging available before your assignment begins, which can help relieve some of the stress of your transition from one place to the next.

How to Overcome:

Think about how much space you need and how much input you want when it comes to choosing where to live. One important thing to keep in mind when you become a travel nurse is that if you want to travel with your family, company-paid housing may not cover housing big enough for a family. You should work closely with your recruiter to discuss housing options. Even if you opt to take a housing stipend and arrange your own housing accommodations, your recruiter can be helpful in finding the right place.



The 4 Most In-Demand Specialties for Travel Nurses


One of the awesome things about becoming a travel nurse is that there are so many opportunities. Whether you choose to work in one specific niche or try your hand at different specialty areas or settings, you have lots of options! The following are four of the most in-demand specialties for travel nurses.

SPECIALTY #1: Emergency Room Travel Nurses

As an emergency room travel nurse, you will have the same responsibilities as a traditional emergency nurse. Your role will be to provide patient care in emergencies or crisis situations for patients with acute injuries or illnesses. You will assess patients and provide nursing interventions to stabilize them, perform wound care, administer medications, and educate patients and caregivers. At times, you may prepare patients to be transferred to an inpatient unit for continued care.

SPECIALTY #2: Intensive Care Travel Nurses

When you become a travel nurse and work in intensive care, you will monitor and care for patients with critical care needs. Your job will include performing frequent assessments, administering medications, providing patient hygiene, and promoting patient safety and comfort. You may perform diagnostic or therapeutic exams and will work closely with the interdisciplinary team.

SPECIALTY #3: Neonatal ICU Travel Nurses

If you want to care for premature or critically ill newborns after becoming a travel nurse, you could consider working as a neonatal ICU travel nurse. In this job, you will monitor critically ill newborns and infants and work collaboratively with the interprofessional healthcare team. Your responsibilities will include monitoring vital signs, providing daily hygiene care, feeding infants, and educating patients.

SPECIALTY #4: Telemetry Travel Nurses

When you become a travel nurse who works telemetry, you will provide nursing care to injured, ill, disabled, or convalescent patients. This job involves assessing patient needs and progress, including monitoring vital signs, EKG activity, oxygen levels, and intake and output. You will also develop and implement nursing care plans and maintain the patient's medical record.



The 4 Most-Popular Travel Nursing Agencies to Work For


One of the best tips I can give you about becoming a travel nurse is to find reputable travel nursing agencies and work with their recruiters. Good agencies have recruiters and nurse liaisons who advocate for you and work with you through each step of your assignments. There are many travel nurse agencies to choose from. The following are four of the most popular agencies to consider when becoming a travel nurse.

AGENCY #1: Axis Medical Staffing

Axis Medical Staffing, which is based in Seattle, Washington, opened in 2004 and has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies by the Inc. 5000 list two years in a row. The company was also recognized by BluePipes as the #1 travel nursing company in the nation.

Axis offers nationwide healthcare coverage (available after your first month of work), paid personalized housing, 401K and immediate vesting, state license reimbursement, weekly pay, and direct deposit. The company has a dedicated team of recruiters who will work with you to ensure a smooth transition from one assignment to the next and to make sure all your travel nurse needs are met.

AGENCY #2: Fusion Medical Staffing

Fusion Medical Staffing offers positions in 50 specialties with assignments ranging from Florida to Alaska. The company offers 24/7 clinical liaisons to help with all your travel nurse needs and guide you through each assignment. Additionally, Fusion offers credentialing reimbursement, referral bonuses, and health, dental, and vision insurance. The company also offers voluntary benefits, such as critical illness and accident insurance and identity theft protection.

AGENCY #3: Travel Nurses Inc.

Travel Nurses Inc. is a nurse-owned and operated travel nurse agency. The company has been in business since 1988, demonstrating true dedication to the travel nursing industry. Travel Nurses Inc.’s home office is in Germantown, Tennessee, but the company employs recruiters nationwide. At Travel Nurse Inc, you will have the option of health, dental, vision, and life insurance coverage from day one of beginning a full-time contract, 24/7 clinical support, and opportunities to receive referral bonuses. As added incentives, the company offers reimbursement for licensure and certification fees, immunizations, and physical exams. Additionally, when you sign up for your first travel assignment, you will receive a $100 sign-on scrub allotment at the beginning of your contract and a $500 completion bonus at the end of your contract.

AGENCY #4: RN Network

RN Network has been in business since 1998 and is part of one of the most respected and largest healthcare staffing companies, CHG Healthcare. The company offers generous pay plans, and nurses have access to the same financial and medical benefits as corporate staff members from the first day of employment. The company gives you the option of finding your own housing and being reimbursed or can help you arrange housing accommodation. RN Network has a dedicated team of recruiters and nurse liaisons available around the clock.



The 4 Best States for Travel Nurses to Work


Each state has something special to offer travel nurses, and each nurse knows what they want as far as a travel nursing job. Overall, the four best states to work in after becoming a travel nurse are California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Massachusetts.

STATE #1: California

California is the top state for travel nursing. According to Indeed, there are more than 3,000 travel nurse jobs in California, with pay ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 weekly plus benefits. Some of the top roles for travel nurses in the state include emergency, telemetry, ICU, surgery, med-surg, and infection control travel nursing.

STATE #2: Hawaii

If the breeze in your hair and the sun on your skin sounds like a dream, travel nursing in Hawaii may be just what you need! The state is one of the top states for travel nurses with positions in settings including home health, oncology, emergency, hemodialysis, and med-surg. Travel nurses in Hawaii earn between $2,500 and $4,500 per week.

STATE #3: Oregon

Oregon is another popular choice for travel nurses. With positions in long-term care facilities, perioperative units, ICU, pediatric care, emergency care, and telemetry, you can find a position doing what you love. The average pay for travel nurses in Oregon is between $2,500 and $3,000.

STATE #4: Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, you can work as a travel nurse at some of the nation’s best medical centers, including Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham & Women's Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Top travel nursing jobs in the state include OR, pediatrics, cardiology, home health, and ICU. Travel nurses in Massachusetts earn an average of $2,700 per week.



What is the Average Travel Nurse Salary Per Hour?


According to Indeed, travel nurses earn an average of $52.66 per hour. This pay is nearly $10 more per hour than the average RN salary nationwide, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hourly$52.66
(Source: Indeed.com)



What is the Average Travel Nurse Salary Per Day?


Travel nurses earn an average salary of $545 per day.

Day$545
(Source: Indeed.com)



What is the Average Travel Nurse Salary Per Week?


On average, travel nurses earn approximately $2,248 per week.

Weekly$2,248
(Source: Indeed.com)



What is the Average Travel Nurse Salary Per Month?


Travel nurses earn an average of $10,240 per month.

Monthly$10,240
(Source: Indeed.com)



What is the Average Travel Nurse Salary Per Year?


According to data from Indeed, travel nurses earn an average annual salary of $122,884.

Annual$122,884
(Source: Indeed.com)



What is the Average Salary by State for Travel Nurses?


The average travel nurse’s annual salary ranges from $89,050 in South Dakota to $184,080 in California. This pay is equal to an hourly wage between $42.81 and $88.50. States that pay closer to the national average salary include Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. In these five states, travel nurses earn between $119,540 and $122,680 yearly.

State Hourly Weekly Monthly Annual
Alabama $44.41 $1,776 $7,700 $92,370
Alaska $68.57 $2,743 $11,890 $142,630
Arizona $57.57 $2,303 $9,980 $119,750
Arkansas $44.16 $1,766 $7,650 $91,850
California $88.50 $3,540 $15,340 $184,080
Colorado $57.47 $2,299 $9,960 $119,540
Connecticut $62.56 $2,503 $10,840 $130,130
Delaware $56.43 $2,257 $9,780 $117,380
District of Columbia $65.20 $2,608 $11,300 $135,610
Florida $53.04 $2,122 $9,190 $110,320
Georgia $56.54 $2,262 $9,800 $117,600
Hawaii $75.15 $3,006 $13,030 $156,310
Idaho $52.18 $2,087 $9,040 $108,530
Illinois $54.57 $2,183 $9,460 $113,510
Indiana $50.16 $2,007 $8,700 $104,340
Iowa $46.04 $1,842 $7,980 $95,770
Kansas $47.78 $1,911 $8,280 $99,390
Kentucky $51.52 $2,061 $8,930 $107,160
Louisiana $50.39 $2,016 $8,730 $104,810
Maine $51.38 $2,055 $8,910 $106,870
Maryland $58.40 $2,336 $10,120 $121,480
Massachusetts $69.13 $2,765 $11,980 $143,790
Michigan $53.54 $2,142 $9,280 $111,360
Minnesota $58.98 $2,359 $10,220 $122,680
Mississippi $45.09 $1,803 $7,820 $93,780
Missouri $47.70 $1,908 $8,270 $99,210
Montana $52.00 $2,080 $9,010 $108,170
Nebraska $48.79 $1,952 $8,460 $101,490
Nevada $63.92 $2,557 $11,080 $132,960
New Hampshire $55.37 $2,215 $9,600 $115,170
New Jersey $64.16 $2,567 $11,120 $133,460
New Mexico $56.80 $2,272 $9,850 $118,150
New York $66.46 $2,658 $11,520 $138,240
North Carolina $51.38 $2,055 $8,910 $106,880
North Dakota $49.78 $1,991 $8,630 $103,540
Ohio $52.07 $2,083 $9,030 $108,310
Oklahoma $51.05 $2,042 $8,850 $106,190
Oregon $70.76 $2,830 $12,270 $147,180
Pennsylvania $53.51 $2,141 $9,280 $111,310
Rhode Island $58.57 $2,343 $10,150 $121,830
South Carolina $49.34 $1,973 $8,550 $102,620
South Dakota $42.81 $1,713 $7,420 $89,050
Tennessee $48.11 $1,924 $8,340 $100,060
Texas $55.97 $2,239 $9,700 $116,410
Utah $50.71 $2,028 $8,790 $105,480
Vermont $53.09 $2,124 $9,200 $110,430
Virginia $54.33 $2,173 $9,420 $113,010
Washington $67.48 $2,699 $11,700 $140,360
West Virginia $47.94 $1,918 $8,310 $99,720
Wisconsin $53.76 $2,151 $9,320 $111,830
Wyoming $53.77 $2,151 $9,320 $111,840



Along With Salary, What Other Benefits Do Travel Nurses Usually Receive?


If you want to become a travel nurse, there is more than an excellent income to consider. In fact, travel nurses have many benefits and perks. The following are a few benefits you could experience if you choose travel nursing.

BENEFIT #1: You Can Discover New Places

If you like the idea of discovering new destinations but need to work, you can become a travel nurse and have the best of both worlds. You can work in any state in the country or work internationally and see experience what the world has to offer, all the while earning an excellent income!

BENEFIT #2: You Can Make New Friends

Depending on how far you decide to travel, you can become a travel nurse and make friends across the country or worldwide. Even if you later decide to work a traditional non-travel nursing job, the friendships you develop as a travel nurse can last a lifetime.

BENEFIT #3: Free Housing

One of the excellent benefits of becoming a travel nurse is you can get free housing! Travel nurse companies typically offer either company housing options or housing stipends to help pay for accommodations while you are on assignment. If you want to buy a home but are trying to save money first, you can set aside money from each check in a savings account to help with your home purchase since you will not need it when you are on assignments!

BENEFIT #4: You May Find the Perfect Place to Retire!

Another great thing about being a travel nurse is that your vision for the future becomes larger. In fact, many travel nurses work assignments in places they love so much that they decide to relocate or retire there. What a great way to explore your options without spending tons of money on vacations! You can visit new places, discover possibilities, and make a great living while doing so.

BENEFIT #5: Reimbursement for License and Certification Fee Renewal

As nurses, we must keep our licenses and certifications current to practice legally. Most travel nursing agencies offer nurses reimbursement for their yearly nursing license renewal and the renewal of any additional licenses or certifications needed to fulfill their jobs. Being reimbursed for something you must purchase is another awesome benefit of being a travel nurse.

BENEFIT #6: You Will Experience Amazing Professional Growth

With so many opportunities for travel nurse jobs, you can broaden your skill set. You can highlight your adaptability and boost your resume with each new assignment. The more you experience and grow, the better candidate you become for each new assignment or job opportunity.



Who Handles and Pays for Travel Nurse Travel Expenses?


Many travel nurse agencies offer travel expense reimbursement or a stipend to help with the cost of travel to new assignments. Each agency and the facilities they contract with varies. Therefore, it is important to verify the policies of each agency you work with. I have found that working with a recruiter is a great way to negotiate the terms you like for each contract. For example, if you work with a recruiter and the agency does not cover all of your travel expenses, your recruiter may be able to negotiate a higher wage with the hiring facility to help balance finances for you.



Who Handles and Pays for Travel Nurse Housing?


There are a few options for handling and paying for travel nurse housing. Most travel nurse agencies have contracts with apartment complexes or other housing departments and offer the option of setting agency-provided housing for you. If you prefer to find your own accommodations, your agency will usually provide a housing stipend you can use to pay for your stay while fulfilling your contract.



Is There a High Demand for Travel Nurses?


There is still a demand for travel nurses. The demand for travel nurses varies according to geographical location and the number of available resident nurses. Highly populated areas, underserved communities, and areas with lots of tourism tend to have the greatest demand for travel nurses.



3 Main Reasons Why the Demand is High for Travel Nurses


Before choosing a career path, like becoming a travel nurse, it is good to consider whether there is a demand for the service you plan to provide. Travel nursing is an excellent option if you want to earn a good income while traveling. The following are three of the main reasons why the demand for travel nurses is so high.

REASON #1: Nurse Burnout

As rewarding a career as nursing is, it is also demanding. Nurses face physical and mental challenges daily. Many nurses experience burnout and either take extended time off or leave the profession altogether, which means there is a need for other nurses to fill their vacant jobs. I cannot stress the importance of self-care in nursing enough. Know your limits, take time for yourself and your loved ones, rest, and know when you need a break.

REASON #2: An Aging Population Requiring Healthcare Services

The United States Census Bureau reports that over the last decade, the U.S. population of Americans aged 65 or older grew by more than 34 percent. With more people living longer, there is an increase in age-related illnesses, which require the care of qualified healthcare professionals such as nurses. When you become a travel nurse, you can help fill the gap where there are shortages of nurses in areas where nursing services are needed.

REASON #3: Shortage of Nursing Instructors Means Fewer Nurse Graduates

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports faculty shortages at nursing schools nationwide, this means there is now a limit on student capacity for nursing programs. The AACN attributes this shortage to an aging faculty, clinical site competition, and budget constraints at colleges and universities. With fewer nurses graduating and entering the workforce, new and replacement nursing positions remain available, increasing the demand for travel nurses to fill those roles.



Bonus! 5 Ways to Know If Becoming a Travel Nurse is Right for You


If you are thinking of becoming a travel nurse, you may wonder if you have what it takes. The following are five characteristics and ways to know if becoming a travel nurse is right for you.

WAY #1: You adapt well to new settings.

When you become a travel nurse, you will work in various settings. You will be expected to follow each facility’s policies and procedures and learn their methods of operation, which means adaptability is essential. If you enjoy a challenge and find transitioning easy, this could be a great career path for you.

WAY #2: You love meeting new people.

One of the things I love about travel nursing is you get to meet new people. You can learn about diverse cultures and lifestyles nationally and internationally. The more you learn, the more you can give back to others in your professional and personal life.

WAY #3: You are a self-starter.

Being a travel nurse takes motivation and a willingness to jump right in. If you are a self-starter, enjoy learning new things, and do not back down from challenges, you could find becoming a travel nurse is a great opportunity.

WAY #4: You work well with others.

As a nurse, teamwork is essential. When you become a travel nurse, you will meet new nurses and healthcare staff at each new assignment. If you enjoy being part of a team and work well with others, you could do well as a travel nurse.

WAY #5: You are always up for a challenge.

Nursing in any setting can be challenging. Travel nurses not only face the challenge of caring for patients with various illnesses, diseases, or injuries and working collaboratively with team members, but there is also the challenge of learning your way around new facilities, getting to know staff, and learning how each organization functions. If you are up for a challenge, travel nursing may be something you enjoy!



My Final Thoughts


Travel nursing is a popular trend among many nurses today. As a travel nurse, you can experience new people and places while earning an excellent income. It can be a bit scary at first, especially if you wonder, “Who can tell me how to become a travel nurse?” In this article, I answered that question by sharing 15 steps to successfully become a travel nurse and shared some of my personal insights and experiences. If you love nursing, enjoy traveling, and want to broaden your professional network and gain new skills, travel nursing is an excellent way to do it all.



Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert


1. How Many Years Does It Take To Become A Travel Nurse After High School?

It can take three to five years or longer to become a travel nurse after high school, depending on how quickly you begin a nursing program, the type of program you choose, and whether you enroll part-time or full-time.


2. What Are All The Requirements To Become A Travel Nurse?

To become a travel nurse, you must first graduate from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN. After passing the licensure exam, most travel nurse jobs require you to have at least one year of clinical experience as a nurse. Some jobs may require specialty certifications, as well.


3. What Degree Do I Need To Become A Travel Nurse?

You need to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to be eligible for licensure as a registered nurse and become a travel nurse.


4. How Many Years Of College To Become A Travel Nurse?

Becoming a travel nurse can take as few as two years to four years or longer in college. The time it takes you to earn your degree depends on the type of degree you choose and whether you choose part-time or full-time study.


5. Can I Become A Travel Nurse With An Associate's Degree In Nursing?

Yes, you can become a travel nurse with an associate’s degree in nursing.


6. Can I Become A Travel Nurse With A Bachelor's Degree In Nursing?

You can become a travel nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.


7. How To Decide Which Nursing Degree Is Right For Me To Become A Travel Nurse?

Both ADN and BSN nursing programs prepare you for licensure as a registered nurse and can help you start the path to becoming a travel nurse. The best way to decide which degree is best for you is to determine how long you can commit to earning your degree and the type of nursing role you want after graduating. For example, if you prefer a clinical bedside role, an ADN may be the best option. If you think nursing leadership is something you want to pursue, a BSN is the better choice.


8. ADN VS. BSN: What Is The Fastest Way To Become A Travel Nurse?

The fastest way to earn your degree as a registered nurse and become a travel nurse is to earn an ADN or associate degree in nursing.


9. ADN VS. BSN: Which Degree Is Better To Become A Travel Nurse?

You can become a travel nurse with both an ADN and a BSN degree. The type of job you want in nursing should determine which degree you choose to pursue.


10. Can I Become A Travel Nurse As A New Grad?

Some travel nurse agencies offer mentorship programs and opportunities for new nurse graduates to become travel nurses. Before committing to a travel nursing contract, be sure to read the fine print of contracts and make sure you have the experience required by the host facilities.


11. Can I Become A Travel Nurse Without Any Work Experience?

Although some travel nurse agencies hire new nurse grads, they rarely hire anyone to become a travel nurse without some prior experience.


12. How Many Years Of Experience Do I Need To Become A Travel Nurse?

Most travel nurse agencies require you to have at least one year of work experience before becoming a travel nurse.


13. How To Become A Travel Nurse Fast?

The best way to become a travel nurse fast is to earn an associate degree in nursing and gain some work experience as soon as possible.


14. How To Become A Local Travel Nurse?

You can become a local travel nurse by applying for travel nurse assignments in an area close to where you currently live. Travel nurse agencies have opportunities for nurses nationwide. So, finding a local travel nurse job may be easier than you think!


15. How To Become An International Travel Nurse?

To become an international travel nurse, you must first be licensed in your state of residence. International travel nursing jobs typically require a minimum of one year of nursing experience. Your destination country will likely have several other requirements. For instance, you typically need a valid passport, a work visa, and vaccinations before entering certain countries. You may also need to demonstrate language proficiency or have other special certifications.


16. How To Become A NICU Travel Nurse?

To become a NICU travel nurse, you must first earn a nursing degree from an accredited nursing program, obtain your RN license, and gain at least one year of experience in a neonatal intensive care setting. Some jobs may require you to have a neonatal nurse certification, as well.


17. How To Become A Pediatric Travel Nurse?

If you wish to become a travel nurse specializing in pediatrics, you need a nursing degree, a current and unrestricted nursing license, and one to two years of experience working in pediatric care. You can also choose to become certified as a pediatric nurse, which can boost your resume and make you a more appealing candidate.


18. How To Become A Labor And Delivery Travel Nurse?

After earning your nursing degree and obtaining your nursing license, you need to gain experience in labor and delivery. Earning an advanced nursing certification in labor and delivery is also recommended but may not be required.


19. How To Become An ICU Travel Nurse?

If you want to work as an intensive care unit travel nurse, you need a current, unencumbered RN license, ACLS, PALS, and BLS certification. Earning an acute/critical care nursing certification may be required. Most ICU travel nurses usually need at least two years of experience in critical care.


20. Is It Easy To Become A Travel Nurse?

If you know where to look and who to talk to, it can be easy to become a travel nurse. The main thing to know is that you must have a valid nursing license and usually some type of nursing experience, depending on where you want to work. Working with a travel nurse agency and recruiter can make the transition to travel nursing much easier.


21. Is Becoming A Travel Nurse A Good Career Choice?

Becoming a travel nurse can be a perfect career choice. As a travel nurse, you can travel the country or the world, meet new people, gain new professional experiences, and earn an excellent income.


22. Is It Hard To Become A Travel Nurse?

As long as you meet licensure and experience requirements, it is usually not difficult to become a travel nurse.


23. Are Travel Nurses Happy With Their Jobs?

According to data from a survey released by Nomad Health, 76% of travel nurses report being happy with their jobs compared to their previous nursing roles.


24. Do Travel Nurses Work On Holidays?

Some travel nurses work on holidays, and others do not. Whether you work on a holiday after becoming a travel nurse will depend on the setting where you work and the terms of your contract.


25. Is The Job Of A Travel Nurse Stressful?

Travel nursing, like any nursing job, can be stressful. Some of the main causes of stress for travel nurses are the period of getting acclimated to a new setting, learning organizational policies and procedures, and making new friends in new cities.


26. How Many Hours A Day Does A Travel Nurse Work?

Travel nurses work various shifts. Some assignments require 8-hour shifts. Others offer 10- or 12-hour shifts.


27. How Many Hours A Week Does A Travel Nurse Work?

Generally, travel nurses work 40 hours per week. Additionally, your contract may offer allowances for overtime hours if you like.


28. How Many Days A Week Do Travel Nurses Work?

Travel nursing contracts vary. Some nurses work five days per week. Others work three or four days. Some contracts may require additional days, depending on the setting where you work and the need for nurses.


29. Are Travel Nurses Paid Overtime?

Travel nurses can earn overtime pay. Because hospitals and other healthcare organizations know travel nurses have non-taxable benefits, they often try to negotiate paying travel nurse agencies lower bill rates, which could affect your wages. Therefore, it is important to understand your travel nurse contract completely and know beforehand what your overtime pay rate will be.


30. How Long Are The Shortest Travel Nursing Assignments?

The shortest travel nursing assignments may be as little as two weeks.


31. How Long Are The Longest Travel Nursing Assignments?

Some of the longest travel nursing assignments last around 26 weeks. However, some contracts can be extended, depending on the facility's need and your preference to continue working.


32. Can My Family Join Me On My Travel Nursing Assignment?

It is possible for your family to join you on travel nursing assignments.


33. Do Travel Nurses Have Vacation Time?

Travel nurses typically take unpaid vacation time between contract assignments. However, if you work as a full-time employee for a travel nurse agency, they may offer paid vacation time.


34. On Average, How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Hour?

On average, travel nurses earn approximately $52.66 per hour.

$52.66


35. On Average, How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Day?

The average daily pay for travel nurses is $545.

$545


36. On Average, How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Week?

Travel nurses earn an average of $2,248 weekly.

$2,248


37. On Average, How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Month?

The average monthly pay for travel nurses is $8,700.

$8,700


38. On Average, How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Year?

On average, the yearly income for travel nurses is $122,884.

$122,884


39. Is It Worth It To Become A Travel Nurse?

Becoming a travel nurse, in my opinion, is definitely worth it! Where else can you get housing paid for, travel to new cities or countries, earn an excellent income, and experience diverse cultures?


40. Can A Travel Nurse Become Rich?

Travel nurses who manage their finances responsibly can experience financial freedom and wealth.


Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).