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How Much Do Travel Nurses Make? Factors That Stack-On The Cash
- According to recent studies, the average annual pay for a travel nurse in the U.S. is $99,202.
- The COVID-19 pandemic, travel assignment location, nursing specialties, and nursing shifts all impact final, overall pay.
- From base pay, to bonuses and stipends, Nursing CE Central dives into how much travel nurses make across the country.
Morgan Curry, BSN / RN
Intensive Care, Outpatient Surgery, Aesthetics, Education, and Nursing Leadership
Are you thinking about becoming a travel nurse? You hear they make good money, and they get to travel all over the place. However, they can also stick close to home and make the same kind of money, plus a stipend. Maybe you’re just curious? Well, here’s the breakdown to the big question: “How much do travel nurses make?”
According to the latest salary survey from ZipRecruiter conducted in early March of this year, the average annual pay for a travel nurse in the U.S. is $99,202. However, the study found that travel nurse salaries range as high as $146,000 per year and as low as $30,500 per year. Their estimates were based on millions of published, active job postings throughout the country, as well as payroll databases.
When looking at what areas of the country pay travel nurses the most, ZipRecruiter analysis found that, “The average pay range for a Travel Nurse varies little (about $25,000), which suggests that regardless of location, there are not many opportunities for increased pay or advancement, even with several years of experience.”
There are pay packages of over $10,000 a week for a 13-week assignment… just be prepared for the potential of walking unarmed into a war zone.
Increased Rates from COVID-19
In the age of the pandemic, as many nurses know, there is an increased need for nurses all over the country. Therefore, the travel nursing assignments have increased, and with them so have their pay. Sometimes, travelers may also receive hazard pay provided by the agency. Hazard pay alone may be a huge incentive to sign a contract with a travel nursing agency, as many nurses staffed at hospitals across the country have yet to receive any hazard pay from their institutions. You can read more on the current rarity of nursing hazard pay, explained by Nursing CE Central, by clicking here.
There are pay packages of over $10,000 a week for a 13-week assignment… just be prepared for the potential of walking unarmed into a war zone. This seems like a lot of money, but before signing on the dotted line, make sure you ask yourself if the stress of the job will be worth it.
Location is Everything
Despite the reported difficulties in pay advancement after several years of travel experience, different locations do have different starting pay rates.
When trying to determine how much do travel nurses make, it‘s important to remember that some locations may have significantly higher costs of living, making a travel nurses’ net profit considerably lower after non-stipend living expenses are deducted.
Historically, the highest paying states for travel nurses include California, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington, and New York. Generally, southern states have a lower cost of living, and in turn have lower travel nursing rates. Destination locations like Hawaii and Florida may pay lower because there is no shortage of nurses who want to work there.
Here is a list, compiled by ZipRecruiter, of the cities where travel nurses are noted to earn the most:
As exciting as a bonus may sound, it’s important to read the fine print, as there are many types of bonuses involved in travel nursing.
Specialties and Shift Factors
The type of travel nursing position also plays a key role in salary, with ICU, Emergency Room, and Operating Room contracts bringing in the highest averages. Non-specialty nurses such as medical/surgical and psychiatric are typically paid at a lower rate.
Specialized nurses with highly sought-after skills and certifications are more marketable, and therefore, more lucrative opportunities exist for these individuals.
Finally, it’s important to think about your lifestyle as a travel nurse, and working days versus nights can make a big difference in quality of life for some people. Night shift assignments are more prevalent in travel nursing. However, there tends to be higher salary rates for these assignments. If you want to make the most money, flexibility is key.
Some travel nursing assignments advertise bonuses, and this is an important consideration when asking, “How much do travel nurses make?” As exciting as a bonus may sound, it’s important to read the fine print, as there are many types of bonuses involved in travel nursing. The dollar amounts can range from $100-$5,000+ and they may be conditional based on a multitude of factors. This is a very enticing factor in your decision to become a travel nurse.
What is a housing stipend? Basically, it is a sum of money intended to cover the cost of housing while you are working your assignment. It may be easier to settle for the provided living arrangements by your agency, however, by opting for the housing stipend, you have the freedom to choose your own place. Furthermore, if rent ends up being less than the stipend, you can pocket the extra $$$.
There is a lot that factors into the finances for travel nursing, including health insurance, taxes, and more. However, more often than not, travel nurses receive a higher salary than the average staff nurse.
So, the answer to the original question, “How much do travel nurses make?” is – it varies, and there is no single answer. The possibilities are endless and you must decide what your preferences and priorities are to help you narrow down your choices. I encourage you to take the time to do that and look further into this exciting and lucrative field of nursing.
Try something new and step outside of your comfort zone. At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to look!
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