How to Become a Travel Nurse:
The Definitive Guide


Are you the type of person that loves to help others, but can’t stand to stay in one area for longer than a few months?

Do you have a talent for medicine, but an itch for adventure?

Then becoming a Travel Nurse may be just the right career field for you.

Most Travel Nurses take over for hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other health facilities when there is a shortage of nurses.

If you have experience in nursing and love to see different parts of the country, see what it takes to become a Travel Nurse.

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What is a Travel Nurse?

Travel Nurses are just like Registered Nurses, except they don’t stay in one facility for long.

Travel Nurses are used to picking up and heading to different locations, whether close to home or far away.

In order to work as a Travel Nurse, you’ll need at least twelve months of acute care clinical experience.

As a Travel Nurse, you can choose which types of facilities you would be comfortable working in, and you can choose where to work as well.

Another plus to being a Travel Nurse, is you receive a stipend as well as free private housing wherever you go.

Duties

Travel Nurses have many of the same responsibilities as typical Registered Nurse.

However, since most Travel Nurse positions are temporary assignments, those duties can change on a daily basis.

Some of the duties you can expect as a Travel Nurse are:

  • Administering medication
  • Preparing meals
  • Teach family members and caretakers about patients medical needs
  • Follow up procedures
  • Physical therapy

Salary

The average salary for a Travel Nurse in the United States is around $77,000 a year.

Depending on how much education, experience, and certifications you have, that number can change.

A typical salary for a new Travel Nurse is around $50,000 a year.

Travel Nurses that have a lot of experience can make over $110,000 a year.

Those that work in places like California will make more money than Travel Nurses working in areas that are more rural, like Oregon.

Travel Nurses that work in Hawaii can make around $100,000 a year as well.

That’s like getting paid to take a vacation.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $77,460

$52K
$60K
$77K
$90K
$111K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$60,230
Alaska$90,500
Arizona$78,330
Arkansas$61,330
California$113,240
Colorado$76,230
Connecticut$83,440
Delaware$74,100
District of Columbia$94,820
Florida$67,610
Georgia$69,590
Hawaii$104,060
Idaho$69,480
Illinois$73,510
Indiana$66,560
Iowa$60,590
Kansas$62,450
Kentucky$63,750
Louisiana$65,850
Maine$69,760
Maryland$77,910
Massachusetts$93,160
Michigan$73,200
Minnesota$80,130
Mississippi$59,750
Missouri$64,160
Montana$69,340
Nebraska$66,640
Nevada$88,380
New Hampshire$73,880
New Jersey$84,280
New Mexico$73,300
New York$87,840
North Carolina$66,440
North Dakota$66,290
Ohio$68,220
Oklahoma$64,800
Oregon$92,960
Pennsylvania$71,410
Rhode Island$82,310
South Carolina$64,840
South Dakota$59,540
Tennessee$62,570
Texas$74,540
Utah$67,970
Vermont$70,240
Virginia$71,870
Washington$86,170
West Virginia$63,220
Wisconsin$72,610
Wyoming$68,690
Guam$58,070
Puerto Rico$35,040
Virgin Islands$68,500

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $113,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $113,240
Hawaii - $104,060
District of Columbia - $94,820
Massachusetts - $93,160
Oregon - $92,960
* Employment conditions in your area may vary. * Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

Step 1Earn an Associate's Degree

In order to work As any kind of nurse in the United States, you must possess an Associate’s degree.

A typical Associates degree in nursing can take around two years to complete.

With this type of degree, you are eligible to become a registered nurse and start working in the state in which you are registered.

Some aspiring nurses decide that they want to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing.

This is perfectly fine, and either road can lead you to become a Travel Nurse.

A Bachelor’s degree can take around four years to complete, but will also provide general education classes and other experiences that an Associate’s degree may not.

After registering by taking the NCLEX-RN exam, it’s time to gain some experience.

Step 2Gain Job Experience

Working as a Travel Nurse means that you will be moving all over and working with new people all of the time.

These people don’t have the time to train you, so this means in order to work as a Travel Nurse you’ll need some nursing experience.

Working as a Registered Nurse for around two years can gain you the proper experience to begin your journey to becoming a Travel Nurse.

It’s best to gain experience in the area of acute care, labor and delivery, and the ICU.

However, any experience is a good experience in the eyes of a Travel Nurse.

Step 3Pursue Professional Opportunities

If there are any extra training seminars or classes to take through your work or through a community college, now is the time to take those experiences.

Having experience in many areas will help in your goal of becoming a Travel Nurse.

The more diverse education you have, the better placement you will get in different hospitals.

There are some specialty certifications that can help push your career as a Travel Nurse.

These certifications include:

  • Basic Life Support
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support
  • CCRN
  • NIH Stroke Certification

Sometimes, it’s wise to apply for the jobs that you want and then go for the certification so that you know which one you need for the career.

Step 4Apply to a Travel Agency

In order to be a Travel Nurse, you’ll need to work with an agency.

There are many agencies throughout the country, but you must make sure that it is reputable.

Look online for agencies in your area, or talk to your employer to see if they can set you up with one.

Applying for a Travel Nurse agency will not cost you anything, and the agency does most of the job hunting for you.

All you have to do is fill out an application online, submit references, and make sure that you have all the skills required to become a Travel Nurse.

A recruiter for the company will likely get in touch with you, and that’s when you can decide where you want to work when you want to work, and whether you’ll have to apply for a new state license if you are moving out of state.

After an interview, signing contracts, and moving (if necessary) you are off to your new job as a Travel Nurse!


Education

All nurses have to have at least an Associate’s degree in Nursing in order to work in the United States.

A Travel Nurse must either hold an Associate’s degree in nursing or have a Bachelor’s degree.

An Associate’s degree can take around two years to finish, while it takes around four years to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree.

Most of the time, you can expect classroom time, clinicals, and internships to take up your education.

It’s even possible to earn a degree online.

The important thing to remember about an online degree is that you will still need to perform in-person clinicals and internships.

The typical courses that you can expect out of an Associates degree in Nursing include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Nursing practice and theory
  • Bioethics
  • Fundamentals of microbiology
  • Nursing research
  • Public health nursing

After completing your degree, it’s time to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

This exam will allow you to become a Registered Nurse in the state that you want to work in.

This exam covers four different areas:

  • Safe, effective care
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Physiology integrity

Even though you’ll be going to school for the same thing as a Registered Nurse, taking internships and working clinical classes that are out of your comfort zone can help you in the long run.

Travel Nurses that have experience in many unique areas will have a more thriving career than a Travel Nurse who only has experience in one area.

Your education to become a Travel Nurse doesn’t stop when you graduate college.

You’ll need to continuously learn and maintain your knowledge so that you can work in varying fields.

One week, you may work in an emergency room in Oklahoma, then the next week you may be flown to New York to work in disaster relief.

Video About The Career


Certification

There are no special licensing or certification requirements to become a Travel Nurse.

However, this career is unique because you must join a Travel Nurse Agency.

Some of the most popular Travel Nurse Agencies are:

  • Triage Staffing
  • Primetime Healthcare
  • Travel Nurse Across America
  • Flexcare Medical Staffing

Triage Staffing serves five major areas of Travel Nursing:

  • Radiology
  • Lab
  • Rehab Therapy
  • Nursing
  • Cardiopulmonary

With this agency, you’ll typically have a gig that lasts around 13 weeks.

You work for the agency instead of the facility where you will be nursing.

Primetime Healthcare provides temporary placements and permanent placements for Nurses as well.

Some of the areas that Primetime Healthcare serves are:

  • ICU
  • PICU
  • Oncology
  • Medical tech labs
  • Social work
  • Phlebotomy

Travel Nurse Across America also provides a variety of areas:

  • ICU
  • Surgery
  • Case management
  • Psychology
  • Emergency room

This agency provides temporary placements and longterm placements as well.

Flexcare Medical Staffing provides Travel Nurses with jobs in:

  • Radiology
  • Psychiatry
  • Endocrinology
  • Labor and Delivery

Not only does Flexcare Medical Staffing work with Travel Nurses, but they have services for psychiatry and counseling.

All of the agencies provide living arrangements and will often pay your bills for you as long as you are working with them on assignment.

It’s also important to remember that sometimes you may have to retake the NCLEX-RN exam in the state that you will be working so that you can be a Registered Nurse in that state.

If you want to be diligent when working to become a Travel Nurse, keep up on certifications like:

  • CPR
  • First Aid
  • Advanced Certifications

It’s also advised to think about earning certifications or specializations in varying fields.

This way you will have more impact on the medical field, those that understand several areas of nursing will find more job opportunities than ones who stick to one skillset.

Certification Example:

nursing ba example

Average Training Program Duration: 2-4 Years

Since there’s not much of a certification training program, we’ll talk about how long it takes to get accepted into an agency.

Once you fill out the application, which is typically online, it can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to hear back from a Travel Nurse agency.

Once you are accepted, there can be almost an immediate placement.

Which means you should be ready to work and move within a month.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

The job outlook for a Travel Nurse in the next decade seems to be on the rise.

The entire field of nursing can expect around a 12 percent increase in employment over the next ten years.

This demand in healthcare is due to the aging baby boomer generation, as well as more technological advancements in the medical field.

Travel Nurses will be in need due to the growth in outpatient facilities, care centers, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers around the country.

There may be competition within this career, nursing is a very competitive field and Travel Nursing is a rare specialty.

* The numbers below represent all the RNs in the United States and are not limited to travel nurses.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%

3,059,800
2018
3,431,300
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 371,500 jobs.


Should You Become a Travel Nurse?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

Nursing can be a stressful job, but it’s typically a very rewarding one.

Travel Nurses often enjoy their jobs because they get to see different parts of the country, meet new people, and have a varied schedule.

However, this isn’t satisfactory for nurses who want to have families, so if this sounds like you, becoming a Travel Nurse is not advised.

It seems that Travel Nurses find their jobs exciting and enjoy all of the diverse things that they do in each location.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

The average salary for a Travel Nurse is $77,000 a year.

When just starting out as a Travel Nurse, you can expect to make a little less.

Those that are just beginning their careers can expect around $50,000 a year to begin.

After many years of experience, education, and specializations, a Travel Nurse can make up to $110,000 a year in some areas.

If you work in areas that are highly populated, you will likely make more money than working in a rural area.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

For those that are interested in the Nursing field, you shouldn’t worry.

The job of a Registered Nurse is not going anywhere, anytime soon.

In fact, Travel Nursing is also on the rise.

Many people think that you have to stick to one hospital when choosing where to work, but this field provides people with many opportunities.

In all areas of nursing, the projected job increase is around 12 percent.

This is much higher than any other career in the medical field.

As the baby boomer generation gets older, there is more need for nurses, especially Travel Nurses.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 2-4 Years

It can take around two years to become a Registered Nurse with an Associate’s degree.

However, it takes a bit longer to become a Travel Nurse.

This is due to the fact that you’ll need some experience as a nurse before venturing out into the world.

Most agencies look for around 1-2 years of experience as a nurse before they will accept you and lead you to your next adventure.

So, it can take anywhere from 2-4 years to become a Travel Nurse.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

It takes a special person to work as a nurse in general, but a Travel Nurse is of their own quality.

Those that want to work as a Travel Nurse should have the following skills:

  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Good communication
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Love of travel
  • Self-awareness
  • Willingness to help
  • Professional manner
  • Critical thinking
  • Teamwork

If you can master these skills, then you can do anything you want as a Travel Nurse.

Experience is a key factor in this career, so working in a variety of settings will set you off on the right foot.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary for a Travel Nurse?

The salary that you can make being a Travel Nurse can vary, depending on several things.

First, the amount of experience that you have as a Travel Nurse.

Those with more experience can expect to make more than those with no experience.

When just starting out, a Travel Nurse can make around $50,000 a year.

However, with a lot of experience, education, and certifications, it’s possible to make up to $110,000 a year.

On average, a Travel Nurse makes around $77,000 a year in the United States.

Q. How long does it take to become a Travel Nurse?

For anyone looking to become a Registered Nurse, it can take around two years to earn an Associate’s degree in Nursing.

However, in order to become a Travel Nurse, you must have experience in nursing first.

Most Travel Nurse agencies will not hire you unless you have about 1-2 years of experience as a Registered Nurse.

This means it can take anywhere from 2-4 years to become a Travel Nurse.

Q. What does a Travel Nurse do?

A Travel Nurse is just like a Registered Nurse, except they travel to hospitals, or other medical facilities, that are in need of assistance.

A Travel Nurse may have temporary assignments, or they can go on longterm assignments as well.

On assignment, a Travel Nurse may take care of patients, work at home with clients, and even work in labs or clinics.

There are a variety of jobs for a Travel Nurse to get into.

Q. What is the demand for Travel Nurses?

There will always be a need for Registered Nurses in the world.

That means that there will always be a demand for Travel Nurses as well.

These nurses are special because they are willing to uproot their lives to serve others.

Those that have the travel bug and enjoy helping others will be important reasons why Travel Nursing will continue to rise.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Travel Nurse?

On average in the United States, an Associate’s degree can cost around $15,000.

Depending on the type of program you enter, whether that’s through a private company, community college, or university, you may pay more.

A typical Bachelor’s degree can cost around $30,000.

However, with certifications, specializations, and other opportunities, it can cost around $45,000 to become a Travel Nurse.


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