How do I become a travel nurse

How Do I Become a Travel Nurse?

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So you’re asking yourself how do i become a travel nurse.  You’ve heard of the great pay and the flexible time off.  But you want to know how to get the process started. 

What is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse is a specialized nurse who works for medical facilities, usually hospitals and clinics, where there are short-term employment gaps. Unlike a full-time permanent staff nurse, you not only get a chance to work in any state in the US, but you can also get temporary nursing assignments in any place across the world. In most cases, travel nursing contracts will last for 13 weeks. But, this period can sometimes go down to eight weeks or increase up to twenty-six weeks.

Basic Requirements to Become a Travel Nurse

Anyone who wants to have a career in nursing should hold an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited university as the bare minimum. To then qualify to work as a travel nurse, you’ll need to become a registered nurse (RN) at the very least. That means you have first to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). On top of all that, you’ll need to gain experience in an acute-care hospital for a minimum of two years in the area of specialty you want to practice.

Important Qualities

While education, experience, and license are all important, they are not enough. As a travel nurse, you’ll need to really know your stuff, be confident with your critical thinking skills, and be highly flexible. Efficiency, solid communication skills, problem-solving skills, and ability to thrive on challenges are other prime qualities you’ll need to excel in this career option.

Finding Travel Nursing Jobs

Once you have everything you need, it’s time to hunt for travel nursing jobs. Independent staffing agencies are responsible for the placement of travel nurses. Your specific agency serves as your sounding board, advocate and helps you find the right position based on your choice of specialty, length of time, and location. Because salary and benefit packages are dependent on the agency, you need to do sufficient due diligence when choosing an agency. Working with a company that has been vetted and highly recommended by fellow travel nurses is a surefire way to get a better benefits package. That said, it’s vital that you be wary of any travel nursing agency who;

  • Doesn’t return communication with a 24 hours
  • Becomes defensive when you work with other agencies or recruiters
  • Makes verbal promises and doesn’t support them up in your written contract
  • Doesn’t show you the full compensation package before submitting you a job
  • Submits you to an assignment without your consent
  • Pressures you into being taking up a job that you do not want

Job Details and Salary

Travel nurses generally receive higher pay than full-time permanent staff nurses. According to BLS, the average salary of travel nurses is $70,000. However, that often vary based on the specialty, the state, staffing agency, and shift. If night shift is not your thing, no amount of money is worth your license, happiness or safety.

Not Everyone Is a Travel Nurse 

Preparing for a travel nursing job doesn’t start once you’re an experienced nurse… It doesn’t start once you’ve graduated nursing school… it starts when you’re born! Are you good with stressful situations? Are you resourceful? Travel nursing can present unique challenges and it takes a unique personality to handle them. When working with a recruiter towards gaining a travel nursing job, you can be without guaranteed employment for a period of time. You can be offered a travel nursing job that starts the next week and need to work on compliance abruptly the next few days as well as finding a living space at the same time. Contracts can shortened or in extreme situations cancelled. How would you react to any of these circumstances? Of course, you could never run into these situations but being ready for any situation is a sure fire way to be a successful travel nurse. 

Make A Plan With a Recruiter

We all have a plan of how our life is going to go.  And then we find ourselves in places we never imagined. While it’s good to have input on areas or realistic compensation expectations.  Having a dead set plan with no room for improvisation can cause hardships for yourself and the recruiter. So let’s try to avoid that and have a realistic conversation with yourself of what you’re expecting from an assignment. Negative things such as declined offers or submitting with multiple agencies to the same assignment can affect your employ-ability later. In some extreme instances, you can be overlooked for travel nursing jobs by a health care system forever.

Flexible Travel Nurse

Be Flexible 

If you truly are extremely flexible and open to different assignments, that’s  a huge positive. Commonly nurses end up in places they never imagined once they go over travel nursing jobs and areas they didn’t consider at first. Having no plan at all is okay, but only if you meet an experienced honest recruiter. An experienced travel nursing recruiter has a way of going over necessary information while also learning things about you as a person. Every recruiter is not the same. So developing your plan and ideas that’s right for you and then speaking with a recruiter is the best way to not waste yours or the recruiters time (they’re people too).

Steps to Becoming a Travel Nurse

Travel nursing is an excellent career option for skilled nurses who want to experience working in different locations around the country. If you are wondering how to become a travel nurse, you should follow these steps:

Education and Licensure

  • Complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN).
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam to become a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).
  • Obtain at least one year of recent nursing experience in the specialty you are applying for.

Making Arrangements

  • Maintain a legitimate tax home in order to qualify for the tax-free reimbursements that travel nursing provides.
  • Decide where you prefer to travel and what types of hospitals you want to work in, so you can choose the right travel nursing agency.
  • Decide what type of travel nursing pay package and benefits you require, such as housing, living expenses, medical benefits, rental car reimbursement, 401K investment options, travel stipends, etc.
  • Research travel nursing agencies to find the best fit.
  • Complete your travel nursing “submission profile,” which typically includes your application, clinical references, and a skills checklist.
  • Get the necessary licenses and certifications together.
  • Secure a travel nursing assignment.

It may seem like a lot of work to become a travel nurse, but there are plenty of advantages to travel nursing. Travel nurses typically make good wages and they can receive non-taxed stipends paid on top of their hourly rate, plus other benefits. If you are interested in learning more about how to become a travel nurse, Travel Nursing Report can help. We offer valuable resources pertaining to travel nursing housing, compensation, locations, licensing and more. Visit our website for more information about travel nursing and how to become a travel nurse.


Whether you’re an established nurse looking to shake things up or you’re just starting a career as an RN, is here to help.  Join our community of future and current travel nurses by clicking HERE

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