Travel Nursing Salary What to Expect

Travel Nursing Salary

If you're a nurse that's interested in travel nursing, its probably because you've heard rumors about how much nurse traveler salary is. You see astronomical numbers from agency advertisements, claiming you can make thousands and thousands of dollars in a single week. I'm here to tell you... They're true. Travel nursing commands an incredible increase in pay when compared to staff nursing. Nurses can receive an annual salary of double what a staff nurse makes. Sometimes more than that depending on if you're coming from a lower paying state like Alabama or Florida.


But how is this possible and what determines how much you'll make? Travel nurses receive the majority of their weekly pay in stipends. Namely, the Housing Stipend and the Meals & Incidentals Stipends. This avoids taxes that staff nurses typically pay. You'll notice the Gross amount and the Net amount of a pay package are extremely similar. That's because the agency is packaging their pay into these stipends which are tax-exempt. So instead of being paid entirely in a taxable hourly wage, you will make an hourly wage, and receive a housing stipend, and a meals & incidentals stipend.


For more on a how pay packages are calculated. Review our blog on Travel Nurse Pay Packages.


Now let's talk about what affects the amount of how much someone can make working in nurse travel...

The 3 Main Factors That Affect Travel Nursing Salary

The main factors affecting Travel Nursing Salary from assignment to assignment are: 

1.) Location

2.) Nurse Specialty

3.) Facility Urgency

These factors affect how much money you'll make during a contract and we'll explain why.

While some agencies you will have to negotiate to be paid higher travel nursing salary than what is initially offered. Some agencies take different approach and will offer what they can upfront. Regardless of the what agency you work with, these 3 factors will affect the overall annual salary that travel nurses make.

Travel Nurse Salary Location

Location - Travel Nursing Salary By State

When nurses travel, they are commonly looking to either go to a location for an experience or they are doing it strictly for the money. I haven't heard of any travel nurses going to Hazard, Kentucky to "see the sights". But I have heard of nurses taking lower pay in New York to be able to check out the "Big Apple". There are facilities in undesirable areas that will pay on average double what a staff nurse would make and sometimes even more.

Your location refers to the state you are looking at assignments in. You may have already heard online or through a friend that in California you can commonly see the highest travel nurse salaries in the United States and well over $2,000 Net Weekly Pay.

Different states have different costs of living and will in turn, affect the pay offered. Knowing what to expect in what areas will help narrow your search and land the assignment with the pay you're looking for. Just because you are offered a $2,000+ Net weekly contract in Seattle, WA doesn't mean you will be making the most money at that assignment. You could also take an $1,800 net weekly contract in Reno, NV and take more money home due to cost of living.

Different states have different amounts of pay for nurses. A nurse in Mississippi will make much less than other areas.

Here is a list of cities averaging the highest amount of Travel Nurse Salary:


San Jose, CA - Travel Nurse Salary $104,359
New York City, NY - Travel Nurse Salary $101,466
Seattle, WA - Travel Nurse Salary $100,426
Boston, MA - Travel Nurse Salary $100,201
Washington, DC - Travel Nurse Salary $98,348
Los Angeles, CA - Travel Nurse Salary $97,798
Florida, NY - Travel Nurse Salary $97,642
Anchorage, AK - Travel Nurse Salary $97,138
Chicago, IL - Travel Nurse Salary $95,010
Minneapolis, MN - Travel Nurse Salary $94,744


Travel nurse weekly pay should be compared to the cost of living for any city you are looking at contracts in. If you are interested in going to a place like San Diego and are willing to take a pay cut in order to do so, then that is totally up to you. You can plan to make that money back on another assignment. But if you can get four to five hundred more in weekly pay in an area that is a 45 minute to an hour drive away. Maybe consider taking that assignment and using the extra money to take a trip to the desired location.

Travel Nurse Salary Difference

Nurse Speciality - How it Affects Their Pay

The next most important factor is Specialty.  Certain nursing specialties have a lower supply of nurses which in turns means they will on average make higher pay than other specialties. This equates to higher pay packages for those nurses.  Also, working in a higher acuity setting typically means the facility will offer that registered nurse higher pay.  For example, a facility will offer a higher pay package on average for ICU Travel Nurses compared to a Telemetry Travel Nurses. listed out the highest paying ultra-specialized Travel Jobs. The Top 5 were...

Cardiac Catheterization Lab - "Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed RNs can expect~$68/hour"

Cardiovascular Operating Room (CVOR) - "Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed RNs can expect ~$65/hour"

Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) - "Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed RNs can expect a pay rate of ~$62/hr"

Neonatal ICU (NICU/Level 3) - "Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed RNs can expect a pay rate of ~$53/hour"

Oncology - "Typical Pay Rate: Agency-employed nurses can expect a pay rate of ~$52/hour"


High pay is great, but the number of these positions are few in number. Below are the Nursing Specialties that have the highest demand, meaning you'll have more positions in more areas to select from.

  1. Emergency Room
  2. Medical Surgical/Telemetry
  3. Women’s Health (NICU/MBPP/L&D)
  4. Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  5. Operating Room (OR)
  6. Cardiovascular Operating Room (CVOR)
  7. Long Term Acute Care (LTAC)
  8. Psychiatric
Travel Nurse Salary Facility Urgency

Facility Urgency - Critical & Rapid Response Rates

The last item we're going to cover that can affect a travel nursing salary, is the facilities urgency on bringing a nurse in. This refers to a hospital that is either looking for a contracted registered nurse to start quickly in their facility or they need multiple nurses. In these situations, you'll see the pay packages being offered to be higher than usual. This could be an increase from $100 to even $1000 extra dollars a week.

Rapid Response

If a facility is in desperate need of a traveler quickly this is called a Rapid Response. It means the hospital will normally be asking for a start date of any where from 2-3 weeks, to a matter of days. Hospitals will have requirements to start on an orientation within this time frame in order to receive this higher pay. If you are delayed in starting whether due to life circumstances or a delay in compliance documentation, they can take that higher pay away.

Be aware that when this takes place, you will see an increase in pay BUT you will notice the start date for assignment has a very quick turn around. Getting compliant for the facility will need to be done quickly. I only recommend attempting these assignments if you are a veteran traveler or have recently completed an assignment with that agency.

Critical Rates

Or the facility might be very short staffed and have a great need for multiple travel nurses. The facility will then offer a Critical Rate. This increases the pay package the traveler being brought in will receive. You can expect for their to be staffing issues at these hospitals and not alot of support. This is what the higher pay is designed to make up for. If you're traveling in a "travel team" meaning you have another travel nurse looking for a job in the same specialty, this is a good opportunity for you both to find an assignment at the same hospital, at the same time.

Join the Travel Nursing Direct Community

Travel Nurses TEACH Their Young

Our community of Pre-Nursing, Current RNs, Travel RNs and Post Graduate Nurses is here to help share their knowledge and experience with you. Learn about Travel Nursing, Find an assignment, or Figure it YOUR next step:


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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